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Endgame Play

Chris Ward

8. T. Batsford Ltd, London

First published 1 996

Chris Ward
ISBN 0 7 134 7920 5
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data.
A catalogue record for this book is
available from the British Library.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be

reproduced, by any means, without prior permission
of the publisher.

Typeset by Petra Nunn

and printed in Great Britain by
Redwood Books, Trowbridge, Wilts
for the publishers,
B. T. Batsford Ltd,
4 Fitzhardinge Street,
London WIH OAH

Dedication: Today my thoughts are with all those whose lives are affected
by Cancer. I dedicate this book to my mum, Elizabeth, for absolutely


Editorial Panel: Mark Dvoretsky, Jon Speelman
General Adviser: Raymond Keene OBE
Specialist Adviser: Dr John Nunn
Commissioning Editor: Graham Burgess



Introducing Endgame Play

His Majesty
I T he Colossal K ing
2 Expanding on and explaining King and Pawn vs K ing
3 Tempo: ls time of the essence?
4 S wap off and win!
5 S topping Passed Pawns
6 Blocking, Deflecting and Pushing Off
7 Corralling and Encirclement


The Soldiers
8 The Outside Passed Pawn
9 T he Great Pieces versus Pawns debate
JO Which is better, connected or isolated?
1 1 T ricky Pawn moves and structures
1 2 A lecture o n Rook a nd Pawn endings


Strengths and Weaknesses

13 Weak Pawns and Infiltration
14 A word or two on Pawnless Endings
15 Cutting off the K ing
16 Zugzwang!


All the King's Men

17 Knights or Bishops?
18 More scenes with Queens
1 9 T he value ofpieces and which ones to exchang e
20 Opposite-coloured bishops -Always D rawn?
2 1 Tactics in the endgame


1 03
1 08
1 15
1 19



1 -0
0- 1

(D )

Double Check
Good move
Excellent move
Bad move
Serious blunder
Interesting move
Dubious move
White wins
Black wins
European team championship
World championship
World team championship
Candidates event
Correspondence game
nth match game
Diagram follows


To be honest, so far this year has

been the worst time of my life. Ordi
narily, playing chess with a book
deadline approaching and the editor
often on your case (sorry Graham,
you do a great j ob really ! ) is tricky
enough as it is. Unfortunately though,
with my Mother being diagnosed as
having an advanced case of throat
cancer, my own career has been
brought to a virtual standstill.
The few games in which I have
been involved have severely lacked
concentration and it seems as if my
function on these rare outings has
been purely to make up the numbers !
[Chris was ofcourse writing before

his victory in the 1996 British Cham

pionship, scoring 911 1 for his final
GM norm - editor' s note.]
Nevertheless, during this difficult
period I have remained amazingly
focused on the completion of this
book. Not surprisingly, I am thinking
that things could be a lot better right
now. However I will always take
pride in my writing and am very
happy with the content of Endgame
Play. I can only hope that this will be
as instructive to the reader as I be
lieve it should.

Chris Ward
Kent, May 1996

1 Introducing Endgame Play

In the introduction to Opening Play,

I explained the attraction of opening
textbooks. Middlegame literature,
although often very instructive, is
generally less appealing. The prob
lem is that, depending on which
openings one has in one's repertoire,
certain middlegame positions will
just never occur. Although all such
books are good in terms of general
chess knowledge, the fact is that
most King's Gambit players, for ex
ample, tend to have little interest in
learning about queenside play or
'minority ' attacks ! Consequently rightly or wrongly - large chunks of
these books become comparatively
The beauty of studying endings
is that whatever the opening is and
however the middlegame is played
out, it is not at all unusual to arrive at

similar positions in the latter stages

of totally different games . Of course
it is true that there are endgames
which we will reach only rarely, or
perhaps not at all. I am only too
aware that - particularly with quick
play finishes now common in tour
naments - 'close' endgames are not
so frequent. It would be impossible
to cover all the permutations of piece
and pawn deployments and, anyway,
that is not the aim of this book.
I believe that when they do occur,
endgames form the most serious
weakness of the average club player;
juniors especially are often com
pletely at a loss for a plan when their
queen has been exchanged and no
easy pawn promotion is in sight!
Most endgame texts tend to stick
to the rigid layout of king and pawn,
rook and pawn, bishop and pawn and
so on, and clearly this format makes
it easy for the reader to find a specific
ending that he may be searching for.
Nevertheless, here I have opted to try
to fill this book with useful advie in
the form of principles and helpful
hints (as was the case with Opening
Play). It is therefore my suggestion
that you read the whole of the book
in order to become proficient in each
type of ending. There is a quick ref
erence index at the back, but I would

Introducing Endgame Play

advise you to work through each sec

tion systematically. I have made sure
the book is not monotonous and
there are regularly scattered ques
tions and answers associated with
each topic.
My experiences lecturing at chess
clubs, and coaching juniors in par
ticular, have supplied me with an
armoury of common endgame posi
tions which I know are often misun
derstood and frequently assessed
inaccurately. As well as having to
cover some of the basics, my inten
tion has been to encourage the reader
to apply common sense and a little
analysis in order to correct otherwise
erroneous thinking. Once the princi
ples and general advice have been
absorbed, then a more logical and
higher standard of endgame play
should result.
At the beginning of a chess game
each player has 1 6 pieces. I doubt
that there are many players who are
not guilty of agreeing a draw simply
because most of these pieces have
been traded off and the position
seems absolutely level ! In this book I
demonstrate how apparently equal
situations can be transformed with
more aggressive plans. In particular I

concentrate on converting into wins

what are ostensibly only small ad
vantages and, conversely, how and
when to engage in active defence in
order to try to hold inferior positions.
Specifically, all that follows has a
very practical flavour. Dare I suggest
that you should try to become the
S teve Davis of chess and play with
mass piece liquidation in mind, to
better demonstrate your technique . . .
For best results please work right
through the book as suggested; it is
OK to move backwards and for
wards through the sections as long as
nothing is missed out in the long run.
I have assumed the reader has a basic
understanding of chess (e.g. the abil
ity to mate with at least a king and
rook vs king), and although to start
with some of the more simple things
are covered, as the book progresses
there is plenty for everyone to learn
(i.e. for most levels of play). My main
difficulty was deciding upon the
most logical order in which to cover
the topics, thus reducing any over
lapping. I hope that I have achieved
this so that any repetition is more of a
useful revision than a chore.
And that's it really. Have fun,
good luck and goodbye for now !

His Majesty

1 ) The Colossal King

'The king is a piece, so use it ! ' . How
many times do we (and will we) hear
this piece of advice, and what ex
actly does it mean?
We begin a game of chess, bring
our pieces out, exchange some of
them and move others around, etc.
So exactly when is the right time for
our one priceless, royal piece to en
ter the action?
I remember once, as a junior play
ing in a weekend congress, being
paired with a computer for the first
time. The game had a rather cautious
character and after a couple of hours'
play I found myself in the position of
being in an endgame with king and
seven pawns each. Well, I remem
bered what I had been taught and im
mediately brought my king into play.
As there were no enemy pieces of
even minimal firepower around, I
had no problems with this plan, and
over the next few moves I pro
ceeded gleefully to take any avail
able pawns . The computer appeared
to be taking no steps with its own
king to interfere with my rather bla
tant strategy - indeed, it seemed
quite happy simply to move the king
to and fro between h8 and g8. This
somewhat passive policy attracted a

reasonably sized crowd which was

also present when, destined to lose a
third pawn, the machine suddenly
jumped into action. However, by this
time resistance was futile, and I sup
pose the fact that I completely hu
miliated it by obtaining six( !) passed
pawns (much to the joy of myself
and onlookers alike) before its op
erator opted to save power by pulling
the plug, is irrelevant !
The computer had won all its
games until our meeting and, not
surprisingly, its tactical play had
been virtually faultless. The maj or
problem seemed to be when to bring
the king out. Humans can be taught
that the time is right when it ' feels '
OK, but the poor computer was es
sentially having to cope with 'keep
the king safe until you have less than
six pawns ' as advice ! Of course the
owner immediately set about updat
ing his rather simple contraption,
and these days chess programs are
significantly more advanced. How
ever in this basic element alone, it is
clear that there is considerable room
for judgement.
Throughout this book I will be
stressing how participation of the
king is vital and how, more often
than not, the relative positions of the
two kings prove to be the decisive

JO His Maj esty

factor. Take a look at the diagram

above and you will see just why.
How many other pieces have the
ability to move in any direction, con
veniently covering each and every
surrounding square? The answer is:
only the queen. And many still be
lieve that an endgame is not really an
endgame with the queens still on the
board? (Does this mean an endgame
becomes a middlegame in the event
of promotion?)
Q. Below, which one of the routes
(a, b or c) takes the white king the
fewest moves to get to the square h4?

- %

A. They are all the same. If you

count you will see that these routes and, indeed, many others - all take
seven moves. This is visually decep
tive, but extremely useful. It will cer
tainly pay to remember that a king
can get from 'a' to 'b' in a variety of
ways, each taking the same time.
However, some may have the advan
tage of restricting the opponent's op
tions . Do not worry ! We will return
to tli'is soon.
When I was nine years old in a
tournament I was once reprimanded
by an arbiter for placing my fingers
on the board in order to deduce
whether or not my king would be
able to prevent an opponent's pawn
from promoting (I found this dis
turbing because I could not see what
I was doing wrong). I had to revert to
the rather laborious task of counting
to see if I would make it in time, and
this method seemed fraught with
problems. First there was confusion
as to whether I would capture the
pawn on the 7th rank, the 8th or not
at all. Secondly, the calculation proc
ess became very difficult to maintain
halfway through, and I had to start
again if there was the slightest dis
To conclude, counting can be a
most unreliable system, which is
why I would like to bring to your at
tention a technique known as the
'square' (no prizes for originality !).
In the diagram position Black
must establish whether or not he can
stop the white pawn from promoting

His Majesty 11

permanent basis with either 1 g3f3 or 1 g3-f4. Both these moves

enter the square and as we have al
ready seen there are a variety of six
move routes to reach a8.
However, if White could move first,
then with 1 a3-a4 the new square
would have corners at a4, a8, e8 and
e4, and the king would be too far
S omething else worth remember
ing is that on their first move, pawns
have the option of advancing one or
two squares. This should be kept in
mind when considering the size of a
square which a king may have to en
ter. In addition, and on a more ad
vanced note, though most competent
players are capable of 'counting' to a
good degree of accuracy, there is no
doubt that implementing the 'square'
theory is more practical and can save
the game in certain situations (such
as time-trouble).
I would now like to discuss two
examples which illustrate nicely the
points which we have just discussed.
First we have a position which is a
good demonstration of 'Shielding
Off ':
As White, an eager player might
1 a2-a4
2 a4-a5
3 a5-a6
4 a6-a7
And the pawn is doomed ! Of
course it was evident to us that as soon
as 1 a2-a4 was played, Black was
able to enter the square with corners


- or capture it as soon as it achieves

its ultimate aim in life. Rather than
counting the amount of moves it
talces both the pawn and the king to
reach a8, there is a far more simple
Draw an imaginary diagonal line
from where the passed pawn stands
to the end of the board (here from a3
to f8).Then complete the corners of
a square (like in mathematics at
school), leaving a box (here with
comers at a3 , a8, f8 and f3).
If the king has the move and can
enter this square, then (providing
that there are no interfering pieces) it
will achieve its goal. If however, it
cannot move into the box, then chas
ing the pawn is a lost cause and any
alternative plan should be introduced
immediately. Note that with each ad
vance of the pawn the 'square' be
comes smaller. So, if a chasing king
cannot enter on a given move, it
never will.
In our example, with Black to
play he will - if required - be able to
stop the pawn becoming a queen on a

12 His Maj esty

Black's cause to be a lost one. In a

straight race he clearly has no hope
of catching White's a4-pawn, whilst
any attempt to promote his own
pawn is apparently futile. Watch and
learn !

at a4, a8, e8 and e4, thus deciding the

outcome. On the other hand we have:
1 g5-f5!
Preventing the black king from re
treating along the f3-a8 diagonal
where it is able to intercept the pawn.
2 f5-e5
Maintaining the ' shielding off'
policy which stops the black king
getting back to his own half of the
3 'itr>e5-d5
4 d5-c5
And Black can resign. If 4 . . . c3b2 White answers with 5 a2-a4, and
the pawn has a clear run to promo
tion. Instead 4 ...c3-d3 5 a2-a4 d3e4 theoretically keeps the black king
in the square, but the presence of the
white king in a dominating role
means that the vital path to a8 is now
closed. A king can not move next to
a king !
Unless you already knew of the
famous ' Reti' position below you
could easily be forgiven for thinking

Note that in an endgame position
such as this there would never be any
point in moving the king to a2. From
b2 it can go to any of the squares that
a2 has to offer, and more besides.
2 a4-a5
Now we begin to see a point be
hind the black king opting for a di
agonal retreat. 2 f3-f2 would achieve
nothing as 3 h3-g2 rounds up the
pawn, but now Black has the threat
of ... c3-d2/d3 followed by bring
ing the king to e2 to guarantee his
own pawn 's promotion. Therefore
White's next.
3 h3-g3
Superb ! Although the king seems
to be deviating from the hunt for the
a-pawn, in reality this is not the case.
Here, not unlike the feint of a rugby

His Maj esty 13

player, we see the black king in hot

pursuit of White's pawn while simul
taneously offering support to his
4 a5-a6
White has no time for 4 <it> g3xf3
since 4 . . . d4-c5 sees Black's king
enter the square.
5 a6-a7
6 a8-a81W
White has nothing to gain by in
serting the moves 6 <it> g3-g2 e3-e2.

White has no way of winning the

queen and neither king is unfortu
nately placed.
To finish this section, and once
again to bring up the qualities of the
king in action, I would like to draw
your attention to the position below:

would stand better? This may bring

up the rather hypothetical question
of: which is better - a king or a
Obviously this seems to be a ri
diculous question as there are always
two kings on the board, so I might
begrudgingly bring back the a- and
b-files and ask: White to move - who
stands better?
If the reader plays these positions
out, then several interesting conclu
sions may be reached. First, you will
appreciate that although it is rather
slow, the king is extremely good at
both attacking and defending nearby
pieces and pawns. The knight, on the
other hand, is not comfortable with
simply defending - try setting up'a
position in which the knight protects
the pawns and the pawns protect
the knight (don' t try for too long,
though). Perhaps we should not be
too critical - a bishop could easily
protect its fellow pawns, but in a
king versus bishop game it would
have somewhat limited attacking
possibilities due to its inability to op
erate on both dark and light squares.

