Changing of the Seasons

Changing of the Seasons

| 13 | Endgames

When I was new to chess, I had several fantasy scenarios of dramatic brilliancies in tournament games. Of course there was the standard "sacrifice everything for checkmate;" but also I had an unusual one - a long combination leading to all the pieces cleared off the board, leaving only a minimal - but decisive - advantage in the king and pawn ending.

In this article, I will be discussing the transition to the king and pawn ending. This is the final transition in a chess game (besides the possibility of the players each queening pawns and returning to a queen and pawn ending), and requires the utmost attention. You cannot casually go into a king and pawn ending! Ironically, as a game of chess simplifies, the necessity to "get it right" increases. King and pawn endings can, more often than not, be assessed with 100% certainty and played perfectly even by weak players.

This is one of the ironies of chess - the "easier" things are, the harder they become. The simpler the position, the higher the requirement for correct evaluation and perfect play.

In transitioning to a king and pawn ending, assumptions are the enemy:

Here is another example of why transitioning to a king and pawn ending requires more precise calculation than usual.

That fantasy scenario - an intricate tactical sequence leading to a winning king and pawn ending - was played out in a study-like ending. According to Nikolay Grigoriev, this beautiful ending took place in a simul which he played:

Nikolay Grigoriev | Image Wikipedia
The 1920 All-Russian championship was retroactively declared the first Soviet chess championship, and was the only one in which Alexander Alekhine competed. He won the tournament with 12/15, but in the following game he had to find a study-like way to draw by forcing - and correctly evaluating - the king and pawn ending. Counting the "spare tempi" correctly is a common theme of evaluating king and pawn endings.

The trebuchet is a kind of catapult used in medieval sieges. The term is used in chess to describe a scenario like the following:

Diagram of a counterweight trebuchet | Image Wikipedia

In one of my own games, I managed to transfer an ending with rooks and bishops straight into a trebuchet scenario, and the fancifully-named pawn ending made its appearance on the board after a tempo-battle.


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