Endgame study time!

By Davide Nastasio

The idea for this article came during the night. As always, the purpose is to improve our visualization skills, our calculation power, and, of course, be ready to be surprised and awed by how chess seems difficult and easy at the same time.  The goal of this article is to improve our chess minds, because during a tournament game we don’t have engines to show us the right move. We are alone at the board, trying to play our best.  Here you’ll find some nice positions for your training.

It’s 3:00 am.  Even owls are sleeping, and this is the perfect time for studying endgames. My son is sound asleep, the dog, too, at the end of the bed keeping my feet warm! Total silence outside.




The first position comes from the game Anand vs. Topalov, played in 2015.



Topalov just played 59. … Rc8. Check!


Anand replied with 60.Kd3.  A mistake!  “Wait a minute,” you say.  “Isn’t Anand a former world champion?” Yes, of course.  And look: I just put the position under my engine, Stockfish 7, and it would also play 60.Kd3, giving White a +1.00 advantage.  Well, this is the reason I presented this position.  There is an amazing sacrifice one could play, if we would only stop the engines and listen to the song the Goddess Caissa is singing, a song our silicon crutches cannot understand. Open your heart to chess, and sacrifice!  60.Kb4!!

Try to analyze and find the win for White after 60. … Ba5 check!

This second position comes from one of the best composers of all time:  Nikolai Grigoriev.



Nikolai Grigoriev




This position is dedicated to a friend.  She had some troubles with pawn endgames.   I think everyone does, since nowadays the time controls are shorter, there are no more adjournments, and one must find the right move in a few minutes after 4 to 5 hours battling.




White to move and draw.  It took me 2 days to get it right, because I only have time at night when everyone is asleep. I analyzed deeply the position without moving the pieces to reach the draw. White can go wrong in many ways. In the end, in disbelief, I used the engine to discover if my analysis was correct, and it was!




This endgame is taken from a recent game, the Chinese Championship 2016, between Zhao Jun and Bai Jinshi, two 2600 young GMs. White is 31 years old, and Black 18.  Zhao Jun played a natural move which lost the game: 1.Kc5??  As in most pawn endgames one must be able to visualize 10-12 moves ahead. I’ll put here what happened in the game, and my further analysis, to show why Black wins (mainly because he queens before, and begins a series of checks which will bring him to exchange the promoted queens, and then promote the other pawn, winning.). Obviously, don’t move the pieces, because the idea is to duplicate real tournament game conditions, and improve our visualization.
1.Kc5?? Kf5–+ 2.Kb6 Kxf4 3.Kxa6 Kxg5 4.Kb5 f5 5.Kc4 Kf6 6.a4 Ke5 0 : 1    Here Zhao Jun resigned. I’d like to show a few more moves to see what happens when both promote to queen:




7.Kc5 f4 8.a5 f3 9.a6 f2 10.a7 f1Q 11.a8Q Qf2+ 12.Kb4 Qb2+ 13.Kc4 Qc2+; 14.Kb5 Qd3; 15.Ka4 Qe4 exchanging the queens, and then the White king is too far to block the G pawn from promoting.  Notice in the beginning position, White has two other moves which draw. Put yourself in Zhao Jun’s place, and see if you could have drawn the game!




The next positions come from a DVD I got from Chessbase.  It was a Deal of the Week DVD.




Practically once a week Chessbase discounts one or two DVDs half price.  I find some titles are interesting for my chess progress, plus $12-13 for 3-4 hours of training with a GM are definitely worth spending!




I studied this position, or a similar one, a few years ago. What I didn’t know was that it actually happened often in real games! The game in question was played in 1980, between Lerner and Dorfman. White is winning, but in order to get the full point instead of a draw, one must know, or find, the main idea behind this endgame.  Obviously the White player needs to bring the king to help the rook to stop the enemy pawn, but before moving the king, one must avoid the Black king “bodychecking,” (using GM Müller’s terminology) our king.

Bodycheck means that one king prevents the other king from going near his pawns, thanks to a chess rule that says two kings can never be on adjacent squares. Here is an example of bodycheck from a very famous pawn endgame:




Let me illustrate the idea, and then we can return to Lerner vs. Dorfman.




2.Kd5 is the bodycheck, because this prevents the other king from entering an important square where he will be able to draw or win the pawn.  The endgame continued with: 2. … Kb4; 3.Kc6.   Again, the bodycheck principle in action!




This endgame ended with: 3. … Ka5; 4.Kb7,Kb5; 5.Kxa7,Kc6; 6.Kb8 and White wins.

Now that we have learned the idea of “bodycheck,” we can return to our endgame: Lerner vs. Dorfman:




White’s first order of business is to prevent the Black king from “bodychecking” the White king when he tries to come to the kingside to help the rook.

1.Rf2!! (the double exclamation is given because controlling the F file prevents the Black king from keeping the White king away from the pawn!)

But let me show you what happens if White plays the natural: 1.Kb7??,




  1. … Kf6; 2.Kc6,Ke5!; bodycheck!




3.Kc5, g4; 4.Kc4,g3; 5.Rh8, Ke4;




As you can see, the Black king creates a shield which keeps away the White king, while at the same time being near enough to protect his pawn advance.

6.Rg8,Kf3; 7. Kd3,g2, and now it is a draw. White has to sacrifice the rook in order to stop Black from promoting the pawn.

Once more let’s return to the beginning of the endgame of Lerner vs. Dorfman:




Black continues with: 1. … Kg6; 2.Kb7,g4; 3.Kc6,Kg5; 4.Kd5,g3; 5.Rf8,  another important move!




And the game ended after: 5. … Kg4; 6.Ke4, because Black cannot stop the White king from coming into contact with the G pawn, and then the White rook will just go on the G file and pick up the pawn.

I’d like to close the article with a position where Black draws. Play it against a friend at the chess club.  It will teach you a lot!



71. … Kf3


Black just played 71. … Kf3; this position stems from the analysis of the game Petrov vs. Socko, Najdorf Memorial Open A in 2010.
Can White win? Or it’s a draw? Have fun!


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