2) Explaining and
expand ing on King
and Pawn versus King
If we eliminated the a- and b-files
and changed the. aim of the game so
that Black will succeed by ultimately
giving checkmate and White by
capturing all of Black's army, who

There is no more basic a position

than one with just the two kings and
a solitary pawn. Twenty-nine pieces
have been eliminated one way or
the other, and the question is: will

14 His Maj esty

the remaining pawn promote to a

queen (or rook) enabling checkmate,
or will it eventually be blockaded or
lost, resulting in a draw?
To some, learning this simple
endgame may feel like a chore, espe
cially when we consider how rarely
such a position may occur. However,
it is absolutely vital to have an un
derstanding of what follows.
In a simultaneous display I once
gave at a local chess club, I had had
an extremely tough battle with a
player of B CF grade 1 20 (Elo 1560).
He had played very well and, al
though he had had his chances, as
Black, he finally conceded defeat in
the following position:

Needless to say I was astonished.
Obviously I did not want to embar
rass him in front of all his clubmates,
but I was amazed that someone who
had played so well had no under
standing of the basics which are
second nature to your average up
and-coming eight-year-old player.

This is how the game should have

1 ...
Black is forced to give way. As we
will soon see, it is generally wise in
such situations to retreat straight
back. However, as a critical stage has
not yet been reached, either of the
other legal moves would have been
2 d4-e5
As the position is almost symmet
rical, it is logical and correct to as
sume that the outcome would be
effectively the same with 2 'iPd4-c5.
Make no mistake, this is the only
satisfactory move here. Black pre
vents the white king from advancing,
so the pawn shuffles nearer, living in
3 d5-d6+
4 e5-d5
Now Black must make a decision.
As previously mentioned, the side
ways retreats will suffer an identical
4 ...
Again, following the rule of re
treating straight back. Even if some
one is uneducated in the simple
endgames, this precise (and only ! )
move could b e arrived a t b y analys
ing just a few moves ahead. I say this
because I have seen good players
spend time on a similar retreat,
knowing it is correct but checking it
anyway ! Likewise I have also wit
nessed confused beginners make
the wrong choice after very little

His Maj esty 15

thought, claiming later that they

had thought their move followed the
If, for example, Black instead
played 4 . . . d7-e8?, then 5 d5-e6
e8-d8 6 d6-d7 wins for White be
cause Black is forced to abandon his
blockade with 6 . . . 'iti>d8-c7, when 7
'1ite6-e7 helps the pawn home.
5 <iPd5-e6
6 d6-d7+
I guess the truth is that when you
have two players who essentially
know what they are doing in these
positions, White will not commit
himself to pushing the pawn just yet.
However, as long as Black sticks to
retreating straight back when having
to concede ground, then any ma
noeuvring of the white king by the
side or behind his pawn is in vain.
6 ...
'iPe8-d8 (D)

. -- .

Now with White to play, he must

either lose his pawn or play 7 'iPe6d6, which results in stalemate. In
either instance the game is drawn. In
fact, in the above position, what

White really wants to do is pass the

move over to Black, so that after the
moves 7 . . . 'iti>d8-c7 8 '1ite6-e7, as we
saw earlier, the pawn has the re
quired support.
Of course, 'Passing ' (i.e. making
no move whatsoever) is not allowed
and, if it were, then Black could have
done the same in this example, leav
ing neither side any better off.
However, if, for instance, White
had a knight on f2, then one random
move from this piece (e.g. 7 lllf2-h l )
would perform this 'Passing ' func
tion. Similarly, if instead of a knight
White had another pawn on d2, then
both 7 d2-d3 and 7 d2-d4 would
achieve this same aim. Note that nei
ther the knight (moving anywhere)
nor the extra doubled d-pawn would
in their own right control the queen
ing square, rather the mere fact that
they exist at all enables them to
waste a move which in turn forces
the black king to abandon its block

16 His Maj esty

Exceptions in chess often appear

with the presence of rook's pawns,
the above position being typical. The
first observation is that 1 h6-h7 pro
duces stalemate since Black cannot
play l . . . h8-i7 (!) allowing 2 g6g7 (with 3 h7-h8'ii' to follow). In this
respect (i.e. there being only one side
to the pawn), a- and h-pawns can be
clearly distinguished from pawns on
the other six files. In order to win this
position, it becomes apparent that by
simply passing White will make no
progress. He must force the black
king away from the h8-square. Alas,
he has no pieces (or pawns) which
are able to carry out this task. By all
means try this one out for yourself,
but any attempt to make progress re
sults in stalemate. What White needs
is a piece which is able to operate on
the dark squares so that he can con
trol h8 and follow up with advancing
the pawn to h7 (in turn covering
g8). Here a knight or a dark-squared
bishop would be the minimum re
quirement in place of the virtually
useless light-squared bishop. Simi
larly a dark-squared bishop would be
equally useless in evicting the enemy
king from a8 if White had one or
more a-pawns instead.
Note the emphasis here on the de
fending king being able to blockade
the pawn. In the following position,
with careful play White can prevent
such a defence.
1 i.d4-a7 !
Halting the black king's progress
to a8 .

. . , . .
. . .
- . . .



. - . .

2 b4-a5
3 a5-b5
4 <3;b5-c6
Notice how the bishop combined
well with the pawn to cover the
squares b6, b7, and b8, but since then
it is the white king that has forced
its counterpart to give ground. Now
White can continue simply 5 i. a7b8 with a pawn promotion to follow
(or he could accentuate Black's help
lessness with 5 'iti>c6-b7).
Returning to the idea of 'shielding
off' the enemy king which was men
tioned in section 1 , take a look at the
position below:
None of the pawns is going any
where and, though White has a men
acing king, it would appear that,
defensively speaking, the black king
has the situation under control. This
is a very common misconception
with which (hopefully) the reader
should now be coming to grips. At
the moment the black pawns seem
quite safe, but in reality Black can do

His Maj esty 1 7

nothing to keep his opponent's king

at bay.
1 c6-c7
2 <J;c7-d6
3 d6-d7
rJ;;f7 .f8
What else? As we now know only
too well, Black must move.
4 <J;d7xe6
Now White can win with 5 <J;e6
d7, after which the e-pawn queens.
Alternatively there is the cruel (and
unnecessary) 5 <iti>e6-e7 with the in
tention of capturing the remaining
pawns in the same way that the e6pawn fell.
Note that in the previous diagram,
even if Black had the move his king
would still be forced to abandon his
I have frequently witnessed end
games reached (often in the quick
play finish stage of a game) with one
side having a king and two con
nected pawns against a lone king.
Usually the aggressor pushes for
ward with both pawns, often becom
ing puzzled over which pawn he
should advance at any given point.

This policy should b e successful, al

though disaster occasionally strikes
in the form of an accidental stale
mate. We now know that it is suffi
cient to advance just one of the
pawns (provided it is not a rook's
pawn) along with the king. Then
when it comes to the critical situ
ation in which you would normally
be forced to give stalemate, you sim
ply ' waste' a move with the pawn
you left behind (thus effectively
Let us now move on to situations
in which the attacker forces a win
with just the king and a pawn against
a king:

The diagram above features a

standard textbook position. Inevita
bly one might question the likeli
hood of such a position arising in a
game, but what follows is applicable
should the pawn be on any of the six
more 'central' files.
We know that if White starts with
1 e2-e4 and brings up his king in

18 His Maj esty

support he will have no problems ad

vancing it safely to the sixth rank.
However as was seen at the start of
this section, if Black is alert and se
lects the correct king retreat (i.e.
straight back) when the time comes,
then the game will be drawn.
1 el-d.2
1 e l -f2 would be equally satis
factory. White's intention will soon
be made clear. He advances in front
of his pawn, clearing a path for it.
2 d2-e3
3 e3-e4 (D)

And now for a piece of technical

j argon in its most blatant form: here
we say that White has the 'opposi
tion'. The two kings are directly op
posite each other but it is Black's
tum, and it is Black's obligation to
give way which means that White
has the opposition. If it were White
to play then Black would have the
opposition, although White could
regain it by simply advancing his

So the black king commits itself.
Prolonging the decision of whether
to go left or right by retreating a rank
will come to the same thing as White
would merely advance his own king.
Doing so in 'sync' is the most consis
tent, e.g. 3 . . e6-d7 4 e4-d5, al
though with pawn moves in hand to
help regain the opposition later, this
is not strictly necessary.
4 e4-f5
The point. Whichever way Black
goes, White goes forward and to the
side. If now 4 . . . d6-d5, White has 5
e2-e4+. The white king would then
support the pawn's further advances.
4 ...
Black tries to stay in the path of
the pawn, but White's next move
sees him regain the opposition a rank
further up than on move 3.
5 f5-e5
6 e5-d6
Once more: forward and to the
7 d6-e6
8 e2-e4
The consistent policy may have
appeared to be 8 e6-f7. However
the white king has reached a totally
dominant position and now the time
is right for the pawn to make an appearance.
8 ...
9 e4-e5 (D)
White clearly has the opposition
because Black must once more give
way. This works out very nicely and

His Majesty 19

everything fits into place, although

the truth is that once you get your
king on the sixth rank in front of
your pawn (as long as it is not a
rook's pawn !), then you win who
ever it is to move. For example if it
were White to move in the above po
sition, then though technically Black
is the one with the opposition, White
wins with, for instance, 1 'iii>e6-d6
'iii>e8-d8 2 e5-e6 'iii>d8-e8 3 e6-e7 .
Compared to the lines at the begin
ning of this section, it is as though
Black has effectively retreated to the
wrong square for he must now allow
the white king into d7 (with 3 . 'iii>e8f7), rather than obtaining the stale
mate he so craved.
9 .
Or 9 . . 'iPe8-f8 10 'iPe6-d7 and the
pawn will promote.
10 'iPe6-t7
11 e5-e6+
12 e6-e7+
And the pawn promotes on its
next move.
Q. It is White to play in the posi
tion below. Can he win?


A. Because of stalemate problems

preventing the advance of the white
king, this appears to be quite a tricky
one. However with the exception of
doubled rook's pawns, one thing this
section should have taught you is
that when two pawns up, you are vir
tually always going to win ! The win
is actually quite simple:
1 'iPb5-c5
With the same idea in mind, 1
'iii>b5-a5 would also work.
2 a7-a8'i'+!
The point. Without the a-pawn on
the board Black to move would re
treat to b8 with a draw. Giving up
this pawn forces him to do other
wise, putting the king on an inferior
2 ...
3 'iPc5-c6
Or 3 'iPa5-a6 had White selected 1
b5-a5 .
4 b6-b7
5 'iPc6-c7
White wins.

20 H is Majesty

3) Tempo: Is Time of
the essence?
In the opening it is fairly clear that to
be given an extra move here or there
would be a real blessing. You try to
get your pieces out early and if your
opponent does not do the same there
is a chance that you may punish him.
If you study grandmaster games,
then you will notice that when both
sides have completed their develop
ment, there often appears to be a lull
in the middlegame. Do not worry,
because generally there is ! If nothing
spectacular is available then the
players engage in slower plans in
volving improving piece deploy
ments. Pieces may well revisit the
same squares in a sort ofjostling for
position, and nothing much seems to
happen while the players await the
development of weaknesses in the
opposing camp.
Perhaps this is a little harsh on my
part, but it is nevertheless true that on
entering the endgame, the speed fac
tor regains more importance.
We know that the king is a vital
piece in the endgame. It is very well
suited to a dominating role at the
centre of the board. From here it can
reach anywhere fairly rapidly and
may prevent the enemy king from
approaching. We tend not to bring
our kings out too early as there is a
danger of being checkmated ! How
ever, as soon as the more powerful
pieces are traded off (or at least

enough to render the board safe) the

respective kings race to the centre. If
in an endgame you are having diffi
culty finding a plan, this centralisa
tion of your king is generally a good

In the position above the white

king is indeed wonderfully posted,
whereas the black king is nowhere
to be seen. Black's queenside pawns
can only watch as the enemy king
comes to capture them. This may be
just a king and pawn ending, but if
you start adding a bishop, rook or
knight to the position White still re
mains big favourite to win.
Time is almost always extremely
important in the endgame. If you had
some extra time on your hands, you
could send your pieces in search of
enemy pawns. You might be able to
promote a passed pawn before your
opponent promotes his, or you might
be just in time to stop his pawn
queening at all. Note the word
'tempo' simply refers to the unit of
time taken up by a move - one might

His Maj esty 21

' save a tempo' in a quest to promote

an a-pawn by playing a2-a4 rather
than a2-a3 .
On the other hand it may prove
useful to be able to 'lose a tempo'.
This is effectively similar to the
'passing' which we saw earlier and is
illustrated well in the following ex

move, thus making an infiltration on

b6 inevitable. How has this hap
pened? Well, quite simply because
whilst Black took two moves to re
turn to the same square, White will
have taken three. If you like, White
will hav e ' tr iangulated'.
3 d4-c4
4 'iii>C4-d5
Black is in big trouble. Now
4 . . . 'iii>c8-c7 loses to 5 d5-c5 as
above, and 4 . c8-d8 5 d5-d6
'it>d8-c8 6 c6-c7 lit>c8-b7 7 'it>d6-d7
wins (but not with 7 . . . b7-a7 8 c7c8 '1W ?? stalemate - preferable are 8
'it>d7-c6, 8 'iii>d7-d8 or 8 c7-c8.l:t).
Black's problem was that his king
had to remain in contact with both c7
and c8. The two squares from which
this was possible, b8 and d8, were
separated from one another. White,
however, needed to stay in touch
with c5 and d5 ; this was possible
from the adj acent squares c4 and d4.
In chess, the ability to analyse
ahead is a necessary attribute. No
matter how lazy one is or how diffi
cult it may seem, there can be no
doubt as to the value of practising
your advanced thinking (if he goes
there, I go there, he goes there, I go
there, etc.). Even a bit of blindfold
chess - or at least studying a position
without the help of a board and
pieces - helps to train the mind.
Endgames, of course, are associ
ated with a decreasing number of
remaining pieces. With limited re
sources it is important that one tries
to maximise their capabilities. One

If it were Black to play here,

White would win easily as he could
bring his king to b6 and capture the
a6-pawn. Consequently with White
to play he needs to lose a move.
However, he has no other pieces or
pawns with which to force Black to
have the move in this position, so to
achieve his aim he must engage in a
manoeuvre known as tr iangulation.
1 c5-d5
This exact retreat would be neces
sary without the presence of the a
pawns and it is necessary with them.
2 d5-d4
After 2 . . . c8-c7 3 'iii'd4-c5 White
has already managed to return to the
same position but with Black to

22 His Maj esty

simple miscalculation and you may

have lost the opportunity to stop an
enemy pawn queening. In section 1 ,
the concept of 'the square' was intro
duced. This is a useful technique to
help you cut comers . However, it
cannot be used for everything and in
this respect there can be no substitute
for good old-fashioned ' counting' .
This crops up all the time and I will
end this section with a simple test of
forward planning. No cheating !
Q. Below, in his quest to promote
the g-pawn, should White play a) 1
h2-h4 or b) 1 h2-h3? Study the posi
tion, but don't move the pieces !

extremely useful to have stored up

the odd pawn move which could at
some critical stage gain you the op
position. It is important that you do
not just casually throw such moves
away as White does in option 'a':
'iit g8-h8
1 h2-h4
2 h4-h5
3 g5-g6
4 h5xg6
As we know, in king and pawn vs
king, retaining a rook's pawn pro
vides little or no dividends.
4 ...
s g6-g7+
with a draw.


