Beast image

Endgame Fundamentals: The Beast

By Donny Gray

After 35+ years of teaching chess I have developed many exercises that I make my students do. One is called “The Beast.”  In this exercise, the student gets all of their pawns and all four minor pieces.  As the teacher, I get all of my pawns and my queen.  That is it!

Now most of the time three minor pieces can handle a queen. Not all of the time of course, but a lot of the time. So, if you have four minor pieces you should be able to win. However, most students fear the queen so much they just allow it to run wild, eating up pawns and pieces or give a perpetual check to ruin their attempt at credit. Another trick I use is stalemate, which comes up a lot in this exercise. Once I shed myself of all my pawns, a queens sac out of the blue forces stalemate.

This is a very instructive exercise. There are eight parts to it, as I start off in part 1 with only 1 pawn. With each part I get another pawn until “Beast #8″, the student is facing my queen and all 8 pawns.

Usually the students have a horrible time with the Beast at first. Then about #4 or #5 they catch on. Gone are my pulling tricks on them. By the last few Beasts they have caught on and my queen and I usually have no chance.

However, Beast #8 can be hard to do even when they have caught on. One recent attempt at Beast #8 from one of my students was a good example. After 12 moves she exclaimed that she did not know how to continue.

Here is our starting position:





Here is the 12 moves that we played:

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 a6 3.Nf3 d6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 g6 6.Be3 e6 7.Nf3 f6 8.Bd3 Kf7 9.Kd1 Qc7 10.Kc1 h5 11.h4 b5 12.a3 Qb7

It was here she said she was unsure how to continue.





Almost always in chess, you want to try to go forward. As you go forward you want your pieces to protect each other, and if possible get some pawns moving down the board, so you can promote one of them. Against the Beast you MUST do all of this or you will just lose horribly to the black queen.

It would be nice if I could have some super GM show how he would win the white side of this position. So I let Komodo, the super chess program probably rated 3200+ on my super fast computer take over for my student.

He played the game against me after the 12th move. Watch how he pushes me back, never letting me take anything as he always has everything protected! Four minor pieces are just too much for a queen.

My strategy against my student was just to move back and forth and see if you find a trick some where. What else could I do? The position was super solid but watch how Komodo destroys me.

13.b4 Qc7 14.Kb2 Qb7 15.Kb3 Qc7 16.a4 bxa4+ 17.Nxa4 Qb7 18.Nc3 Qc8 19.Bc4 Kg7 20.Nd4 e5 21.Ne6+ Kh7 22.Bb6 Qb7 23.Nd5 Qc8 24.Nxf6+ Kh8 25.Be3 Qb7 26.Bh6 Qe7 27.Bg7+ Qxg7 28.Nxg7 Kxg7 29.Ne8+ Resigns

Final Position:




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