Articles

| 14 | Endgames

This series of articles is designed to improve your endgame technique. Every week there is a position at the end of the article for you to play out with someone or a computer. The detailed explanation of how to get the maximum out of these exercises can be found in the first column.

It seems to me, since I started writing the column about endgames the frequency of their appearance in my games has increased. Is it due to confidence that I can play them well? Or is it just a curiosity to find out where my endgame technique stands? It is not clear what the reasons are for the sudden increase in the number of endgames in my practice, what is clear is that I am getting a number of games to use the skills that we develop here, playing out the positions every week. In my most recent tournament, I managed to save an endgame down a pawn and won an equal endgame. One and a half points instead of a half point is a big difference.

In other news, my computer is fixed now and I have not lost any of the chess databases that I had! It was possible to recover the data by running the computer with Ubuntu Live CD- an amazing and easy, free solution. Therefore, I can present today last week’s solution as well as today’s position.

We are up to queen endgames now. For me, queen endgames are the most puzzling ones. There are so many positions where one side can give perpetual check that I tend intuitively to characterize them as drawing endgames. In reality there are numerous attacking and defensive ideas that one has to know and some of them are counterintuitive. In the given position black is up two pawns.

However, this fact does not secure the black king from perpetual check. It seems that black cannot keep the two extra pawns and has to sacrifice either the f- or a-pawn. The first game features giving up the a-pawn and trying to win with f- and h-pawns. In queen endgames activity of the queen is one of the most important components of the evaluation. Black has to put their queen in the centre to defend the f-pawn as well as shield the king from check. On the other hand, white has to try to give perpetual check and tie the black king to the h-pawn. White’s king is ideally placed in front of the black pawn. Let us see how the game developed.

The important ideas that were featured in the game are:

-          Having only an f-pawn, when the white king is controlling the promotion square, results in a draw.

-          Black has to try to get the white king away from the f-pawn’s promotion square with queen checks and with pushing the f-pawn further. The further the f-pawn goes the less chances there are for white to draw.

-          White has to balance checking the black king with tying it down to the h-pawn.

There were some interesting ideas and feelings developed about the current endgame. It seemed to us that having f- and h-pawns is less advantageous for black than having a- and h-pawns. This is because the white king is always in the perimeter of the h- and f-pawns. It will not be the case when a pawn is present. We could have played another game with f- and h-pawns but the curiosity to explore the position with h- and a-pawns took over. So the next game features a completely different position, where black has two outside passed pawns: a and h. A new important idea applies to the following position: “The stronger side should place the king on the same file or rank where the defender’s king is standing, or an adjacent file or rank” – Dvoretsky. This enables counter-checks when defending from the opponent's checks. Let us proceed to the game.

The following ideas are important:

-          Black uses white’s f pawn as a shield against white queen checks.

-          The a-pawn does not need black’s king's help when promoting. This is because unlike the f-pawn, the a-pawn does not have the white king in front blocking it. The defending queen cannot stop the passed pawn alone.

-          When the black king and queen are lined up on the same diagonal or line, white can check along that same diagonal/line to keep the black king tied to the queen.

-          The attacking side has to place the king on the same line as the defending queen. In the game it did not really work, since white while checking simultaneously was attacking the a-pawn. In the side line with Kg3 this technique worked.

It seemed to us that with precise play black can indeed win the endgame. It also seems that the second game gives more winning chances than the first game. This is because the white f-pawn provided a shield for the black king and the white king did not have enough time to transfer to the other corner of the board. This has to do with another of Dvoretsky’s another rules: “when dealing with a knight or rook pawn, the defender’s king is best placed near the corner that is diametrically opposite to the pawn promotion square. In this case, when the stronger side defends his king from checks with a queen interference, a counter-check is less probable.” This rule applies if your king cannot get in front of the opponent’s pawn. In our case, with a passed a-pawn, the white king should ideally be placed somewhere around h8, so there would be no counter-checks present as was the case in the Kg3 line in the second game.

The game did not show much action, as black missed the perpetual check.

I would like to provide the solution to last week’s position too.

The final position is for playing out for the next week.

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