How to Play a Proper Endgame in Blitz #2: Knight Endgames

How to Play a Proper Endgame in Blitz #2: Knight Endgames

CM Chessdemon2019

The knight is a special piece. It can jump over pieces and moves in an L-shape. In blitz, knight endgames are especially hard to play because the knight is able to fork other pieces, especially when there is no increment. It is quite hard to play precise moves when your time is ticking and because knights are tricky.

There are many different strategies into how to play knight endgames, considering that two knights without pawns cannot mate alone. I have analysed a few endgames and found particular strategies that have helped me play better in knight endgames. These strategies, when remembered, can make sure that no blunder occurs in a fast-paced blitz game. Note: This article is best for players U2200 in FIDE rating.

1. Restrict the Knight

It might seem quite hard to prevent your opponents knight from moving, but remember that the maximum amount of squares are knight can control is 8. It is quite easy to stop your opponent's knight from coming into your position. You need to set up a pawn barrier and attack weak pawns with your own knight.

This position is an extremely good example of restricting white's knight. White's knight cannot come forward, black's knight attacks white's weak pawn and black's king is extremely active. If you restrict your opponents knight in blitz, they are extremely likely to blunder and lose the game. You do not need to restrict every single knight move, but enough moves so that your opponent has a hard time finding a move. In blitz, this is a very deadly weapon.

2. King and Pawns on Opposite Colors

It might seem weird at first because this is usually what you do against a bishop. However, there is hidden geometry inside of the knight that is worth discovering which makes this rule so important. Look at the knight and the squares it controls.

Notice that all the squares the knight controls are the same color. This is true for every placement of the knight because of its geometry. When you place your king and pawns on opposite colors, it is impossible for the knight to fork your pawns because the knight cannot check and attack pawns on opposite colors at the same time. This beauty in its geometry allows you to remember this secret and use it to save to on the clock!

3. Outposts

If your knight is protected you will save lots of time on the clock. Knights are pieces that are easily restricted or cornered. On an outpost, It cannot be budged. A knight on an outpost that attacks an opponent's pawn can even decide the game.

Although there is absolutely no way for white to win, you can see that black is in a position of pain. All his pieces are extremely passive. It is quite clear that white is going to be able to beat black on time. Having a knight on an outpost is so important that if you are attacking, get your knight to an outpost and you will be ready to beat your opponent on time.

Likewise, if you are defending, then you should try and defend your opponent's outposts. If your opponent cannot get their knight onto a good square, it will be hard for them to convert. Take a look at how black can try and advance.

Black is trying to get his knight on the d4 and f4 outposts and win with his extra pawn. However, when White's knight is on e2, there is no way for black to proceed. When you are defending, you should stay passive but make sure your opponent does not get the chance to land on an outpost. Also note that the d4 and f4 outposts attack b3 and h3 respectively, which means that if white were to let black's knight land on d4 or f4, white would most likely lose.

Outposts are extremely important in knight endgames. You will most likely lose if your opponent's knight lands on an outpost and becomes extremely active.

4. Simplification

Quoting Mikhail Botvinnik, "Knight endgames are like pawn endgames." If you remove the knights and analyse who is winning in the pawn endgame, you will be able to conclude who would be winning in the knight endgame when the knights are back.

This position might seem winning at first because white can press with his advanced pawns and knight, but this is a drawn position. Take a look at the position without the knights.

As you can see, it is impossible for white to win. This pawn endgame corresponds to the knight endgame. In most cases, winning pawn endgames transition to winning knight endgames and vice versa depending on the position.

This guideline means that you need to simplify when you have less time, and keep the knights when you have more time in a blitz game. Simplifying the position does not change the result as if you were winning with the knights, you will win the pawn endgame (see How to Play a Proper Endgame in Blitz #1: Pawn Endgames). If the position is drawn with the knights, it is usually drawn in the pawn endgame. Knight endgames and pawn endgames end up the same result.

Take a look at these "Simplify or Not Simplify" puzzles.

These are extremely basic, in an actual blitz game you will need to prepare yourself for much more complicated positions. It is worth it to take some time in a blitz game to think about about what to do and when to simplify in a knight endgame. Knights are tricky pieces, so it takes tons of practice to master them.

5. Stay Calm

This is important for everything in chess, from a classical tournament OTB game to a 10 sec bullet game. Like I said in How to Play a Proper Endgame in Blitz #1: Pawn Endgames staying calm is key to winning every game you play. It is quite hard to stay calm, but if you do stay calm and play your best, you will win your games happy.png

I hope you found this helpful!

Thanks for reading,

CM Chessdemon2019

P.S Please check out Part #1 if you haven't already for some more tips of playing endgames in blitz!

If anyone is interested in joining one or more of my clubs after reading this article, I have the links below.
Thank you if you join!