In the endgame, there is often a race for promotion. When this happens, it doesn’t matter so much how many pawns you have, as much as their ability to promote. This is because a queen is good at doing a mop up job. In this chapter, we will be looking at the situation where one side has promoted, and the other has a pawn on the seventh rank – a whisker away from promotion. This type of endgame is common, because it works with all the different pawns (a-h). The method that I am going to recommend is a simple one, which never fails. I call it closing the gap.
Closing the Gap With Your Queen
This study is taken from a recent blitz game of mine on chess.com. Both sides have made 48 moves already. In this position below, white must ensure that black is not given a move to promote, as this will result in a draw.
White to move:
49. Qa7+ Kf1 (49…Ke1 50. Qe3+ zooming into the position) 50. Qa6+ Kf2 51. Qb6+ Kf1
Pattern #1: Bring your queen closer to the enemy pawn, through checks – to keep the black king busy – until it is right next to it.
52. Qb5+ Kf2 53. Qc5+ Ke2 54. Qc4+ Kf2 55. Qd4+ Kf1
This pattern is repeated many times until the queen is in a proximity to the black king. Let`s see what happens if the black king decides to go away from the pawn instead of in front of it, or to the side of it (shown in brackets).
56. Qd3+ Kf2 (56…Ke1 57. Qg3+ Kf1 see the board below – carry on with 58. Qf3+ to force the black king in front of the pawn). 57. Qd2+ Kf1 58. Qf4+ Ke1 59. Qg3+ Kf1
60. Qf3+ Kg1 The black king is now in the way of his own pawn. This gives us time to maneuver our own king into position.
Closing the Gap With Your King
By this stage, the queen on f3 has got into the best position, but she can’t deliver checkmate on her own. It is time to bring your king into the position. This takes time, but there is a simple systematic way to do this, shown below:
Pattern #2 : Whenever the enemy king blocks his pawn, use this tempo to move your king closer to the action.
61. Kc2 Kh2 62. Qf2 Kh1 63. Qh4+ Kg1 The black king blocks the path, so what should you do?
64. Kd2! Move your king into position! Kf1 65. Qf4+ Kg1 The black king is blocking his pawn, how do we continue?
66. Ke2 Moving our king closer to the enemy king, to support the queen. Remember that a queen supported by another piece can checkmate the lone king on the 2nd rank (or 2nd file). This is why we have to bring our king in. I play some unnecessary moves here, but they don’t hurt. If you are short on time, repeating the position once or twice (not 3 times! = drawn) can buy you precious time to find the win. Kh1 67. Qh4+ Kg1 68. Qg3 (68. Kf3! is a quicker way to win … Kf1 69. Qf2#) Kh1 69. Qh3+ (69. Kf2 g1=Q 70. Qxg1#) Kg1 70. Qg3 Kh1 71. Qh4+ This position is the same as after 67. Qh4+ Kg1 72. Qg4 Kh1
73. Kf2! g1=Q+ (73…Kh2 74. Qxg2#) 74. Qxg1# 1-0
In summary, to beat the 7th rank pawn with a queen, you have to first of all get your queen close to the enemy king. Then you bring your king in, to support the queen. Once the two are nearby, then you can start to watch out for checkmates.
Simplifying the Endgame to Your Advantage
Now, if you understand that certain endgames are won or drawn, then it makes sense to see where you are heading in the late middlegame. If you can reach the position shown in diagram 1 then you know you have got the win in the bag, so all you have to do is simplify the position to get there.
Here is the same game, after I play 40. Kb4
1 Tempo can Win You the Game
By tempo, I mean a single move. If you have an extra move (or tempo) then you can promote first and go on to win. If you miscalculate the number of moves it takes your opponent to promote, and the number of moves for you to promote, then you can end up entering a losing variation. What you should do is calculate as deeply as you can in concrete endgame positions. There are few pieces on the board, so this task should be relatively easy.
In the game, my opponent did not find the drawing move, and played a losing move.
40…e3?? 41. fxe3+ Kxe3 42. Kxa4 Kf2 43. Kb3 Kxg2 44. a4 Kf2 45. a5 g5 46. a6 g4 47. a7 g3 48. a8=Q g2
Here we are, back at diagram 1, I trust you know how to win the game from here!