Chess with Yoda

Bizarre Endings That Make You Think

By Donny Gray

If you have ever studied chess books or researched online you most likely have come across unlikely and perhaps even bizarre positions that have made you pause and think. Most of them are highly unlikely to ever occur exactly in one of your chess games, but you would be surprised how knowing the concept can actually be beneficial.

Take the example above. If you have ever taken chess lessons then this position has probably been in one of your first classes. If it is white’s turn and he fools around and allows black to lock up the pawns, then he will not only throw away the win, he may even lose. But, how in the world can white win?


1.f6                  gf                  Kc4

White has no way to win. The pawns are locked up and the black king is on the way to help out. Pushing the h pawn will have the same outcome. That leaves only two possibilities. Either white has to push the g pawn or somehow get his king to help. But, since the king is completely out of play, that idea is worthless. That only leaves the g pawn.

g pawn try #1

1.g6                 hg
2.hg                 fg

Well that did not go over very well. Now the black king will kill the poor isolated g pawn that is left and white’s win goes out the door.

g pawn try #2

1.g6                 hg

Now no matter which pawn black decides to capture, white queens!! This position may never come up in a real game but you would be surprised how many times this concept does indeed occur! Good to know.

Next up let’s take a look at one of Pierre-Antoine Cathignol’s chess compositions. He composed many complex chess studies, but is best known for the bizarre chess position that he created back in 1981. White can force a win believe it or not!

1.d5                 ed
2.ed                 cd
3.a5                 ba
4.b5                 ab
5.cb                 Ke7
6.b6                 Kd7
7.b7                 Kc7
8.g5                 fg

Look familiar?

9.h5                 gh
10.f5                a4
11.f6                a3
12.f7                a2
13.b8-Q+!!      Kb8
14.f8-Q+         Resigns

In closing I would like to do a challenge that I have tortured students with in the past. The challenge is to create a “mate-in-one” position. But not just any “mate-in-one” position, but one that contains many solutions. How many “mate-in-one” solutions can one position contain? That is the challenge.

The reason I do this exercise is to get the student to start recognizing mating patterns. The more mates you can create, the more you will start to see in your own games.

When presented with this assignment most students will come back with a position that contains between 10-20 mates. For example, the following position contains 20 distinct “mates-in-one.”