A. You have clearly been warned

that there is a big difference in the
two choices, although in a real game
many would casually play one or the
other, unaware that there is any dif
ference or that this decision will have
a decisive relevance to the outcome.
The fact that the h-pawn can move
either one or two squares means that
White is in possession of a 'reserve
tempo' . You will occasionally find it

1 h2-h3
2 h3-h4
3 h4-h5
4 g5-g6
It is probably worth Black trying
the trick 4 . . . 'iith8-g8, when White
should not fall for 5 g6xh7+?? 'iii'g8h8, but persevere with 5 g6-g7 as in
the text.
S h5xg6
6 g6-g7
White wins.
So 'b' is the right answer. 1 h2-h4
would have been the correct choice
had the black king started on h8 in
stead. Similarly, leave the black king
on g8, but nudge the g5-pawn back
to g4, and again the solution would
have been 1 h2-h4 (or 1 g4-g5 'iit g8h8 2 h2-h4). There are many vari
ations on the theme and the only way
to find the answer is to calculate.

His Maj esty 23

4) Swap off and win !

1broughout the course of a game di
rect confrontations inevitably occur
and decisions must be made regard
ing the exchange of pieces. Later I
will go into more detail about which
pieces to exchange just before and
later during the endgame, but for the
time being let us take a look at the
casual advice that tells us to trade
pieces when leading in material.
As a junior this seemed a very
logical if somewhat dull approach to
chess. You win a pawn, swap every
thing else off and then with your ac
quired technique of the 'opposition'
you queen a pawn !
Of course things never really
turned out that way ! But the princi
ple was there, or was it? It later oc
curred to me that, given a random
king and pawn vs king position (just
arri ved at through actual play), the
likelihood of you being able to ob
tain the opposition was not actually
that great. Either you needed your
opponent's king to be out of the way
somewhere or you needed your own
king in front of your remaining pawn
with him to play, etc. Not very likely.
In addition, if you had failed in your
task of liquidating all of the pieces
and a pair still remained, then with
the defending king in the path of
your pawn a draw would be the ex
pected result.
In the following position, without
the mystery pieces 'X' on either side,
White would win whoever is to

move because the opposition can

be easily obtained. However, with a
queen, a rook, a knight or a bishop
each, the black king could never be
removed from the path of the pawn.
If 'X' were either minor piece, then
to make things worse for White, he
has to watch out for a 'kamikaze' as
sault on his pawn, and if 'X' were a
bishop, then the black king could
never be dislodged at all !
Now with or without a piece each,
if you add an extra pawn to both
sides, the chances of victory im
prove. Look at the two similar posi
tions overleaf:
We know in 'a' that as long as
Black plays sensibly, it is an easy
draw since the white king will never
make it in front of the pawn; but 'b'
is different:
1 c3-c4
Were it Black to play in our start
ing position then he would still lose,
for example 1 . . . e5 -d5 2 e3-f4
d5-d6 3 ..ti>f4-e4 ..ti>d6-e6 4 c3-c4
e6-d6 5 e4-f5 d6-c6 6 f5-e5
and through the 'nudging away'

24 His Maj esty

White could be forgiven for taking

the other simple option of obtaining
a supported passed pawn with 3 d4d5+ (as opposed to the also success
ful 3 d4xc5), e.g. 3 .. . 'iti> e6-e5 4 <it>e3-f3
'iPe5-d6 (Black could try to retain the
opposition with 4 ... 'it>e5-f5 5 'it>f3-g3
'it>f5-g5 , but after 6 'it> g3-h3 the black
king can no longer follow for fear of
being out of the square of the passed
d-pawn) 5 f3-e4 d6-d7 6 e4-e5
rt;d7-e7 7 d5-d6+ 'it>e7-d7 8 'it>e5-d5
and the black c-pawn is about to
leave the board.
3 rt;e3xd4
4 'it>d4-c5
5 <it>c5-b6
6 'it>b6-c6
etc., etc. !

principle, the black c-pawn will soon

be lost.
If Black retreats with his king then
White should aim to obtain the op
position, e.g. l . . . e5-e6 2 'iPe3-e4 !
or l . . . 'it>e5-d6 2 'it> e3-f4 ! (known as
the 'diag onal opposition', which
straightens itself out later) 2 . . 'iPd6e6 3 'iPf4-e4.
2 d3-d4
We know that if White obtained
an extra (even doubled) pawn he
would win, but after 2 . . 'iPf5-e6

Don't get me wrong, when the

three pawns are together as in 'b' ,
positions of this sort are not always
winning. However, not only are the
chances of converting the whole
point vastly improved over the 'one
against none' situation, but place the
two extra pawns elsewhere and the
win often becomes trivial (D):
Whether it is White to move or
Black to move, the outcome will be
the same. The c-pawn can be used as
a decoy so that White can win the
black g-pawn. Then his king will be
in a dominant position and the black
king will be misplaced. I almost do
not want to insult the reader by giv
ing a demonstration, but for the sake
of 'completeness' :
1 c3-c4

His Majesty 25

2 c.Pe3-e4
3 c4-c5
4 e4-d5
Now we have an alternative sce
nario to the one suggested above.
White intends d5-c6-b7, aiming
instead to promote the c-pawn. Of
course sticking to the original plan
by means of 4 c5-c6 is equally good,
but this position enables me to zoom
off on a tangent (as will be common
in this book) for the exercise of the

triangle, would White still be win

ning, irrespective of who is to play?
A. No, but at the critical point
Black must be accurate. White has
no trouble pushing the black king
away from the g5-pawn and captures
it easily. Then his king will be in
front of his own g-pawn (but directly
in front of it, remember, so he has no
spare tempo to 'waste' ). However, if
Black makes sure that he gets the op
position, then he can draw. He does
this by meeting the inevitable xg5
with . . . rtig7. Hence with White to
play from the previous diagram, we
may have:
1 'ittd5-d6
2 'ittd6-e6
3 'itte6-f5
4 f5-f6
5 c;i;>f6-f5! ?
Sneaky ! 5 f6xg5 h7-g7 gives
Black the opposition and thereafter
his draw. So White sets a trap, al
though he is only playing games.
5 ...
Also 5 . . . h7-h8 and 5 . . . h7-g8
are both waiting to meet 6 f5xg5
with the required defence 6 . . . g7,
but 5 . . . 'itth7-g7?? would be disas
trous as 6 f5xg5 leaves White with
the opposition and a winning positi on.
h6-h7 .
6 'ittf5-f6
7 f6xg5


Q. If the highlighted pawn sud

denly disappeared into the Bermuda

So we have seen how in a king and

pawn ending, two pawns versus one
will generally offer more winning

26 His Maj esty

chances than one versus none. Thus

it follows that three versus two is
better still, up to the point where,
given that the kings are equidistant
from the action, the aggressor (i.e.
the side with the extra pawn ) has an
overwhelming advantage. If there
are any pieces present, it still follows
that as far as wanting a win goes, the
more pawns around, the better. This
is logical because not only does it
mean that an enemy piece cannot
sacrifice itself for what might be the
last remaining pawn, but in the event
of a successful decoy plan, with the
opponent's king lured to the other
side of the board, there will be more
pawns to take elsewhere!
In conclusion, this general rule
should more accurately read:
'When ahead in material, ex
change pieces, not pawns!'
On the other hand, should you
find yourself defending a position
with a pawn down, remember that
not only can a bare bishop or knight
not checkmate you, but also they
cannot promote! Therefore:
'When behind in material, ex
change pawns, not pieces!'
To end this section I would just
like to add that it is precisely this
concept of being material up lead
ing to a simplify-and-win scenario
which is responsible for the famous
but baffling phrase:
'A pawn is a pawn' !
This statement usually crops up in
post-mortems. Two players might be

analysing their game. One of them

has the chance to grab a 'hot' pawn
(i.e. one which, upon its capture, will
lead to some difficulties for the ma
terialistic side) yet the opponent will
have some compensation for the
'sacrificed' material, but if the storm
can be weathered, then this extra ma
terial could prove to be the decisive
This is not an exaggeration. All
other things being equal, if a pawn is
won in the middlegame and an
endgame is approaching, then the
side with the material advantage
should generally be expecting to
win. Essentially this book aims to
instruct the reader in converting
such material or, indeed, positional
pluses, while suggesting techniques
for holding draws when we are on
the defending side.

5) Stopping Passed
Just to eliminate any confusion, a
'passed' pawn is a pawn that has a
clear route to its promotion square
without any enemy pawns being able
to hinder its progress. In other words
for a pawn to be passed, there must
be no enemy pawns ahead of it on the
same file or either of the adjacent
ones. If there were no pieces around to
stop it, then it could just stroll to the
end of the board and become a queen
or any other desired piece.
Passed pawns are clearly useful,
but it is not necessarily true that it is

His Majesty 27

better to have a passed pawn than to

have a pawn majority. Take, for ex
ample, the position below:

White does not actually have a

passed pawn, although it is clear that
with a two against one majority he is
easily able to create one. So to whose
advantage is it that the b-pawns ex
ist? Well, if Black had a bishop on d4
or his king already on c5, then it is
definitely in his favour. He would be
able to win both of the white pawns
and simultaneously preserve his
own. The fact that he has this one
pawn means that he could then win.
Having a more dominant king means
nothing if you have no potential
checkmating piece.
In fact in the above position it is
White who greatly benefits from the
b-pawns being present. Without them
it is clear that since the black king is
in the c-pawn's 'square ' , a sprint for
the 8th rank would be unsuccessful
for White. Moreover, the white king
is so far away that it could protect
the c-pawn at best but not be able to

help the pawn promote by getting in

front of it.
1 c4-c5
2 c5-c6
b7xc6 (D)

3 b5-b6!
The point. White has the option of
having a passed c-pawn (with 3
b5xc6) or a passed b-pawn as in the
text. The black king would have
been in the 'square' of the c-pawn,
but it is too far away to catch this
newly passed b-pawn. The fact that
material is now level and Black has
his own passed pawn is irrelevant as
White promotes too quickly; the c6pawn has too far to travel.
4 b6-b7
White wins.
So near, yet so far!

Returning to the topic of solitary

passed pawns, it should be observed
that in the opening/middlegame
these are not considered to be too
dangerous . If we make a compari
son with football (or soccer for the

28 His Maj esty

American readers), Arsenal spring to

mind. They are renowned for getting
a lot of men behind the ball, and if
the opposing side fails to attack, then
goals are few and far between. To
start in chess each side has their
pieces in their own half of the board
and, although pieces are developed
and moved around, it is usually a
while (if at all) before this 'each to
their own ' situation is radically
In other words, with plenty of
pieces in one's own camp there are
always satisfactory options to block
an enemy passed pawn should the
need arise (as a last line of defence
we begin with two rooks and a queen
along our back rank) . It might only
be as the game unfolds and pieces
are traded off that preventing an en
emy passed pawn from actually
queening really begins to pose a
problem. Alternatively, and perhaps
more common, is that it might only
be later on in the game that passed
pawns are actually created, and thus
it is only then that the problem of
how to stop them and/or win them
actually becomes an issue.
Previously we have seen how
kings are good at blockading pawns.
Once firmly entrenched in the path
of an enemy pawn, the king can be
difficult to evict, particularly when
you consider that the pawn itself is
already having to be protected. The
problem with a king being used to
stop a passed pawn is that it is a slow

piece, and marching from one side of

the board to the other is a very time
consuming exercise.

Here we have no fewer than four

passed pawns. The white king can
never capture the h3-pawn since the
g2-pawn then promotes, but Black's
pawns can be monitored comfort
ably. On the other hand Black is
fighting a losing battle in his endeav
ours to hold back the tide.
1 f4-f5
Using the same stretching tech
nique, 1 a5-a6 d5-c6 2 f4-f5 would
also be winning.
2 f5-f6
3 a5-a6
White wins. Stopping both pawns
is simply impossible.
The long range power of bishops
is demonstrated well in their ability
to keep enemy pawns under control.
Q. With Black to play, which of
the above 'kingless' positions poses
any problems for the bishop?

His Maj esty 29

A. In 'a' Black has 1 .i.a6-b7,
when none of the pawns can advance
without being taken.
In 'b' 1 .i.c6-d7 watches over
the three passed pawns. If then 2 b4b5 .i.d7xb5 3 g3-g4, the g-pawn will
make it to g5 . However, as long as
Black then manoeuvres his bishop to
e8 or e4, the pawns will again be un
der his control. After 2 g3-g4 .i.d7xg4
the connected passed pawns look
dangerous but are halted easily, e.g.
3 c5-c6 .i.g4-e2 4 c6-c7 .i.e2-a6 5
b4-b5 .ta6-b7.
The right answer is 'c' because af
ter 1 .i.c4-d3 the bishop finds itself
overworked after 2 a5-a6. Notice
that there is only one light square be
tween where the h-pawn is now and
where it would promote. Hence the
bishop cannot allow itself to be de
flected away from the bl -h7 diago
nal as it is with 2 . .i.d3xa6. As both
a6 and a8 are light squares, there are
two opportunities for the bishop to
stop the a-pawn queening, so 2 h6h7? would lose to 2. . .i.d3xh7.



- - - - - .
w m m m
m.t.m m m
- - - - - - - - - "

Although faster than a king,

knights can also be exposed as cum
bersome pieces. The logic is the
same - they can take a while to catch
up with a passed pawn and must then
remain to prevent it advancing fur
ther, a policy which can take a piece
out of the action.
Many believe that as a pawn gets
nearer to the eighth rank it becomes
more valuable. It is clear that in the
late endgame the threat of promotion

30 His Majesty

may tend to outweigh the fact that an

advanced pawn can become weaker
(by being further away from the
other pieces and therefore more dif
ficult to defend) when deep in enemy
Generally, we know that knights
like outposts, and it is also true that
knights are not really suited for open
space where they must inevitably be
looked after by other pieces (com
pared with knights, bishops are
quick to remove themselves from the
firing line). As they would prefer one
of their own pawns to protect them,
this is hardly possible when blockad
ing a passed pawn.
Usually knights can stand in the
way of a centrally placed passed
pawn and still have an influence on
the rest of the game, but the further
the passed pawn is from the centre of
the board the less appealing the post
is for a knight.
Here are a few examples:

here is whether or not the knight will

be able to give itself up for the dan
gerous pawn.
1 <iite5-e6
<iii>h l-g2
2 <iii>e6-t7
The answer in this instance is that
it can. Also adequate is 2 . . . .!be8-d6+
3 <iii>f7-e6 .!bd6-e8, which leads us to
the conclusion that if the e-pawn
were a knight's pawn instead (i.e. on
b7 or g7) with the knight blockading
it, then Black could also hold the
Now with a rook's pawn . . .

