Essential Endgames

The endgame is the latter part of the game, where few pieces are left on the board, and there is subsequently lots of space for the remaining pieces to manoeuvre. The kings that were before a burden, and had to be defended well now become attacking pieces, often aiming to escort the pawns to the opponent`s back rank and promote them to queens.

Although there are few pieces on the board, often it becomes harder to select the right plan, because there are many ‘reasonable’ looking moves, and subtleties in the position become glaringly obvious. If you are already well acquainted with these typical endgames, then you should be able to recycle them in your own games, and also develop a powerful thought process, by understanding these ideas.

Below is a winning endgame position, but you have to be careful on proceeding, otherwise black might be able to hold a draw:

king and pawn v king
White to play and win…

 What Not To Do…

If you play e3 here, then it will be an immediate draw. Let`s see why (if you have a chess board, you might want to run through the moves on it):

1. e3 Ke4 2. Ke2 (the only move that holds onto the pawn) …,Ke5 white can try a few different ideas here, but none of them work. 3. Kf3 Kf5 gaining the ‘opposition’.

king and pawn v king 2
Black gains the opposition, which is the right way to draw.

White continues 4. e4+ and black calmly takes his position in front of the pawn again     …, Ke5 5. Ke3 Ke6 It doesn`t matter which side white goes, black will calmly take the opposition, and repeat the pattern.

KP v K 3
It is white to move…but all moves result in a draw here.

6. Kf4 Kf6 7. e5+ Ke6 8. Ke4 Ke7 

KP v K 4
After 3 moves, the whole unit has shifted back one square, the critical point to remember is what the final position looks like after a number of these shifts back.

9. Kf5 Kf7 10. e6+ Ke7 11. Ke5 Ke8 another shift back. 12. Kf6 Kf8 13. e7+ Ke8 14. Ke6 Stalemate. The final position shown below is worth memorising:

KP v K 5
Stalemate: Black can`t move anywhere, so the game is drawn.

The Way To Win

As we have just seen, the move 1. e3 is not the right way to go about this endgame, because it results in either stalemate or white losing the pawn and drawing by default. The key to this type of endgame, which is also true to many others is to gain the oppositionThe best move is therefore 1. Ke3 This move forces the black king to go one way or the other, and when it goes one way, you should always go the other way to outflank him. This way, you will soon push your opponent`s king back, and gain control of the queening square.

K P v P 1A
White gains the opposition and forces black to go one way – it doesn`t matter which way the black king goes, we apply the same principle of outflanking.

1…, Kd5 2. Kf4 black tries to keep the king centralised with …, Ke6 Again white gains the opposition with 3. Ke4!

K P v P 2A
Black is again forced to go one way, which ever way your opponent`s king goes, you go the other way.

We can just repeat the pattern, to force the black king further back …, Kd6 4. Kf5 Ke7     5. Ke5

K P v P 3A

Black realises that it is no good to keep conceding ground, so he changes tact …, Kd7 6. Kf6 Kd6

KP v P 4A
Only now is it time to push the pawn…

7. e4 Kd7

KP v P 5A

Just keep on pushing the pawn now, and there is nothing black can do to stop it. 8. e5 Kd8 9. e6 Ke8

K P v P 6A
Once white has played e7, the black king will be in zugzwang, and the as soon as white gets a queen it will soon be game over.

10. e7 Kd7 the only move 11. Kf7 Kd6 12. e8=Q and black can resign here, because checkmate follows shortly.

K P v K 7A
This position is now easily winning for white.


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