Not Everything that Looks a Draw is Drawn...Endgame Skills Test.

Not Everything that Looks a Draw is Drawn...Endgame Skills Test.

| 17 | Endgames

I know how everyone is excited about opposite colored bishops’ endgames. These endgames do not feature lengthy calculations like pawn endgames do. They are not as complex and unpredictable as queen endgames are. Usually, the opposite colored bishop endgames are reached when one side is trying to escape from a worse or losing multiple piece endgame. Rarely, they are achieved by the attacking side's initiative. The endgames are simple to play if you have a good guidance. Here are some rules relevant for today’s example that are summarized from Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual, which is by no means my favorite endgame book. I summarized some in the previous article, please refer to it if you are interested.

1. The main theme of opposite-colored bishop endings is to create a fortress. In the following example white cannot prevent black from building a fortress while being down in material.

2. “The one-diagonal principle”. It is an ideal situation if a bishop can defend its own pawn and simultaneously stop the opponent’s pawn on the same diagonal because otherwise it will not be able to accomplish the mission eventually (if the two tasks are on two different diagonals).

3. When the passed pawns are separated the strong side’s strategy is to advance the king towards the pawn which is guided by the bishop. In our case black has the pawn on a7, which prevents the king from advancing.

Now, that we are equipped with extra knowledge let us proceed and look at today’s position. White has an extra pawn and a far advanced passed c-pawn. Black is on the defensive but as long as white does not create an outside passed pawn he should be fine. White has an extra pawn on the kingside, he should try to realize it. Then either the black king or the bishop will be deflected from the c-pawn in order to stop the passed kingside pawn. In this scenario white can try to break through with the king or attack the a7-pawn with the bishop and after getting the pawn, maneuver the king to the c-pawn, according to Rule 3. So, this is the first game.


The important ideas extracted from the previous game are:

- Black must play h4 in order to trade one of the kingside pawns.

- White can march the king to h4 to help the creation of the passed pawn. Black's bishop on c8 is perfectly placed. It works according to Rule 2: stopping the c7 pawn and preventing the f4 pawn from becoming a passed pawn.

- Black can use the a-pawn as a deflection.

The second game feature more exciting events. White found an ingenious way of creating a passed pawn. Black didn’t find the best defensive resources and allowed the creation of the passed f-pawn, that was already at f5. This made the defense extremely tough. Here is the game.


The following details were uncovered:

- Black's king must stay around the c7-pawn when the bishop moves to c8 because otherwise white plays Kc6 and attacks the a7-pawn.

- Black must prevent white from getting the f5 passed pawn for free. One way of doing it is to put the king on d7 to stop the c7 pawn and the bishop on the b1-h7 diagonal to control the f5-square.

So, what can we say about this endgame? Surely, we uncovered many ideas but what is the objective evaluation? I would think that it is closer to a draw than to a win. The defense is by no means simple, black has to pay careful attention for all the maneuvers that white can bring out of their hat. Let us look at the real game and the analysis provided by the commentator. The annotations in the parentheses are mine.


For the next week, here is a set of positions to solve. Take some time for example an hour for the four exercises. You don’t know in advance which one is easy and will take you 2 minutes to solve and which one is hard and will take you half an hour. This situation is similar to in a game: some of the decisions are easy to make, while the others take significant effort. The goal of this set of exercises is to review the learnt material and cover the topics that we haven’t looked at yet. Enjoy it!



















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