1 <iii>d5-c6
<iii>h l-g2
2 r;Pc6-b7
White wins.
An absolutely lost cause. Black's
only hope for a draw in this type of
situation would be if his own king
were sufficiently near so that he
could meet <iii>b7xa8 with . . . <iit ( d6 or
d7)-c7(or c8) with stalemate.

With his king so far away from the

other pieces, Black's only problem

Let's face it, knights are pretty

hopeless at stopping passed rooks '
pawns. However, I will leave you

His Majesty 31

with one slight ray of hope which is

applicable in apparently desperate
positions :

The dreaded rook's pawn again,

though this time the knight has been
able to stop it a rank earlier.
1 c5-b6
2 'iti>b6-b7
3 b7-c7
lllb 5-d6!
4 c7-b6
The sneaky part ! Black does well
to remain on this a7-c8-d6-b5 circuit.
5 a6-a7
6 'ili>b6-b7
Phew !
Knowing the above examples is
very useful, but we must not forget
that these are skeleton positions
which become rather more compli
cated when other pieces and pawns
are added. Often certain squares
which may have previously been
available to the defending knight (or,
to a lesser extent, a bishop) are re
moved, making the defence more de
manding. Alternatively, other factors

may mean that a winning position

will be achieved when the 7th rank
pawn is traded for a minor piece.
In the following game of mine
from the 1 993 British Champion
ship, White had just played 56 llld4c2.



My opponent had been confident

about reaching this position as the
outcome was predictable. He would
concede his knight for my a-pawn
and then, despite my three vs two
kingside pawn maj ority, he would
win because his king would easily be
the first over there and all of my
pawns would disappear.
I had other ideas ! In this position I
considered my a-pawn to be more
valuable than the knight and played:
Not falling into line with 56 . . . a2al jW?.
That's right - after some consid
eration White understood his error of

32 His Maj esty

judgement and resigned. The point is

that the knight is rooted to c2 and the
white king must in turn stay on d3,
d2, or d 1 to protect it. With these two
pieces tied up White has not the re
sources to stop what will soon be a
passed f-pawn.
The best pieces for stopping
passed pawns are rooks. Whereas in
the opening and middlegame we
are constantly reminded that rooks
like open files and the 7th rank, in
the endgame the vital rule is that:
'Rooks belong behind passed
In endgames rooks come into
their own and essentially this is just
an extension of the concept that
rooks should be active rather than
Knights and bishops can block
pawns and still cover other squares
in the normal way - the fact that a
bishop blocks a pawn in no way hin
ders the four diagonals that it can
move along. The same cannot be
said of a rook.
If Black could place a rook on
either gl or g8 with White to play in
the position below, which should it
It may or may not surprise the
reader to hear that forced into a snap
decision, many opt to place the rook
on g8.
I think this is based on an inherent
feeling of comfort that one derives
when a passed pawn is actually
physically blockaded.

In fact with the rook on g8, Black

is in trouble:
1 f5-e6
2 f6-f7
White wins.
Or 2 'it>e6-f7 - both moves expose
the rook as being horribly passive.
By having the rook blockading the
pawn all rook moves along the g-file
are impossible because the pawn is
restricting its activity. It is the king,
not the rook, which wants to be ob
structing the pawn(s), but here the
black king is in the way without ac
tually being where it wants to be.
The trick is in appreciating that a
rook can move one square or seven
squares, and that as long as it stands
on the same file as a pawn the rook is
covering it, be it one square or seven
squares away.
If the black rook starts on g l , he
wins easily:
1 'it>f5-e6
2 'iii>e6-f5
3 'it>f5-g5
4 'iii>g5-h6
s 'iii>h6-h7

His Maj esty 33

Again behind the passed pawn:

6 'itih7-h8
Not 6 ...:g6xg7 stalemate. It should
be noted that any other rook move
along the g-file would have won the
g-pawn in a perfectly satisfactory

follows that a queen will be too.

Probably the most useful technique
to know is how to win with a king
and queen against a king and a pawn
on the 7th rank. This actually occurs
quite often, so if you do not yet know
it, pay attention !

This rook-behind-passed-pawns
rule really cannot be understated. On
numerous occasions I have wit
nessed juniors halt passed pawns in
the above sort of position with:
Of course l . . . .::r.b 3-g3 ! rounds up
the pawn immediately !
2 <t>d4-e5
.::r.b 8-g8
Consistent if nothing else. One
thing is for sure, there will be no white
queen, even on a temporary basis.
Nevertheless, bringing the king back
(the logical choice) will now be too
3 e5-f6
Better to be safe than sorry !

Obviously there are numerous po

sitions in which it could occur, but
the theme is the same. Here Black
must not only prevent the pawn from
queening, but he must win it. In or
der to do this, his king must be
brought into play and the only time
in which he can afford to move his
king is when the white king is in
front of his own pawn:
2 'i;e7-f7
No matter how many checks you
have made in order for your queeri to
approach, you must always be on the
lookout for this 'quiet' move. Note
that a quiet move is one that is not a
check, and such moves are notori
ously harder to find.
3 <J;f7-e8


If a rook is good at restraining en

emy passed pawns, then naturally it


34 His Maj esty

4 'it>e8-d8
This undesirable move is forced if
White wishes to keep his pawn.
4 ...
5 'it>d8-c7
Since the pawn would be pinned
after 5 'it>d8-c8?, Black would be able
to bring his king a square nearer
without any manoeuvring.
There are several different ways
to achieve the same aim. This ap
pears to be the most accurate move
but 5 . . .'i'e6-c4+ 6 <i;c7-b7 'it'c4-d5+
7 b7-c7 'i'd5-c5+ 8 c7-b7 'it'c5d6 ! is effectively the same.
6 c7-b7
If 6 'it>c7-c6 Black could abandon
his intended method (as described
above) in favour of 6 . . . 'i'e5-b8 or
6 . . . 'i'e5 -a5 . Both of these moves
guarantee Black the chance to plant
his queen on the promotion square.
Then the black king is free to ap
proach at leisure.
7 <i;b7-c8
8 <i;c8-d8
9 <i;d8-e7
Again I will remind you that the
idea is the important thing. An addi
tional check here or there would not
jeopardise the position.
10 <i;e7-f7
11 t7-e8
12 <i;e8-d8
13 <J;d8-c7
14 c7-d8
15 <J;d8-e8
16 e8-f8

With the attacking king far from

the 7th rank pawn, but with the de
fending king supporting it, the de
fending side loses if the pawn is a
knight's pawn or a 'centre' pawn (i.e.
if it is on the b-, g- , d- , or e-file).
However, if it is a bishop's pawn or a
rook's pawn (on the c-, f-, a-, or h
file) then a draw should be the out
come as in the two examples below:

2 <J;b7-c7
Employing the usual quiet move
in order to force the king in front of
the pawn.
3 <i;c7-b8
4 <J;b8-a8
Now we see the problem. White is
unable to advance his king because
this results in stalemate.
5 'it>a8-b7
6 b7-b8!
This looks natural, but it is the
only move. White cannot allow the
black queen to place itself on a8.

His Maj esty 35

OK, if not agreed, a draw would

eventually have to be claimed by
White using the 'fifty move rule'
(either side can claim a draw if 50
white moves and black moves pass
without a pawn being moved or any
piece or pawn being taken) or the
'three-fold repetition rule' (a draw
can be claimed if the exact same po
sition is reached or is about to be
reached for a third time, with the
same player having the move).

2 b7-a7
3 a7-b8
4 b8-a8!
The key saving move. Normally
this is unplayable because the queen
could just capture the pawn, but
since the pawn is a bishop's pawn,
the result of taking it when the en
emy king is in the corner is stale
mate !
5 a8-b8
6 b8-a8
7 a8-b8

And at this stage White should

write the move 8 b8-a8 down on
his scoresheet and, before playing it,
announce that the same position will
have been reached for a third time
and then claim a draw. This will ter
minate the game immediately, al
though he need not make this claim
here if he is happy playing on and
demonstrating his defensive tech
nique. With best play he can't lose.
S omething I always used to be
puzzled about in this type of queen
vs pawn example is why the attack
ing king always seems to start off at
the other end of the board. It ap
peared that perhaps a point needed
to be made regarding the wonderful
skills of a queen acting alone (and as
we saw in our first two examples,
creating the time to bring up the
king). However, I later came to real
ise that such positions tend to be
reached at the end of pawn races
where both kings had been required
at opposite ends of the board to re
move enemy pawns, thus clearing a
path for their own.
When the attacking king starts
nearer the 7th rank pawn then many
more winning chances present them
selves (for example, in the previously
drawn rook's and bishop's pawn
situations). This is because another
theme comes into play in the form of
allowing the opponent to promote:
2 b8-a8
The point is that after 2 c7-c8 'it',
White has no satisfactory way to

36 His Maj esty

guard against mate after 2 . . b5-b6.

White is trapped on the edge and the
commanding black queen covers
White's checking options.
The text at least is a sneaky move.
Now 2 . 'iie7xc7 ? is stalemate, and
2 . 'it>b5-b6? (hoping for 3 c7-c8 'ii
'iie7-a7#) runs right into 3 c7-c8 lll+ !



forking the king and queen.

Again I believe that there are pos
sibly a few methods to win this, but
2 . . . b5-a6? 3 c7-c8 'ii+ a6-b6 is
not one of them as White has 4 'iic8b8+ b6-a6 5 'iib8-c8+.
3 a8-b7
4 b7-b8
5 c7-c8'i' (D)
Promoting to a knight would be
just a temporary annoyance as 5 c7c8 lll+ b6-a6 is very effective.
6 b8-a8
7 'it>a8-b8


As a newly promoted defending

queen would be even less useful
stuck in the corner, it follows that

similar ideas are applicable when the

7th rank pawn is on the a- or h-file. I
will not give any more examples of
this but I would like to finish this
section with another bold point.
We have just seen how a king and
queen take on a king and a pawn on
its 7th rank. If the pawn has not even
made it to the 7th rank, then the at
tacker should definitely win. Let me
just set up what might appear to be a
tough task:

- - - - LS m m m m
- - - - - - - - - - - -- - - -'ii
This one was not prepared earlier !
However, it should not be too tricky.
A simple plan is to bring the queen

His Maj esty 37

around to where the action is. If the

white king is forced in front of the
pawn this time, then it is not stale
mate, and after a move with Black's
own king, the pawn will fall. There
must be countless satisfactory ways
to achieve our aim and just one con
tinuation might be:
1 ...
2 b8-c7
In fact 2 . . . 1i' bl -e4 3 'iti>c7-b8 (this
is forced or Black gets in 3 . . . 'ii'e4-a8)
3 . . . 'i'e4-b4+ would be quicker, but
let's persevere with the (slower) me
thodical approach.
3 c7-b7
4 b7-c7
5 c7-b7
After 5 c7-b6, again there are
several winning ideas : 5 . . . 'i'c4-d5
6 'iti> b6-a7 (preventing 6 . . . 1i'd5-a8)
6 . . . 'i'd5-b5 ; or 5 . . . 1i'c4-b4+ 6 b6c7 'i' b4-a5 + 7 c7-b7 'i'a5-b5+ as
in the text.
5 ...
6 'iti>b7-a7
All according to plan. 7 rl;a7-a8 is
the only move, met adequately by
7 ... 'i'b5xa6+.

following techniques are useful if

only to demonstrate how much one
can achieve with so few pieces.
I do appreciate that there will be a
temptation to think (neither for the
first nor last time) that this is all very
well but we may never reach such a
position. I have included these sec
tions for a reason, although I would
first like to share with you my one
reservation for doing so. We are es
sentially still following a passed
pawn motif, though here we are
more concerned with helping them
to promote. Despite the success that
is achieved in defeating the enemy
piece which is trying to stop the
pawn, I urge the reader not to get an
inflated view of pawns when com
pared to pieces. I will cover this vast
area in more detail a little later, but
for the time being please just keep
my warning in mind.

6) Blocking, Deflecting
and Push ing Off
This section and the next introduce
the reader to a little bit of technical
jargon. This is not just so that you
can sound impressive. I do not re
member ever telling my opponent
'Unlucky, my bishop has encircled
your knight' . But I do feel that the

The black bishop seems to be per

forming an admirable task. It pre
vents White's a-pawn advancing and

38 His Majesty

even if White's king made it to b7

(supporting the a6-a7 push), it would
have no qualms about sacrificing it
self to secure the draw. As there is lit
tle material left on the board this
solitary pawn takes on a greater im
portance, so White's intention is to
smuggle the pawn home, and he
does so with ingenious simplicity:
1 ltJe7-c8!
After 1 &!Je7-c6 all Black need do
is retreat his threatened bishop to a
safe square along the gl-a7 diagonal.
If Black has seen through White's
plan, then he might like to place his
bishop on a7 now, but of course the
knight covers this square too.
2 &!Jc8-b6+
White wins.
The knight has blocked out the
bishop, leaving 3 a6-a7 next on the
agenda. After 2 . . . .t d4xb6 3 lfi>b5xb6
Black's king is too far from the rele
vant corner.
Clearly a restriction for the de
fender here was that the pawn being
on a rook's file left the bishop with
fewer diagonals along which to hin
der the pawn's advance. The a7-b8
diagonal is so short that on b8 the
bishop can easily be chased away
(e.g. by a king on b7). Two further
examples of this are illustrated be
1 .th7-g8
As far as stopping the passed h
pawn goes, the a2-g8 diagonal is vi
tal. The black bishop has been forced
from this diagonal as I . . . .t c4xg8 2

h8xg8 leaves White just needing a

king move to promote the pawn.
2 .tg8-a2
Or to d5 or b3 for that matter. Note
the white king prevents 2 . . . .td3-h7.
White wins.

Here Black's last line of defence

is his rook. The h-pawn wants to
queen, but the king must escape from
in front of it.
1 l:ta8-g8
Contesting the key file and effec
tively pushing away the black rook.
2 l:tg8-g6

His Majesty 39

3 h8-g7
4 g7-h6
5 l:[g6-g8
White wins.


