Dissecting a Frustrating Endgame

Dissecting a Frustrating Endgame

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Greetings everyone! I haven't blogged in a while but I hope you enjoy my following trove of entertaining chess material. 

Can the 2 Knights Win?

Certainly most chess players understand that 2 knights versus a bare king cannot force a checkmate under ordinary circumstances. Some players however, know that with a pawn for the enemy (due to avoiding stalemate) may allow certain winning chances. But I'm willing to bet that 99% of chess players don't know how to mate the lone king in theoretically victorious positions. Such endings are shockingly rare, far scarcer than the dreaded N+B mate endings. Knowing this endgame won't just give you confidence over the board in this particular ending but sparks imagination and true chess joy while seeing the knights do their geometric death-dance all over the board. I recall a famous old game where Albin and Alapin agreed to a draw when they arrived in such a position thinking it was a draw. Here's a modern example between two super strong GMs.

2 things to keep in mind. 

Don't run your king to the corner on the side of the board where the blockading knight resides.

This helpful little diagram shows that pawns up to that rank on that file are a win for white under 50 moves against best resistance. If there is a knight block it that is.

Further Investigations for the Ardent Endgame Lover...

Van Perlo's Endgame Tactics is a light and enjoyable read. There are tons of crazy themes (including stalemates ) and the examples are extremely practical! I'd recommend this book to players of all levels and all ambitions, from pure chess enjoyment, to effective chess improvement.

While From Amateur to IM is an excellent all-round chess improvement book, Jonathan Hawkins shares his personal journey in learning many endings including funny stories about B+N checkmates and very difficult to defend R vs. R+B endgames.

Fundamental Chess Endings is another fantastic book and is more rigorous and theoretical than the previous reads, this alone can be your main training book though it's always great to incorporate others, as well.

...100 Endgames You Must Know and Silman's Complete Endgame Course are also fabulous classics, the first book is especially efficacious for players with little patience for endgames and the second book is for the (many, myself included) fans of IM Jeremy Silman's lucid explanations.

But wait! Who needs endgame books when there are advanced online learning tools such as's endgame drills and Chessable endgame courses?

While such online tools have their place in chess development, you are much more likely to set up book problems on a real board, scribble notes, and then ask your coach when you reach a stumbling block or unclear explanation. On the online tools you are more likely to memorize certain endgames quickly but may lack complete understanding, and why do you think the top players pre-computer era were stronger endgame players?