How to Play Endgames Brilliantly

How to Play Endgames Brilliantly

| 11 | Endgames

When you finish this article, you will be able to see ten half-moves ahead, just like Josh Waitzkin did in the movie, "Searching for Bobby Fischer". Let's begin by looking at a K+P vs K+P endgame played brilliantly by GM Pavasovic last month.


That was tough! If you missed a move or two, I understand, but know three things:

  1. To play endgames brilliantly, you must master pawn endgames.
  2. Pawn endgames are not simple.
  3. But you can excel at them with only a little study!

In this article we'll learn about counting and stepping stones. These are tools strong players use to quickly see far ahead in the endgame. Players who don't use them say things like, "I move here, then he moves there, then I move here..." That's the slow and hard way.


Who will win? Count how many moves it will take White to queen. h4, h5,h6, h7, h8=Q equals FIVE moves. Count how many moves it will take Black to queen. K(away), b5, b4, b3, b2, b1 equals SIX moves. So White will queen first!

   Next, let's create a stepping stone. Looking at the board above, try to visualize the changes after White's fifth move. Let's look at White first. The pawn on h3 is replaced by a queen on h8. That queen controls the h-file, the eighth rank, and the a1-h8 diagonal.

   Now, look at Black. Since White moved first, Black will only have made four moves. Kc4, b5, b4, b3. Imagine the king on c4 and the pawn on b3. Then imagine the queen on h8 again. Finally, it's Black to move. Can he draw this position?


If you've studied queen vs pawn endings, or have sharp eyes, you should see that White wins by playing Qb2 or Qxb2 on his next move. Then the pawn cannot advance.


Tip! - If you haven't studied Queen vs Pawn endings, here's a simple rule: The queen wins unless the pawn is on the 7th rank and supported by his king.


Now let's look at a fun position from the end of the move, "Searching for Bobby Fischer".

 First, the counting. In how many moves will White queen? Do the work! h5, h6, h7, h8 equals FOUR. In how many moves will Black queen? a4, a3, a2, a1 equals FOUR. So White queens and then Black immediately queens. If both sides queen it's usually a draw.

   Next let's create a stepping stone. Visualize the position after White queens. The White pawn on h4 is replaced by a queen on h8. The Black pawn is on a2 and it's Black to move. Black moves his pawn to a1 and queens. Do you see anything interesting? Visualize it! 

  And now you know how the movie ends.  :)

Pawn endgame resources:

   likesforests, K+P vs K: lesson 1, lesson 2, lesson 3

   likesforests: 16 pawn endgame articles

   chesskids: lesson 1, lesson 2, lesson 3 

   henley: part 1, part 2


Queen vs Pawn endgame resources:

   tonightonly: Queen vs Pawn on 7th

   chesskids: Queen Endings

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