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barely-winning

Endgame Fundamentals: Barely Winning

By Donny Gray

Many times after a hard-fought game and the smoke clears, there is hardly anything left on the board. Today we are going to look at a few examples where the material on the board is almost non-existent. In cases like this, one mistake will throw the win away, so it is good to review. Also it is good to know drawing techniques if you are on the losing side.

 

44-1

 

In this first example, we see that White is in check. The question, of course, is where to move to get out of check.

Let’s try Ke8 first.

1. Ke8 ?

We will soon see why this is wrong.

Ke6
2. Bf8   Be5
3. Bb4  Bg7
4. Bc3  Bh6
5. Be1   Bg7
6. Bd2  Kf5
7. Ke7  Kg6
8. Bb4  Kf5
9. Bc5   Bh6
10. Be3 Bg7

And we are just going around in circles. Black just makes sure that he attacks the Queening square, and White cannot stop him from doing so.  Therefore, draw.

Now let’s take a look at moving Kg8 to get out of check.

1. Kg8!

The reason this works, and Ke8 does not, will soon be apparent

Ke6
2. Bf8  Bf4
3. Ba3 Bh6
4. Bb2 Ke7
5. Bg7

And wins easily.

Another try might go…

1. Kg8!  Kg6
2. Bf8   Bf4
3. Bc5   Bh6
4. Bd4  Kf5
5. Bg7

And Black cannot stop White from Queening.

 

44-2

 

In this next example the first move is obvious.  If White does not move his Pawn immediately, it will be a draw. But how to continue after that?

1. a6 Bc5

Black’s first move was also forced, as he must stop the pawn from Queening.

2. Bb8 Be3
3. Ba7 Bf4

White has succeeded in removing Black’s Bishop from the diagonal, but now his own Bishop is in the way of the Pawn’s advance. So….

4. Bd4

Now he can just push the Pawn with no tricks right?  No! Black has one last try.

Bb8!

If White gets greedy and snaps up the Bishop, it is a draw after Ka6 by Black.  But now White has…

5.Be5!

And Black cannot stop White from Queening.

There are, of course, countless examples of endings where you must stop the opposing side’s Bishop from stopping a Pawn from Queening. One of my favorites is the following:

 

44-3

 

If White is careless, Black can easily draw this game. For example…

1. a5 Bh6
2. a6 Be3

And it is a dead draw. The Black King will stop the g Pawn and the Bishop will stop the a Pawn. If at anytime Black gains control of the g1-a7 diagonal he will have an easy draw.

Another try gone wrong is this.

1. a5 Bh6
2. Ke4

Seems like a great idea.  Stop the Bishop from getting on the g1-a7 diagonal. However, Black just plays

2. …   Bf8

And he threatens to do the same from the c5 square.

The only way to win is the following.

1. a5 Bh6
2. g5!

Black cannot take with the King, as then his Bishop will never make it to the diagonal that he needs to draw. And if he does not take the Pawn with his Bishop, he cannot get to the diagonal either.

2.  …    Bg5
3. Ke4 Bh4
4. Kf3

Now the Pawn can get to the Queening square without any problems. White wins.

 

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