Solutions; How Wrong were You??

Solutions; How Wrong were You??

| 7 | Endgames

Last week I assigned a set of positions to test your endgame understanding, to provide new ideas as well as to repeat the covered material. Every learned topic has to be tested, to provide feedback on where we stand. Endgame positions in this set test basic ideas, creative thinking and calculation technique. Some of the positions are straight-forward, while the other require deeper thinking. It is impossible to test all the material covered and we have had mostly practical positions, where there was no single clear solution. The test positions have either one clear solution or multiple solutions but one that leads to the goal with minimum effort. So, if you haven’t solved the positions yet, try to analyze them and solve them before looking at the solutions. Let us proceed.

The first position features a knight and bishop endgame where white is about to queen the pawn. As long as the bishop is in control of the d7-square black should be able to draw. Black’s disadvantage is that the king is too far away to participate in the struggle. On the other hand, it is advantageous to have a bishop, since it is a long-range piece and the black king cannot that easily chase it away from the pawn. The only good ideas that white has is to limit the scope of the bishop with the knight or to cut access to the c6 square. So, let us look at the solution.


If you found the idea of Nc6 then the idea of Be8 would come naturally. Then, you had to see that the bishop can only retreat to a certain set of squares, in order not to be limited by the knight. The last idea you had to see is the mirror image of the bishop going to the c8-square the same way it did to e8. Overall, I would rate the difficulty level of this position at 5/10.

The next one features a queen endgame. What is so special about queen endgames that is clearly seen here is that the amount of pawns does not play much of a role compared to how far advanced they are. White is up a pawn but the black pawn b3 is too far advanced and it is black to move. What do you have to look for in queen endgames? Not to fall into perpetual check, when having a winning position. The solution:


This endgame you had to solve was pretty easy, once you identify that b2 is out of the question; Qc2 should then come to mind. The level of this problem is 2/10.

Let us proceed to the next example. Last week I made the mistake of putting an a7 pawn of the wrong color. I am sorry for the confusion, there is no point in solving the other position as the ideas are not as rich as in the correct one.You can now try to solve the correct position if you like, to which I will proceed to give the answer.

We have the far advanced a7-pawn, which ties down the rook. White's rook and king are both active. It seems there is only one logical plan: marching the king to the a7 pawn. No brainer, right? Well, not so easy… Let us ask what black is up to. And the answer would be: creating a passed f-pawn and advancing it as far as possible, while giving up the rook for the a7-pawn. This is only possible when the white king crosses the line of action of the rook and the black king will be able to capture the pawn. After this thinking procedure, you should be able to come up with several ideas of how not to let the black king accomplish that task.


This position required some preventive thinking as well as knowledge of typical ideas. Shouldering, taking the rook with the rook, keeping the black king in the center to push away the white king are all typical ideas. The first move was a widely known idea: cutting off the king. Sometimes, one sacrifices material in order to make sure that the opponent’s king stays passive. After all, one of the most important factors in the endgame evaluation is king activity. The level of this position is around 8/10.

The next position is very-very famous. I am a bit ashamed of putting it here, since it is printed in almost every endgame book. Endgame-virtuoso A. Shirov is playing black. Some of you might be surprised at me calling Shirov an endgame virtuoso, thinking he is more of an attacking genius. In reality, he is and was one of the best endgame players in the world. The myth that attackers cannot play endgames is just a myth. One of the most important components in the endgame is the ability to calculate long variations precisely. And this quality is well developed among many attacking players. On the other hand, endgames also require tons of creativity as can be shown by our example. Black is up two pawns but so far the white bishop is using the “one diagonal principle”: it stops both pawns using the same diagonal. If white manages to bring the king to e3 it will most likely be a draw. Black must do something immediately and Shirov feels this moment very well.


Is not theatgame absolutely brilliant? I just cannot imagine facing a move like Bh3 in my game- it would be a total shock. We learned that in opposite-colored bishops endgames it is sometimes advantageous to sacrifice a bishop for a pawn but get the king into the centre to help promote own pawns. The complexity of this position would be 10/10.

If you solved all four positions congratulations you are a master level in endgames now! If you solved  three positions I would think you are closer to an expert level. Two positions is still a solid result, as some of the positions were super hard. I just wish someone supplied me with endgames to solve… 

[ed note: take her up on this folks, post some endgame challenges in the comments section, and stump Iryna!!]

Since, I mentioned Shirov in the last example, a fellow Latvian, Tal’s name came to mind, which made me think of the Tal Memorial, which is currently being held in Moscow. To commemorate one of the greatest player of all times the tournament gathered an elite of modern chess players, missing a few top players but still having a very very high level. Plus, all the other stars will come to play in Blitz. There has been an unusually high number of endgames at this tournament; if even Nakamura every other game goes into the Berlin, what can we expect from the other players? But this is rather exciting news; since we get more recent endgame material and believe me, those people know how to play the late stage of the game!! So, for next week I chose a position from the Tal Memorial. Can you play like Aronian?

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