Even GMs can Misevaluate Endgames

Even GMs can Misevaluate Endgames

| 11 | Endgames

Last week my intention was to play out an endgame position that I have to present today during the weekend’s tournament in Washington DC. Somehow, I imagined a calm atmosphere, sitting somewhere in a nice restaurant, and playing out an endgame with my chess friends. The reality was: the tournament had two games per day and hardly any time for relaxation. I wanted to ask one of the writers, IM Brian Smith, to play the endgame, but ironically we faced each other in the last round of the tournament, both having three out of four points. Moreover, our game concluded with an endgame where Brian had  an extra exchange, but I knew it was a theoretical draw and showed the correct defense. I am starting out with this anecdote from my practice because it shows how important endgame knowledge is. Brian tried to win the theoretically drawn position for a long time. If he knew for sure that it was a theoretical draw he would have never transferred into this endgame but rather sought chances with queens present on the board.

With the tournament behind me, my good friend and contributor GM Josh Friedel agreed to be my sparring partner for this week. We played only two games, since he is watching US Open tennis in New York and I am preparing for my PhD qualifying exam. The games proved to be of high quality on his part: he is one of the best endgame players that I know. Enough talking, let us get to the games.

In the first game I chose to be black since it looked like black is on the defensive, and I wanted to get some feel for the position before choosing the offensive side. Josh told me after the games: “ at first I thought black was better, but then I changed my mind; I didn't realize how much white's king position would come into play.” The king's position turns out to be one of the most important elements in this endgame. Black can win back a pawn soon but his king can be too far to support the pawns. White has to get to the f7 pawn, so the king on e5 can get more room for maneuvering.


The summary of the important ideas in the game:

-  White can break through with either b5 or g6, maybe the two ideas combined.

-  White’s main advantage is the active king and after the f7-pawn is deflected the king proceeds to take both e6 and d5 pawns.

-  Black can get a passed g-pawn, which will be his main advantage.

-  Sacrificing any pawn for black activity of the king is the most important idea.

Having in mind these ideas we played the next game. I stumbled after the first move, since suddenly I forgot my idea of giving check on f6. These things can happen after a long day. This procrastination gave Josh an extra tempo, which he effectively used to activate his king. Then, a set of best moves followed for both sides after which white made the mistake of taking on e6 too early. It seems to me that after the first game Josh realized the importance of activation of the black king and did a really good job in the second game marching it from g7 into the centre.


The summary of the key plans and ideas from the game:

-  Rf6 check in combination with b5 puts tons of problems before black because the white king enters the game faster than the black king.

-  The march of the black king into the center is the main defensive idea for black.

-  White does not have to rush taking weak pawns (e6 for example). The main goal is to stop the black king from entering the game.

Now, it is time to provide the analysis from the Informant. It turns out our ideas were close to the solution. Check it out.


We will take a one week break from Rook endgames, to have a look at our first in the classic battle between bishop and knight. Then we'll do two more weeks of rook endgames (unless I change my mind) before we move on. Go ahead and practice the below position if you want to get the most out of next week's article! And if you're new to this column-- or have just forgotten-- you can check out the outline of how to study your endgame from the first column!


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