The third and final concept of this

section is deflecting and I feel this
technique is illustrated well in sim
ple bishop endings. The position be
low is typical:

Here White could remove the

black bishop from the a6-c8 diago
nal with 1 i. g4-c8. However as the
bishop is then in front of the c-pawn,
Black has time to re-route to another
relevant diagonal, e.g. l . . . i. a6-e2 2
i.c8-b7 i. e2-g4.
Actually from the starting posi
tion a simple blocking idea with 1
i. g4-f3 intending 2 i. f3-b7 appears
rather good, but the stunning text
move has more entertainment value !
1 i.g4-e2(!)
Deflecting the bishop away from
its task and leaving Black powerless
to stop a new white queen emerging.
White wins.

OK, so I know what some of you

are thinking. You want your money
back because what good are deflec
tions when you could use blocks in
stead. The answer is that both are
useful in their own right and you will
discover this if you get to the bottom
of the following exercise (or of
course if you cheat and look at the
You must apply all of the knowl
edge obtained in this section in order
to crack the famous ' Centurini' posi

Q. White to play, how does he

win? (As a tip, if you get stuck, come
back to this later as it is probably the
hardest test in the book!).
A. This probably looks easier than
it is . .if White could now move the
bishop from d8 to b8, then it would
be trivial. The black bishop would
have to relocate itself to a7, i.e. with
1 . . . i. h2-gl . Then a simple deflec
tion sacrifice would occur with, for
example, 2 i. b8-g3 i. gl-a7 3 i. g3f2 ! . Unfortunately the bishop is not

40 His Maj esty

allowed to perform such a sideways

(and jumping over the king) ma
noeuvre and so life is not so simple:
1 .td8-h4
Intending .t h4-f2-a7-b8 . Black
takes steps to intercept this plan.
1 ...
2 .th4-f2+ 'iii>b6-a6
The point. 3 .t f2-a7 is prevented
and if White directly set off with his
bishop to get back to c7 , e.g. with 3
.tf2-h4-d8-c7, then Black would rush
his king back to c6.
3 .tf2-c5!
As the black king is immobilied
(in view of 4 .t c5-a7), this forces the
black bishop to move. It turns out
that h2 and d6 are the only two 'safe'
squares for the bishop on the b8-h2
diagonal . White's cunning choice of
c5 means that Black's bishop has to
abandon one safe square without be
ing able to settle on the other.
3 ...
Both 3 . . .t h2-f4 and 3 . .t h2-e5
would suffer a similar fate.
4 .tc5-e7
This or 4 . . . a6-b5 , transposing,
is necessary to keep the white bishop
from doing a blocking job on c7 .
5 .te7-d8+ b6-c6 (D)
This diagram looks identical to
the last, but there is one vital differ
ence: the position of Black's bishop.
6 .td8-h4!
Had Black selected 3 . . . .t h2-f4,
then now White would play 6 .t d8g5 ! , and 3 ... .th2-e5 would have seen
6 .t d8-f6 ! . All are clearly deflection
offerings which must be declined.

. .

Had White allowed the bishop to d6

on move 3 , then 6 .t d8 -e7 would
now be ineffective, as Black's king
prevents the bishop moving to c5.
6 ...
7 .th4-f2
Now the idea behind White's 6th
move is clear. As Black was forced to
waste a tempo with his bishop, the
king does not get to stop White's
bishop from getting to a7.
7 ...
Leaving the king where it is will
not affect White's play.
8 .tf2-a7
9 .ta7-b8
10 .th8-g3
Moving the bishop to e5 or f4
would succeed in the same way.
10 ..
11 .tg3-f2!
and White wins. Clever !

7) Corralling and
Corralling is an odd term, referring
to the trapping, usually of a knight

His Majesty 41

by a bishop. In this respect, one piece

can effectively be seen to dominate
another piece, supposedly of the
same value.
In the position below, at a glance
many may consider that Black can
hold the draw. Obviously the pawn is
rather menacing, but it would appear
that the queening square is well and
truly blockaded.
In fact Black would be right to be
worried because he is totally help

1 i.g3-e5!
See how the bishop controlled all
of the possible knight moves, and
the knight can be captured wherever
it goes. 1 . . . tLl e8-c7 meets with 2
i.e5xc7 - it is the white king's job to
protect the pawn and support its advance.
2 .te5xg7
3 e7-e8'if
White wins.

knight to be 'corralled' . In my pre

vious book, Opening Play I demon
strated why 'knights on the rim are
dim' . Obviously a lot of the opening
principles discussed there are no
longer applicable here, where the
board is significantly less crowded.
In fact one or two of the concepts are
actually turned on their head:
'Castle early-ish ! ' - if one has
not yet castled as the endgame ap
proaches the chances are that even if
the king or the relevant rook have not
moved, such a manoeuvre may be
undesirable. We have seen how the
king should play an important role in
the endgame and tucking it away
'into safety' may be a critical error.
'No unnecessary pawn moves' I'm sorry, but I just cannot help men
tioning the following true story:
As a bit of a practical session, I
was giving a few very young begin
ners a sort of simultaneous game. On
just playing his move a young boy
immediately expressed great regret
over it, recalling this useful opening
principle (designed to encourage
more piece development rather than
irrelevant pawn moves, usually on
the flanks). I could not help but see
the funny side of it and informed the
child not to be too hard on himself.
The move was a2-a4, but with his
king trapped and all of his pieces al
ready taken, a pawn move such as
this was perfectly acceptable !

It is definitely worth remember

ing (if possible) not to allow your

Be it the opening, the middlegame

or the endgame, the fact is that knights

42 His Maj esty

on the edge have fewer options avail

able. Our famous ditty holds true
throughout a game and Grandmaster
John Emms was disgusted with him
self for committing this cardinal sin,
a time-trouble blunder in the follow
ing position:

Emms Atalik
Hastings Masters 1995

41 tLlg7-h5?
John had been doing very well
earlier on but in all fairness, in the
position above, things have clearly
gone wrong and he is objectively
lost. Although White is not actually
any material down, one theory is that
the b2-pawn is only worth half of a
pawn. Whether or not this doubled
pawn concept is entirely correct, it
is clear that there is no chance for
White to create a passed pawn on
the queenside, despite his majority.
Meanwhile Black has an extra passed
d-pawn and a bishop for a knight.
More will be said later on this minor
piece imbalance, but in this game in

particular it soon becomes clear

which of the two dominates.
Q. After the text move 41 tLlg7h5, suggest a simple route to victory
for Black.
A. OK, this was a bit of an unfair
question. Obvious is 41 . . . .t xb2. I
could hardly fault this since the plan
of ... d7-c6-b5xa5 looks good. This
way Black might ultimately be able
to create a passed a-pawn too and we
know how poor knights are at stop
ping such pawns .
However, I am opting instead for
the move played in the game:
41 ...
Black probably realises that his
bishop is superior to White's knight,
yet also knows that with both minor
pieces off, he has a trivially winning
king and pawn endgame. His solu
tion then is to 'corral ' the white
knight. It is exactly this move which
White was annoyed about allowing
(hence the ' ? ' assigned to his 4 1 st
42 g3-g4
43 tLih5-f4+
Eventually this knight would have
had to attempt a re-appearance, but
White is unable to pull the wool over
his opponent's eyes !
h7-h6 (D)
44 f3xf4
And White resigns in a position
which provides us with a chance to
revisit our old logic. To many, per
haps the resignation seems a little

His Majesty 43

premature, but both players are only

too aware of what will happen. Black
will create a simple outside passed
pawn and then use it as a deflection.
The passed pawn will be an h-pawn
and while White is preoccupied with
stopping it, the black king will saun
ter over to the queenside to consume
the 'sitting duck' white pawns.
The fact that the b-pawns are dou
bled of course provides White with
no aspirations for a passed pawn of
his own. It simply means that Black
must take an extra move to capture
two pawns rather than one. Black
must make sure that he can gain ac
cess to these pawns, and this is why
if the g- and h-pawns are traded off,
Black is surprisingly unable to win.
Both players know that more care
would be taken and one possible
continuation would be:
45 'itf4-f3
After 45 g4-g5 h6xg5+ 46 f4xg5
Black would easily guide his d-pawn
home with 46 . . . e6-e5 . Note that
after 46 . . . d5-d4? the game would
then proceed quite differently, e.g.

47 'it g5-f4 e6-d5 48 'it f4-f3 d5e5 49 f3-e2 e5-e4 50 e2-d2 d4d3 5 1 d2-dl ! (recallin g our 'straight
back' policy) 5 1 . . . e4-e3 52 'itd l
el d3-d2+ 5 3 e l -d l e3-d3 stale
mate, the point of all this being that
the c3- and c4-squares were never
available to the black king.
46 f3-e3
47 'ite3-f3
White would suffer a similar fate
to the text-move after 47 'it>e3-d3
48 f3-e3
49 e3xd2
50 d2-e2
It is a lost cause, but trying to cre
ate a passed pawn of his own with 50
'it d2-d3-c4xb4 would be way too
51 'ifi>e2-f2
52 f2-g2
53 'iti>g2-g3
And the white pawns are pretty
much in the bag !
'Encirclement' is pretty similar to
corralling, with the essential differ
ence being that it takes more than
one piece to do the trapping. In the
following position Black is blockad
ing the pawn well. He would appear
to be fairly safe, but that is before we
remember that he will soon be forced
to make a move when he would
rather not.
1 c3-b4!

44 His Majesty

Here we say that Black is in 'zug

zwang . This is a German expression
and refers to an 'obligation to move'
(which we have seen before and will
see again) in situations in which it is
detrimental to do so.
The outcome is that Black must
move and any move including the
text will lead to defeat.
2 i.c7xd8


3 b4-b5
A reminder of two rather obvious
observations . First, without the
presence of the white bishop Black
could hold the draw with this usual
straight-back retreat. Secondly, if in
stead of this move Black did not have
to move at all (i.e. he could 'pass'
now and for the rest of the game)
then the king could never be dis
lodged. Technically then, Black was
also in 'zugzwang' and was again
forced into a move that will ulti
mately contribute towards his down
4 'it>b5-c6
5 b6-b7+
As the pawn can control c8 and
the bishop cover b8, White need not
use any more zugzwang themes.
6 i.d8-c7+ b8-a7
7 b7-b8'1W+ a7-a6
8 ft8-b6#

The Sold iers

8) The Outside Passed

As a quick revision of what we have
covered so far regarding such pawns,
observe in the following instructive
game the typical errors and misun
derstandings that can occur:

D. Wilson - Sinden
Kent Schools League 1996
The win should be fairly straight
forward for White. He has an extra
pawn and should obtain a passed one
by moving his king over to c3 and
then playing a2-a3 and b3-b4. Once
the passed pawn has been created,
then it can ultimately be used as a
decoy while the white king wanders
over to the kingside in the quest for
black pawns. In other words the last

stage of the winning plan should in

volve White demonstrating his two
pawns vs no pawns technique on the
kingside. However, these players have
a slightly different outlook !
35 a2-a4??
Worthy of a ' ?? ' as other than 35
b3-b4 ?? this is the worst move on the
board ! With both the a5- and the c5pawns controlling the b4-square, this
was not what the Doctor had or
dered ! Although after this White can
still obtain a passed pawn with the
b3-b4 break, this will now obviously
entail giving Black a dangerous
passed pawn of his own. Assuming
Black would be wise enough to cap
ture with the c-rather than the a
pawn, such a strategy could only be
advised if the black king were on the
h-file, with the white king no further
to the right than the e-file (i.e. out or
in of their relevant 'squares' ).
36 gl-f2
37 f2-e2
S ince 35 a2-a4, both sides have
done as they are supposed to (i.e.
centralised their kings) - until this
move, that is ! Afterwards White ex
plained that this is a subtlety as if
now 37 . . . e6-e5 White has 38 e2e3 with the 'opposition' . This state
ment is true, although its relevance is

46 The Soldiers

hardly great since Black's king could

also hover around his third rank with
the same idea in mind.
37 ...
38 e2-d3
Committing what should be a de
cisive error. One can only wonder
about the intentions Black had for
his king on the queenside when
clearly 38 . . . d6-e5 would be more
to the point. Then, assuming there
are no more critical errors, a draw
would be the most likely result.
As you may recall, earlier I em
phasised the point that being a pawn
up (with several pawns around) should
be enough to win. Unfortunately for
White, from the starting position the
blunder 35 a2-a4 drastically reduced
the significance of the extra b-pawn.
39 'ili>d3-c3?
Not to be outdone, White follows
suit ! Winning is 39 'iti?d3-e4 'iti?c6-d6
40 e4-f5 d6-e7 (intending to de
fend the g7-pawn) 4 1 f5-e5, be
cause the c5-pawn will soon leave
the board.
Incredible ! Black could have re
deemed himself with 39 . . . c6-d6
but instead allows White to scramble
his king back to e4. This invitation is
not taken up as White discovers an
other amazing idea!
40 b3-b4?? (D)
White's justification was that 'he
wasn't getting anywhere' . Other than
the fact that he could have won with
40 c3-d3 (followed by 41 d3-e4 ),
even doing nothing would result in a

draw. The text makes progress, but

only for Black!

