The Drawing Zone, Part 1

  • Bryan Smith
  • Avg Rating: 1290
  • Endgames

Everyone wants to be a winner in chess. But don't forget that part of winning is...not losing! Every chess player, from the earliest beginner to the world champions, sometimes has a game that gets derailed and needs to be saved. Part of improving in chess is learning how to defend a disadvantageous ending and save the draw. This improves your results just as much as winning an advantageous ending does. There is also a beauty in saving a difficult ending, in holding on with subtle and dour defense. This first part will deal with more basic endgames - part 2 will deal with more complicated defenses. So now let's sit back and learn how to keep the game in the DRAWING ZONE!

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  • A Tale of a King and a Pawn

    The most basic of all endgames, besides the basic checkmates...this is the first king and pawn ending you should learn, and is necessary to know if you are a chess player!
  • Philidor's Method

    Francois-Andre Danican Philidor was one of the first great chess players, in addition to being a famous musical composer. He found and analyzed a rock-solid defensive method in the most basic of rook and pawn endings. This is considered to be one of the most important theoretical methods in chess, and every chess player should learn it.
  • One-For-One

    One of the most important principles of defending (and drawing) an inferior endgame is to trade pawns. Especially in minor piece endgames (endgames involving only bishops and knights) it is an important strategy, since - unlike rooks and queens - bishops and knights cannot checkmate by themselves. Therefore if the inferior side can sacrifice his bishop (or knight) for the opponent's last pawn, then he can draw despite being down a piece.
  • The Harakiri Bishop

    In this lesson, we will see another basic endgame fortress that it is important to know.
  • Kramnik's Mistake

    Everyone can make mistakes - even the world champion! In this game, Vladimir Kramnik - the future champion of the world - was playing against Garry Kasparov, who was champion at that time. Both sides had very little time on their clocks, which caused Kramnik to miss his chance to force a clear draw in this pawn down ending.
  • The King is Happy to be Trapped?!

    Usually you want your king to be able to move around a bit. He needs some air to breathe. Being trapped without a single move makes him nervous, because any check might be checkmate! But there are rare circumstances where a defender can actually benefit from his king being trapped.
  • Calculating to the Finishing Line

    Sometimes there is no substitute for calculation. You have a crucial choice to make - at that moment you might just need to look until the end, until the position is clear. This is particularly important when the possibility of trading arises.
  • Building the Stone Wall

    Another drawing resource that the defending side can resort to is the building of a fortress. If the superior side cannot create a passed pawn or break through to attack any weaknesses, then it can be a draw in spite of the material disadvantage.
  • King Behind the Barricade

    Rook and pawn versus rook endings where the king cannot get directly in front of the pawn (and reach the Philidor method) can be tricky. But the defender has many resources, you just have to be on the lookout for them!
  • Counterplay

    One of the toughest parts of defending involves deciding whether you must play actively or passively. In some positions, active attempts to break out are suicidal, while in others activity is the only hope. Part of deciding this requires assessing the threats you are facing - if there is an imminent danger facing you, then active counterplay is a must.
  • Defensive Simplification

    Everyone learns as a beginner that you should trade pieces when you are up material, and not trade them when you are down. But every principle has its exceptions. When down a pawn with opposite-colored bishops on the board you often want to trade to the ending with only the bishops - this is often a cut-and-dry draw.
  • Two Knights Defense?!

    No, this lesson is not actually about the Two Knights Defense, which is an opening after 1.e4. Here we are looking at another of our defensive weapons - removing the last pawn to leave the opponent with insufficient material to checkmate.
  • Leaving the Active Rook

    In rook endings, the activity of the rook is paramount. Here we have an example where White holds the draw despite being a pawn down due to his active rook.
  • Ponziani's Position

    There are certain endgame fortresses that it is important to know. You do not need to memorize every theoretical position, but there are a few basic endgames with which you should be acquainted. Here we have an example of a fortress where even with an extra bishop and pawn, White cannot win.
  • Preparing the Perpetual

    Some of the most important ways of securing a draw in an inferior endgame are: creating a fortress, exchanging off potential mating material, and perpetual check. Here we see an important perpetual check pattern.
  • King and Queen Bound

    In queen and pawn endings, perpetual check is the name of the game for the defending side.
  • Shouldering

    The most common endgame - the rook endgame - often simplifies to a battle between passed pawns and a rook once one side promotes and the other sacrifices the rook for the new queen. Here we see a typical stratagem for the defending side in these endings.
  • Shadow Defense

    King and pawn endings are the most "simple" chess positions, but at the same time can be the most difficult. This is because so much can be calculated and every move is very important.
  • The Best Chance

    Some inferior positions can be held by fortress methods, or can be forcibly simplified to a draw. But sometimes a position is seriously compromised, and no clear drawing line is in sight. In this case, the best defensive method is to create complications and stir up trouble.
  • You Can Play Better Than Lasker!

    Passed pawns are very important in the endgame - with less material on the board there is less chance to checkmate, but more chance to promote a pawn. For the defender, the creation of a passed pawn is often the last chance to create confusion and avoid a loss.

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