Simple Endgame?
Photography by Katie Olson

Simple Endgame?


It's been a while since I've posted.

Previously  I've covered  4vs3 rook endgames (here) and 3vs2 (here ) but not discussed endgames with fewer pawns.

This is partially because they tend to be easier to draw - the well-known drawing rule that the defender should reduce the number of pawns certainly applies to rook endgames.

However I've stumbled across a few interesting 2vs1 endgames I thought were worth sharing.

First of all a neat endgame study that I saw in the excellent "Chess Endgame Studies and Compositions" group on Facebook, posted by Cyrus Lakdawala.

White to play and win:

Another similar position (from "Chess ON" Move of the Day on Facebook - well worth a follow):

Yet another interesting puzzle that arrived in my facebook news feed (this time via Grandmaster Bogdan Lalic )

Black to play and draw a seemingly hopeless position:

It is worth taking a note at this stage that in the above puzzles the side with the extra space got their desired outcome. This is perhaps the biggest factor in these endgames where all the pawns are on the same side.

The next few puzzles arose in a blitz game of mine on

Black to play and draw:

I did not come close to finding this in the blitz game!

Many adventures later (it was a blitz game!) the following position arose where black has only one move to hold:

Instead I played a waiting move Rh7 which should lose:

So what does this endgame look like in real life? The following game between two strong players is reasonably indicative of what can go wrong (most of these positions do end up drawn however - even more than with 4 vs 3 or 3 vs 2).

White to play and pick the easiest (in my opinion) way to hold ?

Instead white went for a very reasonable but perhaps slightly more passive approach and black played cat and mouse for many moves :

Eventually black had to make a move and the situation became critical.

White to play and hold the draw?

White played the natural Ra8 instead, and now it is black to play and win:

The game continued until move 111, the main thing to note was that the white king was too far away and on the wrong side - if it was still on g2 then the position would be drawn:

Key points:

  • Space is very useful in these positions:
    • The tactics in the first two puzzles happened because white's pawns were far enough advanced to generate mating/promotion threats - would never have happened if they were on h3 and g3.
    • The second two endgames (with the black pawn on h4 etc.) looked pretty hopeless for black but with the white pawns so far back there were surprisingly many resources
  • Black's boundless patience in the final game is worth emulating:
    • In modern chess the gap between the players is often narrower (modern computer preparation being what it is) and if you want to score well against lower rated opponents you have to grab chances wherever you can find them. 
    • 15 moves of nothing before the first pawn move! Black is a professional player - he wasn't shuffling those pieces just for fun!
  • Learn those rook on the long side, king on the short side type draws (Jesús De La Villa is very good for this) - they happen all the time.