By Donny Gray
Capablanca once said, “In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before everything else. For whereas the endings can be studied and mastered by themselves, the middle game and end game must be studied in relation to the end game.”
In over 35 years of teaching chess, my main theme has always been the ending. My question to students is the same: Even if you win a pawn or piece in the opening, what good will it do you if you have no idea how to win the ending?
Quoting another past world champion, Emanuel Lasker said, “The hardest game to win is a won game.”
Being able to win a won game in chess is called technique. If you read about any great player, it will most likely say he has great technique. This is just fancy talk for if he gets even the slightest advantage–you are doomed!!
The purpose of this column is to present the reader with basic chess endings. Endings that you must know by heart. Hopefully this column will enlighten you to a few ideas, whether you are a rank beginner or an old tournament pro.
Lets get started!!
Before you can hope to have any progress in chess at all, you must first learn two basic mates. You MUST be able to mate with a lone queen and with a lone rook. I will not cover these two basic mates in this column, but you MUST be able to do these two basic mates without much thought. I have covered them in other articles. IF you have to think hard about how to do them, then you need to practice until you can do them both effortlessly.
First let’s begin with what I call the Famous Pawn Position. No one else calls it that but me, but whatever you call it, you must know it!
The famous pawn position can either be bad for you or good. It all depends on what side of the board you are on and whose move it may be. If you are white and it is your turn, you have missed a great opportunity to win the game. Now you will either stalemate black or have to give the pawn away for free.
However, if it is black’s turn then white wins easy. For example, black in this position only has one move Kb7. Now white can force the pawn to queen by the simple Kd7.
Almost all pawn endings can end up in the Famous Pawn Position. You have to be alert as to who will have the move when it is reached.
Another important bit of chess knowledge is contained with the 2 kings and one pawn, just in another situation.
Take the following position. Again it matters who has the move. If white moves first then it will be a draw. If black moves, then he loses. This position is one of the most important pawn endings to know. You must learn this ending and understand how to play both sides.
An example of when black moves first could be something like this:
1. … Kb6
2. Kd5 Kc7
3. Kc5 Kb7
4. Kd6 Kc8
5. c4 Kd8
6. c5 Kc8
Now no matter where black moves, white can force the pawn to queen.
7. … Kb8
Now the pawn is protected the rest of the way by the king.
However, if it is white to move first, then it is a draw. Let’s see 2 examples on this one.
1. Kb3 Kb5!!
Black opposes the white king.
2. c4+ Kc5
3. Kc3 Kc6
As you can see, no matter which side of the pawn white decides to come out on, you can oppose him.
Again, moving so that no matter how white comes out with his king, you can oppose him.
7. Kd5 Kd7
Opposing him yet again.
8. c6+ Kc7
9. Kc5 Kc8
11. c7+ Kc8
And we have the Famous Pawn Position with white to move!! As we saw earlier, now a draw.
1. Kd4 Kd6
Black will never allow white to get past the 5th rank unless he tries something similar to example #1.
These basic mates and pawn endings are the foundation of all endings in chess. Make sure you know all of the above!!
José Raúl Capablanca: a chess biography, by Miguel A. Sánchez Next Post:
Review: Chess Informant 130: Knocker-Up