Black effectively sticks to the
principle we are taught about recap
turing with pawns towards the cen
tre. If we assume for the time being
that the more outside the pawn the
better (in the endgame), then clearly
this rule should be challenged.
I guess the point is that in the
opening we generally put our pawns
in the middle. The logic behind this
is to push our opponents back, as
well as to allow ourselves freer de
velopment. By transferring more
pawns to the centre this also allows
us to command more space through
out the middlegame.
In the latter stages of a game, with
fewer pieces on the board, space is in
abundance everywhere and passed
pawns are more of a threat. We have
seen how, in king and pawn end
games, a passed pawn is stronger the
nearer it is to the edge of the board
(although with a bare king and pawn,

The Soldiers 47

it is not possible to win using the op

position technique with a rook's
pawn, with other pawns on, it pro
vides an excellent decoy). Similarly
in minor-piece endgames, such pawns
are also especially dangerous (re
member how effectively a knight is
taken out of the game when forced to
the side).
With outside pawns in mind,
coming up soon are queen and rook
endings, but returning to our game I
would say that 40 ... c5xb4+ would be
better. The simple reason for this is
that the passed pawn with which
White would be left is on the c-file,
rather than the less central a-file. We
are about to see why 'supported
passed' pawns are so good - firstly,
such a pawn is supported, and sec
ondly it is passed, as you might
guess ! After 40 . . . c5xb4+, as in the
game continuation, the b-pawn is ex
cellent, only with this move instead,
Black has access to the c5-square for
his king. Black will win quite easily
because an unstoppable winning
game plan is:
a) Trade the b-pawn for White's
c-pawn in such a way that:
b) Black can squeeze the white
king away from protecting his a
c) Capture the white a-pawn and
then use it as a decoy to gain time to
approach and capture White's king
side pawns.
Therefore play might go 4 1 'it>c3d4 b6-c6 42 c4-c5 b4-b3 43 d4c3 c6xc5 44 c3xb3 'it> c5-d4 45

b3-b2 (kingside pawn moves are

to no avail; Black could match them
with his own pawns or oscillate his
king between d4 and d3, waiting for
White to run out of moves) 45 ... d4c4 46 b2-a3 c4-c3 47 a3-a2
c3-b4 48 a2-b2 b4xa4. In other
words, all according to plan !
41 'it>c3-b3
Assuming there are no awful mis
takes, White now has no hope of
winning . He cannot capture the b
pawn while it is supported by the
pawn on c5 and he cannot attack the
c5-pawn because his king must stay
within the square of the troublesome
Many simplistically assume this
sort of position to be drawn. With
40 . . . a5xb4, Black has made things
more difficult for himself, but never
theless the power of the supported
passed pawn reigns supreme.
This hardly looks like a bad move,
but it serves to highlight how com
plicated things can be in what appear
to be simple positions.
Instead Black could have won
with 41 . . . 'it>b6-a6 ! . Ideally he wants
to play . . . (a6 or b6)-a5 when the
white king will ultimately have to re
treat from b3 (where it needs to be in
order to protect the a-pawn). With
this in mind, if there were no king
side pawns present, 4 1 . . . 'it> b6-a5
would be the correct continuation,
but as it is we must take into consid
eration the waiting moves available
on the other flank.

48 The Soldiers

For example, after 4 1 .. . 'iti>b6-a6 ! 4 2

b3-b2 a6-a5 43 'iti>b2-b3 h6-h5 !
White will run out of pawn moves
firs t (e. g . 44 h2-h3 g7-g5 45 h3-h4
42 h2-h4?
White blows his chance now as he
bows out with a whimper, inviting
Black to run him out of moves . The
saving line was 42 g3-g4 !. Then after
both continuations 42 . . . g7-g5 43 h2h3 and 42 . . . g7-g6 43 h2-h4 ! h6-h5
44 g4-g5 , it is the black king that is
forced to give way.
So in either of the above vari
ations White holds the draw with a
little bit of care. Obviously he should
move to and fro between a2 and b2,
his king only advancing to b3 in the
event of ... (a6 or b6)-a5 .
We can now see why 40 . . . c5 xb4+
was superior to 40 . . . a5xb4+. Unable
to make progress by attacking the
a4-pawn, Black would like to change
tack and turn his attention to the c4pawn. Indeed with the black king on
d4, this pawn could be in trouble.
However this is not an option here
because, although the king would be
in the ' square ' , the two c-pawns ob
struct his clear path back.
Regarding the latter I should make
one final important point. White
must not advance his a-pawn unless
it is destined for a successful promo
tion, since it cannot be safely pro
tected once it passes a5 (even on a5 it
is weak, for putting the king on a4
would fall foul of a simple 'triangu
lation' - the black king using a6, a7

and b7, while White's only has a4

and b3).
42 ...
h7-h5! (D)

White's mistake on move 42, cou

pled with this punishing reply, leave
the first player having to move when
obviously he would rather not. An
other case of 'zugzwang' (note how
- although here it is not going to be
needed - Black has available another
waiting move in . . . g7-g6).
43 'iti>b3-b2
44 'it;b2-bl
Well - a little bit later anyway.
After a loss of mine vs Grandmas
ter Keith Arkell was published in
Piece Power (a book in this series by
GM Peter Wells), I felt that somehow
I would have to seek retribution. No
doubt I will get my own back on Pe
ter some other time, but here and now
a marvellous opportunity presents it
self. First the following encounter il
lustrates the joys of having an (extra)
outside passed pawn and, secondly
(of course), revenge is sweet !

The Soldiers 49

Ward - Arkell
British Championship 1995
With White to play, everything
in the position seems to be in my fa
vour. I have a passed pawn with a
rook behind it (putting rooks behind
passed pawns not only applies to
stopping those of your opponent, but
also to helping your own), and the
pawn is far from the black knight
(and king). Also the white bishop
sits pretty on g2, from where it not
only covers the a-pawn' s queening
square, but controls other useful
squares too, thus limiting the move
ment of the enemy (in this case
Keith's) pieces .
I suppose I should have played the
simple 30 a4-a5 . It is worth noting
that even if Black could reach some
thing like the following diagram,
then he would still lose rather easily.
Even though 1 i. g2xa8 l::rf8xa8
leaves the black rook hopelessly pas
sive, more precise is 1 .i::t a l-bl with
the intention of -b8. This is an
idea (i.e. using the pawn to protect

the rook) which is worth remember

ing since it is often the best way to
deal with defending rooks. Used
here, Black will be lucky if he can
even get the pawn for his knight.
Returning to the game, I was
rather short of time so I avoided any
of the complications that might have
resulted from 30 a4-a5 ttlf6-g4 or
30 . . . l:. f8-b8 (intending . . . l:. b2-bl + ).
This seems like a poor excuse but, in
my defence, I was 1 00% sure that I
was winning with the text.
30 .i::te S-bS
31 a4xb5
I have, needless to say, adhered to
the principle of exchanging pieces
when a pawn up, although I cannot
deny that the rook could also have
been used to trouble the knight.
32 ...
33 i.g2xa8
Later I was amazed to find out that
the commentary team had informed
the audience that I had 'blown it' by
not going it alone with the a-pawn.
Now, apparently, it was 'not so

50 The Soldiers

clear ' . However, after the game

Keith (himself renowned for his end
game prowess) agreed with me that
Black is definitely losing here.
A misleading factor is that the b
pawn is halted on a square that can
never be controlled by the light
squared bishop . Does this mean that
Black can simply remove his king
side pawns from the evil grasp of this
same bishop while simultaneously
keeping the white king out with his
own? The answer is a categorical
'NO' ! (but Black does try).
33 ...
34 f2-f4
This lets the king out and assumes
some control of the dark squares.
Throughout a game it is usually a
good idea to move pawns onto the
opposite colour of a friendly bishop.
This way they complement each
other rather than the bishop being
obstructed. This game is no excepti on.
35 gl-f2
36 f2-e3
37 e3-d4
38 .ta8-d5
39 .td5-t7
g6-g5 (D)
40 d4-e4
The bishop is unable to capture
any of Black's pawns, but it covers
some important squares and the
route is now clear for the white king.
40 ...
41 .tt7-a2
Out of sight, but not out of mind !
Black no doubt expects a 'iite4-f5-g6

infiltration. However he cannot put

his king on g7 as perhaps he would
like since this would allow the white
king to change direction and head for
the queenside. The black king on g7
would then be too far away from
White's kingside pawns for him to
be able to sacrifice his knight for the
b-pawn. Besides, the latter is not an
option as the active bishop suggests
an 'encirclement' is more likely, and
the pawn will safely turn into a
42 e4-f5
43 .ta2-t7 (D)

The Soldiers 51

A neat although undoubtedly un

necessary trick. 43 . . . 'ifi> c5 xb5 is not
playable on account of the reply 44
.t t7-e8 .
44 g3xf4
45 .tt7-e8
For the sake of simplicity the out
side pawn is preserved in favour of
taking the f-pawn.
46 .te8-c6
47 f5-g6
It is the h-pawn which I had my
heart set on and, anyway, 47 'ifi> f5xf6
allows 47 . . . ti.Je3-g4+.
48 h2-h3
49 h3-h4
The black pawns are soon to fall,
e.g. 49 . . . ti.J f2-g4 50 .t c6-d7 or 50
'it g6-h5/f5 .
Moving ahead a little (ahead of
the lecture which will soon follow on
rook and pawn endings), the position
below is a 'theoretical draw' .

I guess the word 'theoretical ' which often seems to be associated

with endgame summaries - suggests
'with best play ' .
Here the white rook i s superbly
placed in contrast to Black's, which
cannot move without losing the a
pawn. This is a tremendous example
of how effective rooks are at restrain
ing passed pawns. Here the fact that
it is an outside pawn means that the
black king has further to go to offer
support (here such a plan would be
The white king can do precious
little to interfere as bringing the king
to e3 or d3 allows . . . : a l -e l ( or d l )+
and ... a2-al 'ii', while the d2-square is
no better in view of ... : al -fl with a
skewer in mind after l:.a7xa2.
However the white king can just
sit tight, allowing his capable rook to
do all the work. No matter how far
out the black king ventures, : a7xf7
will never be possible since the black
rook then moves to facilitate . . . a2al 'ii' . Nevertheless, as soon as the
black king gets down to b3 (freeing
the rook), White can just check him
away and then return to the a-file
(again tying down the rook).
Queens are obviously different
because they are able to move diago
nally and consequently would not
become stuck in front of a passed
pawn in this same manner. In the
next game Black misses a clear way
to simplify. Despite this, an extra
pawn is retained and some interest
ing points, both old and new, feature.

52 The Soldiers

Westerinen - Ward
Gausdal Troll Masters 1 995

Q. As Black to play (and again a

little short of time), what is the sensi
ble continuation that I should have
A. Here we see that White has
what is commonly recognised as 'the
most deadly attacking force ' - a
queen paired with a knight. Not great
at halting outside passed pawns (any
combination which includes a knight
will not be), but often good at deliv
ering checkmate ! I am not saying
that Black is in serious danger in this
respect, although the most logical
move to kill off the game would be
40 ... .id4-e3!, when after the knight
moves Black can follow up with
4 1 . . . 'i'c6-c l , forcing an exchange
of queens. In the resulting ending the
a-pawn would pose insurmountable
problems in an even more blatant
fashion than we saw in the previous
However this simple solution was
not used.

40 ...
This is not such a bad move, of
which the intention is clear. Black
wants the white knight chased away
in order to reduce any potential mat
ing threats.
41 'ii'fl-dl
White decides that withdrawing
the knight to a significantly less
threatening square would be too gen
erous a concession at this particular
juncture, electing instead to gain a
We have seen before (and will
again) just how good bishops are
when there are pawns on both sides
of the board. Coming back to the
point that queen and knight form a
particularly aggressive partnership,
it would not be a surprise to see
Black (unable to exchange queens)
trading off minor pieces. Indeed,
doing so now with 4 1 . . .f6xg5 42
ii'd l xd4 'i!Vc6xf3+ would even mean
netting an extra pawn. However, the
a-pawn is sufficient (a simple battle
of this pawn and queen vs queen
would result in a promotion) and the
only difficulty Black might experi
ence is finding a balance between
supporting this pawn while simulta
neously guarding against a perpetual
check (White's best chance).
The conclusion is that damaging
the kingside pawns (as 4 1 . . .f6xg5
would do) merely removes essential
cover from Black's king.
41 ...
Careful to prevent 42 ii'd l -d8+.
The alternative 4 l . . .e6-e5 weakens

The Soldiers 53

Black on the light squares and on the

a2-g8 diagonal .
42 ti:Jg5-e4
43 hl-g2
Notice that the white king is not
in as much danger from a queen and
bishop combination. Remember also
that White is happy with a draw and
consequently must avoid only check
ing sequences which force an ex
change of queens ; he has no fear of a
44 'i'dl-d3
45 tt:Je4-g5
Central domination with the queen
is nearly always a good idea. The
queen commands in the middle of
the board and is able to reach any
sector very quickly.
46 'i'd3-a6
Content with the safety of his own
king, Black is now happy to trade
minor pieces. Black only allowed the
knight back to g5 because he had this
sequence in mind.
47 cJtgl-h3
48 'i'a6xb6 (D)

48 ...
Black has no desire to lose the e
pawn as it provides extra cover for
his king . Although the queen now
stands on a less influential square
there will be no problem relocating
later thanks to the possibility of a
check on d2.
49 'it>h3-g2
50 'i\Vb6-b3
51 g2-h3
The first stage is now completed.
Everything is protected and Black's
next task is to facilitate the further
advance of the a-pawn to its ultimate
destiny !
52 'ii'h 3-a4
Freeing the queen from the de
fence of the e6-pawn.
53 'i\Va4-a8
The white queen continues to
monitor the a-pawn, but is forced to
take up position on the edge of the
board due to the aforementioned
central dominance of Black's queen.
Black allows White a spite check,
for now it is the white king which
could soon be in trouble . Bringing
the king back to the safety of g2 only
serves to present Black with checks
which help the final advance the a
54 'i'a8-a7+ 'it>t7-f6
55 'i!Va7-a8
Preparing a more awkward check,
but overlooking where the action is
really at !
55 ...

54 The Soldiers

After 56 h3-h4 g7-g5+ 57 h4h5 'iVfl -h3+ it is mate !

9) The Great Pieces

versus Pawns Debate
In my view the most popular error in
judgement that occurs in lower-level
chess is that which sees pawns com
pared favourably to pieces during the
latter stages of a game. Having ob
served countless junior games, I have
Jost track of the number of times that
a piece has been sacrificed for two
pawns (and sometimes even one), the
logic being that, not only can you not
give checkmate with a king and a mi
nor piece against a bare king, but
also bishops and knights cannot be
come queens !
Usually, when a pieces versus
pawns situation is discussed in a text
book, the debate is whether a king
and knight (or bishop) can handle a
king and three connected passed
pawns ! This is not where I wish to
start. Instead I would like to show
you several positions and the mis
conceptions and poor assessments
which are associated with them.
Hopefully, should the reader's initial
feelings coincide with what is often
the general opinion at a certain level,
perhaps I can change your mind !
Opinion: White win or Draw
Reality: Black win
The above position is a favourite
of mine (as far as pointing out flaws
in thinking is concerned), particu
larly with youngsters .

Throughout any discussions, the

a7-pawn is often seen as being more
valuable than the black bishop. This
concept is ridiculous, particularly
when it is 'understood' by all that
the move g2-g3 (placing the pawn
out of danger) will be necessary
should the white king wish to ven
ture far afield.
Those who consider this to be a
win for White do so because they
feel that by the time the black king
gets over to capture the 'menacing'
a7-pawn, White will have captured
Black's kingside pawns and will pro
mote either the h- or g-pawn.
Others may soon recognise that
such a policy is unnecessary because
if White sends the king over to force
the win of the bishop for the a-pawn
he will suffer a similar fate on the
other flank when the black king
storms the kingside pawns.
Consequently everyone may be
satisfied with the 'likely' outcome of
a draw, based on the fact that both
kings will remain on the kingside
and nothing much will happen.

