The "simplest" thing in chess.

The "simplest" thing in chess.

Apr 9, 2013, 12:00 AM 25,434 Reads 49 Comments Strategy

Many chess players consider a King and pawn ending the simplest form of an endgame. It explains why one of the most popular ways to convert a material or positional advantage is to go straight to the King and pawn endgame. Here is a classical example:

In the following iconic game Fischer converts his extra exchange by going to an easily winning King and pawn endgame.

This technical method is so engraved in chess player's mind that the majority of Masters and Grandmasters don't think twice when they have an opportunity to get an 'easily' winning King and pawn endgame.  The next example is a good proof:

At first it looks like a very nice example of a precise calculation.  But when I analyzed this game when I was 12 years old, I couldn't understand why White bothered to calculate that far and didn't win in literally two moves:

Only later, when I became more experienced tournament player I understood why Kotov saw a long sequence of moves that led to a winning endgame and missed a basic 2 move win. That's exactly what most chess players do! They know that there is no simpler way to win a game then proceed to a winning King and pawn endgame. As you could see in the previous example, it is a wrong way of thinking. But at least the only punishment there was that the game lasted longer.  Sometimes the consequences are more dramatic. The quest for an 'easily' won endgame once cost a chess player his whole chess career!  We'll discuss this dramatic story next week. Meanwhile, here is a position that shows how tricky a pawn endgame can be:

In this position White can capture Black g5 pawn with a check by two different ways. Looks very simple right?  Well, I am not asking you to find a win.  Just find how White can make a draw in this position.  Believe me, it is a very difficult task!
I'll show the solution next week.  Enjoy!

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