The Soldiers 55

This conclusion is half true . The

reality, in fact, is that Black will
eventually win one or both of the
white pawns and thus queen one of
his own. If White's king stays where
it is, then the black king will at some
point travel down to h3 . The key
point in this instance (indeed, how
ever White chooses to play) is that
not only does the bishop - even from
the corner - control some useful
squares, but Black has a waiting
move (with the bishop) any time he
wants it, meaning that our old friend
'zugzwang' is inevitable.

Opinion: Draw
Reality: Black win
Another position which is liable
to create confusion. Here White is
actually ahead on material (four
pawns for a bishop), but the quadru
pled pawns (I concede, this is un
common in practical play) are just
lining up to be taken. Generally the
mistaken view is that White will not
lose all of these b-pawns, and many
beginners find it inconceivable that

the h4-pawn which, after all, is on an

opposite-colour square to the bishop,
could possibly fall as well.
Nevertheless the painful truth for
White is that though the black king
begins passively, with the help of the
bishop (used both for waiting moves
and controlling key squares) White's
king will slowly be pushed back
from each and every pawn until they
are all captured. Actually, the only
relevant factor is that the 'queening
square ' for Black's h-pawn is the
right colour for his bishop. As we
have previously seen, if the bishop
were unable to control this square,
then the white king could draw by
rushing to this corner for a last stand.
For those of you who still have
your doubts, let's give White the
move and play !
1 c5-b6
The b3-pawn could have been sin
gled out first, but I'm just trying to
make a point.
2 b6-a6
3 b5-b6+
Or 3 a6-a5 c7-b7 4 "' a5-a4
b7-b6 5 a4-a3 i. d7xb5, etc.
4 b4-b5
5 a6-a5
6 b3-b4
7 b2-b3
8 a5-a4
9 a4-a3
10 a3-a2
11 a2-b2
I trust that you are convinced
now !

56 The Soldiers

Black successfully promoting one of

his pawns :
1 .l:.aS-al
1 l:la8-b8
2 .:tb8-c8

Opinion: White win or Draw

Reality: Black win
Juniors in particular tend to get
this position wrong, even after hav
ing been warned about not under
estimating pieces. Adults who have
problems with this often do so due to
misunderstanding previously read
advice, for example - and I quote "Didn ' t Nigel Short say two con
nected pawns defeat a rook?"
I believe the fault stems from
something like the position below:

Even with White to play there is

nothing that he can do to prevent

In fact the rule concerning these

types of position is that ' two con
nected passed pawns on the sixth
rank defeat a lone rook' . The impor
tant issue here is the lone rook, im
plying that the defending king is not
sufficiently near to be able to hold up
the pawns . Note that in this section I
am stressing the power of pieces
over pawns, but the (not unreason
able) assumption is that the king
partners the piece(s) in combined ac
In the position below White wins

1 d3-e3
2 e3-f4
The white king was/is simply
threatening to come to e5 so the

The Soldiers 57

pawns, which had originally pro

vided a barrier, make a break for it.
3 <Ji>f4-e5
Played anyway, though the visu
ally more cautious 3 'it>f4-e3-d4 is
more than adequate.
4 e5xd5
5 l:.h6-c6+
Even if this were not check, get
ting behind the passed pawn like this
is more efficient than 5 l:. h6-h l
c l xc2.
White won in the above example
because his king was well placed.
Were it on h8 instead, with the black
king on e5 and with Black to play,
then things would be far more tricky !
Returning to our initial position,
Black wins by making the most of
his rook:

win for White change their minds to

a draw after observing that any pawn
advance allows the black king to step
up to a more dominant position.
White intends to leave the pawns
where they are unless Black attempts
to bring his king around the side (a
manoeuvre that worked before when
the pawns were on the fourth rank
and would also work if they were on
the fifth rank, but fails when the
pawns have reached the sixth rank).
2 e5-d5
Black's plan, in contrast, is to force
White to advance one of his pawns.
3 d5-c6(!)
This nice trick, in fact, serves only
to prolong the game. Now after
3 . . . ltel xe6? White replies 4 'it>c6-c7 !
and Black will be forced to give up
the rook for the remaining pawn be
fore it promotes.
3 ...
4 'it>c6-d5
As an example of what happens if
a pawr. advances, a sample line is: 4
e6-e7 + 'it> d8-e8 5 'it>c6-c7 lte l -c 1 + 6
'Wtt c7-b7 'it> e8-d7 7 b7-b6 ltc l -d l 8
b6-c5 .l:.d l -d2 ! (not 8 . . . l:.d l xd6? 9
e7-e8 'iV+ ! ) with 9 . . . l:f. d2xd6 to follow.
4 ..
The waiting move which pro
vokes a pawn advance.
5 e6-e7 +
6 d5-c5
Or 6 . . . lt e2-d2. Both white pawns
will soon fall.
When there is a rook (and king)
battling against pawns, it is easy to

If White had started in the dia
gram position, a close inspection re
veals that there is little constructive
to be done. Those who may have
originally thought the game to be a

58 The Soldiers

understand why the side with the

rook may win. Checkmate is still at
tainable. It is the 'preservation of a
last pawn' concept which many find
confusing, yet when the piece in
volved is not a rook it is, of course,
necessary for the attacker to keep
one of his pawns on the board. Have
a look at the following position with
White to move:

l . . . b6-a5 2 b3-a3 , and the black

king must give way.
With the text move White is aim
ing either to force back the enemy
king or to provoke Black into ad
vancing a pawn. Incidentally, after
the terrible alternative 1 b3-b4??
c6-c5+ Black eliminates the d4pawn, securing the draw immedi
Now is a good time for me to talk
about Black's pawn moves:
The first, l.. .d6-d5, is quite straight
forward to explain. Black threatens
2 . . . c6-c5 (forcing a trade of pawns),
but this plan is thwarted by 2 a4b4 . As Black must then give way
with his king, White can simply en
trench his own king on c5 and then
manoeuvre his bishop to a4 or e8,
from where it can take on c6 (and
then d5).
The second is l . . .c6-c5, and this
involves some manoeuvring. It is
clear that White must push with 2
d4-d5 and then set his sights on cap
turing the d6-pawn. The king and
bishop are indeed strong enough to
force Black's king from the defence
of the d6-pawn, and a possible con
tinuation is 2 . . b6-b7 3 a4-b5
ci;b7-c7 4 b5-a6 c7-c8 5 a6-b6
c8-d7 6 b6-b7 d7-d8 7 b7-c6
d8-e7 8 c6-c7 (any bishop move
along the fl -a6 diagonal also forces
the win of a pawn) 8 . . . e7-f6 9
c7xd6, etc.
2 a4-a5
3 i.e2-f3

Opinion: Draw
Reality: White win
To the nai:ve the black pawns may
appear to provide an impenetrable
barrier which keeps the white king at
bay. Black has no ambitions to win,
so he is obviously prepared to ex
change both of his pawns for the d4pawn. However the reality is that,
provided White is careful, Black will
never have the opportunity to realise
this aim, and thanks to the combined
force of the white king and bishop a
promotion is imminent.
1 b3-a4
Even if Black had the first move
the result would be the same, e.g.

The Soldiers 59

We have already seen how 3 . . . c6c5 4 d4-d5 would eventually lose.

4 i. f3-g2
A waiting move. Black does not
want to concede with 4 . . . d6-d5 5
..ti> a5-b4 (when the king is heading
for c5), so he must allow the enemy
king to invade.
5 a5-a6
Again the pawn move 5 . . . c6-c5
loses to 6 d4-d5 (as we shall see it is
not important that the c-pawn is free
to run because it will not get very
far), and 5 . . . d6-d5 (hoping to get in
. . . c7-d6 and . . . c6-c5, or the cheeky
. . . c6-c5, d4xc5 'iti>c7-c6) runs into the
simple 6 a6-a5 ! (with 'it>a5-b4 to
6 a6-b6
Black is finally forced to push or
lose a pawn, and the text-move puts
up more of a fight than 6 . . . d6-d5 7
'it>b6-c5, when i. g2-f3-d l -a4xc6xd5
is coming.
7 d4-d5
8 i.g2-e4
9 b6-b7
White could bring his king back
for the c-pawn, but he does not need
to capture it in order to win.
10 ..ti>b7-c6
11 'it>c6xd6
White wins.
Even if the bishop and the black
pawn were not on the board we know
that White would win here because
his king is on the sixth rank in front
of the pawn.

S imilarly, from the previous dia

gram, White would win if he had a
knight instead of a bishop (perhaps
you might like to try this one your
self, remembering to be careful not
to allow White's last pawn to be ex
changed or lost). Indeed, when the
pawns are all on the same side of the
board, a knight is usually at least as
effective as a bishop because it is
able to capture enemy pawns on light
squares and dark squares.
When there are pawns on both
sides of the board a bishop is more
likely to be the stronger piece, as the
following practical encounter dem
onstrates :

Gopi Krishna Murugan
India 1991

Many players may even consider

this position to be good for White, as
the outside passed pawns may prove
to be too much of a handful. More
over, with all the white pawns stand
ing on light squares while the black

60 The Soldiers

bishop must operate on the other col

our, we could ask how Black could
possibly win?
Murugan shows us how, begin
ning by arresting the advance of the
- 2 b4-c4
3 c4-b4
4 'iti>b4-c4
Black would like to have a passed
pawn of his own, which would hap
pen after 5 'iitc4-b4 d6-d5 + ! .
5 a2-a3 (D)
White responds with a waiting
move, but the fact that he is using
pawns for this purpose is indicative
of his problem holding the position.

6 c4-b4
7 'it>b4-c4
8 a3-a4
The bishop stops both passed
pawns at once, but Black has in mind
another, even more effective role.
9 c4-b4
10 'iti>b4-c4

1 0 a4-a5 meets with 10 . . . .i h4el + 1 1 b4-a4 c6-c5, when the a

pawn will soon be taken.
.ih4-el ! (D)
10 ...

The point. From here the bishop

not only prevents both pawns from
advancing, but also deprives the
white king of the vital b4-square.
11 rJ;c4-d3
12 d3-e2
A simple decision - the h-pawn is
the one which the black bishop con
tinues to monitor while his king is in
the vicinity of the a-pawn.
13 e2-d3
14 a4-a5
15 'ifii d3-c4
16 'iitc4-d5
The white king has found a route
to the kingside . By making waiting
moves Black has no problems finish
ing the game.
17 d5-e6
18 e6-f5
19 f5-g4
20 f3-f4

The Soldiers 61

21 g4xf4
White will lose his e-pawn.

Q. Would you rather be White or

Black in the hypothetical position

there they should find it difficult get

ting that far in the first place.
Black's winning plan here should
be to capture the loose isolated
pawns with the rook (although there
is no hurry) and then deal with the
connected pawns with the aid of the
king, as we saw earlier. Easy as pie !

1 0) Which is better,
connected or isolated ?

A. Well I do not know what you

chose, but I prefer Black. White has
six pawns for the rook, but several of
them are defenceless. We now know
(hopefully) the circumstances under
which connected pawns are a match
for a rook, and taking into considera
tion the position of the black king,
that is not the case here.
Isolated pawns only prove to be a
problem for a rook if supported by
the king, and in the absence of a de
fending king. Generally I would ad
vise the side with the piece in these
situations to keep your king approxi
mately where the opponent's king is,
so that passed pawns never become
too much of a threat. Connected
passed pawns on the sixth rank may
defeat a rook, but without the kings

This question, referring to the de

sired type of pawns, really depends
on the pieces which remain in a par
ticular position. Often it is recom
mended that connected pawns are
preferable. This comes from the gen
eral rule (usually with the opening
and middlegame in mind) that the
fewer pawn 'islands ' the better.
Indeed it does seem logical since
connected pawns provide reciprocal
support, whereas they may well be
come easy targets when isolated.
While I agree with the relevance of
these guides to the earlier stages of
the game, in the endgame - particu
larly with reference to passed pawns
- other factors take on significance.
The king and pawn endgame in
the diagram overleaf - at first glance
at least - looks very good for Black.
His connected passed pawns are
unapproachable and if one of them
advances neither can ever be taken.
Indeed, Black to play wins with
l . . . b7-c6, netting the c5-pawn. But
it is White to play, and the extra
tempo makes a difference.

62 The Soldiers

1 a4-a5!
Now the white pawns are both on
the 5th rank which, as we will see,
makes them immune to attack.
2 a5-a6!
3 -gl
White must not overextend. After
3 a6-a7? c7-b7 Black can catch the
a-pawn and be back in time for its
partner on the c-file.
3 . ..
Black must also be aware of his
limitations . Hunting down the a6pawn is disastrous, e.g. 3 . . c7-b8 ?
4 c5-c6 and any king move allows
one of the pawns a clear run to glory.
4 gl-fl
The game is a draw.
Neither side can attempt to make
The fact that these isolated pawns
were one file apart was beneficial to
White because with each step for
ward they denied the black king a re
treat square. In fact being two files
apart is less effective (by all means
try this for yourself), but any more

than this stretches the king so much

that the defensive task is impossible.
We have also seen how minor
pieces (particularly knights) prefer
obstructing passed pawns which are
closer together (even connected), so
what is all the fuss about? The an
swer is rooks. The existence of con
nected passed pawns is like a dream
come true to the attacker, and a
nightmare to the defending rook.
Q. In the position below, with his
king so far away, will White be able
to contain the threat of the black

A. S ince the black pawns are so

close to promotion, it is clear that
White has no winning chances. How
ever we know that rooks are particu
larly good at stopping passed pawns,
and provided White plays actively,
the danger of losing can easily be
White should not play 1 l:. g8g3+? d3-c2 2 l:. g3-g2+ c2-c3 3
l:.g2-g3+? d4-d3 4 .l:.g3-g l ? d3-d2 as
the black king is on hand to guide the

The Soldiers 63

pawns home. This would be playing

too passively because (as we know
by now) the rook belongs behind the
passed pawns (from where it is eas
ier both to monitor the pawns and to
trouble the enemy king) .
Correct is:
1 l:lg8-b8
2 l:.b8-c8+
A key idea is to check and sub
sequently force the king in front of
one of the pawns in order to attack
the other.
3 l:lc8-d8
4 l:ld8-c8+
5 l:.c8-b8
6 l:lb8-c8+
7 l:lc8-d8
Black will never have the time to
advance either pawn.
We can conclude from this ex
ample that White could give Black
even more of a head start with these
pawns as long as they are isolated
like this. Connected passed pawns,
however, are far more difficult for
the defending rook to handle, for the
attacking king can provide support
to the pawns which in turn offer
cover from spoiling checks.
Similarly in the position below,
even with the move, White is in big
The outside passed pawns, which
would be overwhelming in a king
and pawn endgame and extremely
useful in a minor piece endgame,
prove to be only a minor annoyance
to the black rook.

1 h4-h5
2 l:.b8-h8
The black rook is superbly placed,
observing the h-pawn, keeping the
white king pinned down and ready to
swing over to the a-file should the
need arise.
The alternative 2 . . . l:. h2-a2? runs
into 3 h5-h6 !, when 3 ...l:.a2xa4? 4 h6h7 .J:. a4-al + 5 e l -f2 l:. al-h 1 loses
to 6 l:. h8-e8+ (allowing 7 h7-h8'ii').
3 h5-h6
White' s rook is extremely pas
sive, but he does have a plan. With
the pawn on h7 at least White can
force his opponent to leave his rook
on the h-file and to keep his king
sheltered by pawns, thus giving the
a-pawn a free run to promotion. For
tunately for Black he, too, has an ef
fective strategy available, and this is
the more dangerous of the two.
3 ...
Black's king moves into a domi
nant position and mate is threatened.
It is this combination of king, rook
and pawn providing this threat
which prompted me to say earlier

64 The Soldiers

how extra centre pawns are generally

better than outside pawns in rook
and pawn(s) endgames .
4 el-dl
5 h6-h7
d4-d3 ( D)
Again White must avoid mate,
and in doing so his king will no
longer be blockading Black's pawns.

pawns, but when they become passed

they may easily provide more of a
threat in king, queen (remember unlike rooks, queens can get out from
in front of passed pawns) and minor
piece endings. However, when rooks
are involved in any endgame permu
tation, connected passed pawns are

1 1 ) Tricky Pawn Moves

and Structures
With a title heading such as this I
will have to begin with the old fa
vourite 'breakthrough combination' :

6 dl-cl
7 cl-b2
8 .l:.h8-d8
Obviously White does not want to
part with his h-pawn, but the simple
fact is that Black is threatening to
queen. Black is happy to spend time
digesting the h-pawn.
9 'iti>b2-c2
10 c2-b2
I suppose 10 'it>c2-d 1 1:. c7-c l #
would be less painful !
10 ...
Or 10 . . . 'it>e3-e2, both forcing the
inevitable. Black wins.
Conclusion: isolated pawns are
obviously weaker than connected

At first glance the pawns appear

to be locked in a kind of stalemate.
Even with White to play the black
king still holds the upper hand and
the fifth rank pawns could soon be
come easy prey. However, there is an
ingenious solution at hand.
1 g5-g6!
By symmetry l . . .h7xg6 loses in
the same fashion : 2 f5-f6 ! g7xf6 3

The Soldiers 65

2 h5-h6!
Obviously 3 h6xg7 was a threat.
3 f5-f6
White wins.

Q. From our previous position we

have seen how White wins if he has
the first move. But with best play
what would be the correct outcome if
Black moved first? Hint: you will
have to apply your knowledge ob
tained from as far back as sections 1
and 2.
A. A draw should occur, but accu
rate play is required from both sides:
Absolutely necessary. First of all
Black's king is too slow to return to
the kingside since 1 . . . 'iti> a3-b4 meets
with 2 g5-g6 ! (winning exactly as
above) . Secondly, l . . .h7-h6? 2 f5-f6 !
and l . . . f7-f6 2 h5-h6 ! both result in
the promotion of a white pawn.
2 h5xg6
White's 2nd and 3rd moves can be
3 f5xg6
It would be foolish for White not
to exchange as many pawns as possi
ble because the black king is nearer
the kingside.
3 .
The g5-pawn is doomed but all
is not lost for White. After the in
evitable . . . W xg5 White must apply
the 'opposition' theory. Specifically
White must gain the opposition di
rectly after Black takes the pawn,
meaning the white king must follow

Black's and then be ready to meet

. . . xg5 with g3. Only this way
will White be able to hold the draw.
There exist several permutations
of this 'breakthrough' theme, but
from a practical point of view it is
simply a matter of recognising when
such a possibility presents itself. Ob
viously the best policy is to put a lot
of thought into any potentially sig
nificant pawn advance. Pushing a
pawn may create a dangerous pro
motion candidate or may, on the
other hand, leave the pawn weaker
and more vulnerable the closer it
gets to enemy territory.
Much has already been said about
outside, isolated and connected
passed pawns, so now I want to in
troduce the benefits of the 'sup
ported passed pawn' .

Two wonderful qualities of such a

pawn (here the one on d5) are that it
is supported and - yes, you have
guessed it - that it is passed !
In king and pawn endings these
pawns are simply excellent and in

66 The Soldiers

some ways just as good as two con

nected passed pawns. With the d5pawn being central the black king
has some flexibility in terms of stay
ing in the ' square ' , though it cannot
venture beyond its own fourth rank
and the h-file is also out of range of
the pawn's route.
Earlier in the middlegame such
pawns can still be useful, if generally
less desirable. The reason for this is
that the square immediately in front
of the passed pawn (d6 in our ex
ample) can be put to good use by, for
example, a black knight, which ob
serves some important squares from
the safe outpost (from d6 a knight
covers b5 , c4, e4 and f5) . Typically
Black should seek to undermine the
passed pawn, the thematic thrust
. . . b7-b5 being the most logical plan
in this case.

Indeed after the moves . . . a7-a6

and . . . b7-b5 , c4xb5 a6xb5 White is
the one with the weaker (isolated)
pawns . Without the c4-pawn it is
clear that the d5-pawn is nowhere

near as powerful. Therefore . . . a7-a6

should be answered by a2-a4, after
which Black must be careful because
a timely a4-a5 is a possibility which
could leave White with a superior
pawn structure - the en passant rule
prevents the b-pawn advancing (and
even if it could, a sad-looking iso
lated black a-pawn would result) and
the b7- and c5-pawns are obvious
Black invariably has to take care
with the preparatory . . . b7-b6 (before
a4-a5 ) followed by a subsequent
. . . b6-b5 break which, if successful,
could leave the once strong d5-pawn
under considerable pressure.
Finally, something else to keep in
mind about pawns is that, despite be
ing ostensibly simple pieces, they
move straight ahead and capture di
agonally. Have a look at the follow
ing example.

1 b6-b7!
White wins.
This may seem to be an extreme
example, but a point is there to be

The Soldiers 67

made. After 1 b6-b7 Black is power

less to prevent the mighty pawn from
promoting. The rook would like to
get behind this solo passed pawn, but
it cannot simultaneously monitor
both the b-file and the c-file. In this
respect the knight (which, inciden
tally, requires three moves just to
land on the neighbouring square) is
getting in the way.
A more common theme along the
same lines arose in an important
rapidplay encounter:

Anand - Lantier
London PCA rapid 1995
White appeared to hold a signifi
cant advantage when the players first
entered the endgame, mainly due
to the powerful bishop pair. Black's
last move (33 . . . tbd7-c5) appeared to
many onlookers to have completely
levelled the position. It seemed that
with the light-squared bishop at
tacked, 34 i. e4-d5 would occur,
when after 34 . . . i. bl xc2 35 i.d5xc4
Black would have 35 . . .tDc5-d3+,

eliminating White ' s advantage of

the two bishops (which will be dis
cussed later) and increasing the pros
pect of a draw.
The players started the game with
j ust 30 minutes to make all of their
moves, and by this stage of the pro
ceedings the final few minutes were
fast approaching. All the more im
pressive, then, that the talented Indian
Grandmaster was able to provide the
audience with the astonishing:
34 i.e4xb7! !
We have seen several times al
ready just how inadequate knights
are at stopping rooks' pawns . This
clever tactic highlights the point
once again. The bishop cannot be
taken in view of 35 a5-a6 when nei
ther the knight, the king nor the
bishop (due to the obstructing pres
ence of the c2-pawn) is able to catch
the a-pawn.
However, whether or not White' s
bishop is taken, a5-a6-a7-a8 'ii' re
mains a very strong threat which, un
fortunately for Black, 34 . . . i. bl xc2
does nothing to curtail.
34 ...
35 i.el-b4!
Absolutely relentless ! Now White
demonstrates that the knight is not
only useless in this particular situ
ation, it may even be detrimental.
Now after 35 . . . tb c5xb7 36 a5-a6
9i;d7-c7 37 a6-a7 the knight is on the
square which the black king needs to
get to.
36 i.b7-d5

68 The Soldiers

37 c2-c3
This leaves White with two strong
connected passed pawns against one
isolated pawn on the queenside, al
though it must be said that Black's
position is hopeless whatever hap
38 c3xb4
39 'iii> f2-e3
Adequately watching over the c
pawn (Black's only hope).
39 ...
40 i.d5-f3
Actually this retreat is not strictly
necessary as 40 a5-a6 begins an un
stoppable sprint for home.
40 ...
Only after this move does Black
notice that White's bishop controls
the light squares along the h l -a8 di
agonal, thus guaranteeing the pro
motion of the a-pawn. Black should
rush back directly with 40 . . . d6-c7,
hoping for 41 a5-a6? ! c7-b6 with a
blockade. White is still winning if he
allows this, but 41 b4-b5 instead, in
tending b5-b6+ followed by a5-a6a7, is easier.
41 a5-a6

the majority of the game. It was this

consistent flaw which led me in
Opening Play to suggest the princi
ple ' Think of your rooks ' . B asically
I suggested that one should always
seek to generate a pawn break quite
early so that at least one open or half
open file could become available for
one's rooks. Players are often satis
fied with just moving them to and fro
without necessarily improving the
piece. Inevitably these ' five-point
power blocks' tend to remain on the
board longer than other pieces, ex
plaining why rooks figure promi
nently in many endings.
Let us start at the beginning:

1 2) A lecture on Rook
and Pawn Endgames

In these situations of rook and

pawn vs rook, when the pawn in
question is a rook's pawn or a
knight's pawn (i.e. on the h-, g-, a- or
b-file) Black can draw by keeping
his rook 'passive' on the back rank.
1 .l:ta7-g7+
This is the correct choice despite
the irrational phobia many seem to
have about placing their king in the

I thought that this type of endgame

deserved at least one section of its
own because the subject is so impor
tant. Probably the most common
characteristic which I have observed
at beginner's level is the way rooks
are left comparatively redundant for

The Soldiers 69

comer. In fact, rather than panicking

about being checkmated, the fact
that the king is trapped is good for
the defender because in some cases it
in troduces the possibility of stale
After 1 . . . g8-f8 ? 2 h6-h7 the
bl ack king will soon be flushed out,
cle aring the path for the pawn to pro
2 ltg7 -h7+
While the black rook remains on
the back rank White can make no
3 lth7-a7
The suicidal 3 g6-g7 ?? allows
3 . J:b8-b6+ winning White's rook.
. .



By the way, the fact that the pawn

is on the 6th rank already makes no
difference to the assessment of the
position as drawn. White does not
benefit from having the pawn further
The reason why White can make
no progress in the example above is
because he cannot remove the black
king with a check on the rank. While
White is equally powerless with an
a- or h-pawn, a more central pawn
(c-, d-, e- or f-) prevents the same
policy of passive defence. As is illus
trated in the next example, moving
the pawn (and kings) one file to
wards the centre has decisive conse
quences, and Black can no longer
hold the draw:
The slight but critical modifica
tion of the position leaves White

with a useful file with which to at

tack the enemy king.
With White to play the win is triv
ial: 1 lta7-h7 (threatening mate)
l . . . f8-g8 2 f6-f7+, etc. With Black
to play White still wins, but the cor
rect strategy must be demonstrated.
The only try. We will soon see
why it is frequently important for the
defender to maximise the activity of
his rook. Unfortunately for Black
1 . . J b8-b l , preparing a barrage of
checks from behind, is impossible
here due to 2 J: a7-a8+. In the pre
vious example the black rook was
content to defend on the back rank,
but here such a placement is unsatis
2 l:.a7-g7+!
If White plays the immediate 2
l:l a7-h7 Black replies 2 . . . l% b8-b6,
forcing White to return the rook and
start again.
Or 2 . . . g8-h8 3 l:l g7-h7+ h8g8 4 f6-f7+ g8-f8 5 l:l h7-h8+, etc.
Note in this line that Black still loses


70 The Soldiers

after 5 l:t h7-h8+ even if his rook

stands on d8 .
3 l:tg7-h7
The purpose of the previous check
is revealed - the threat of 4 l:.h7-h8+
gives Black no time for 3 . . . l:.b8-b6.
4 f6-f7+
White wins.
It is clear then that the cen
tre/bishop 's pawn poses more prob
lems, but it does not mean that
drawing defences are unavailable.
The defender simply has to work
harder and be alert.

king has to zigzag back out of some

checks, the e-pawn will soon achieve
its lifelong ambition.
Notice that 1 f5-f6 ! is the only
winning move. A comparison with
the text reveals why 1 e5-e6? l:. a8al ! and 1 f5-e6? l:t a8-a6+ ! offer
White no more than a draw.
This is the so-called 'Philidor'
technique (or, at least, this move
leads to the famous 'Philidor' posi
tion). Maybe it is not important to re
member famous names, but learning
this key concept is terribly impor
tant. The clever rook move prevents
the white king from making a threat
ening advance (e.g. 2 f5-f6), thus
encouraging White's next move.
2 e5-e6
The only try. Even if the white
rook could manoeuvre to d6 in order
to facilitate the progression of the
king to the 6th rank, Black could
trade rooks and enter a drawn king
and pawn vs king ending.
Once again Black must react rap
idly. 2 . . . l:.a6-a5+? 3 5-f6 is clearly
bad for Black; nor is 2 . . . l:. a6-c6? 3
r.i? f5-f6 an improvement, as 3 . . . :. c6c8 4 l:. b7-h7 is final.
The text move is the key to the
whole defensive strategy : checking
from behind. It is logical that the fur
ther the rook moves away from the
enemy king the better, although I
suppose 2 . . . .l:. a6-a2 (even a3 or a4)
would be OK, too.
3 f5-f6


White's king and pawn have been

shifted back one rank which leaves
Black, to play, an opportunity to im
pede White's progress.
With White to play in the above
position the winning process starts
with 1 f5-f6 ! , when the black rook
is once again tied to passive duties,
e.g. 1 . . . l:ta8-al (attempting to defend
as in the text) 2 l:.b7-b8+ e8-d7 3
e5-e6+ cJi> d7-d6 4 l:tb8-d8+ d6-c7
5 e6-e7 and whether or not the white

The Soldiers 71

Mate is threatened, but will we

see Black stopping this with 3 . . . : at
Absolutely not! The black rook
now proceeds to make its presence
felt with a series of checks designed
to deny the white king an effective
po st.
4 f6-e5
Not necessary, but why not?
5 e5-d6
6 d6-e5
The white king will have to retreat
a long way to escape the checks, af
ter which Black can attack and win
the white pawn.
.. .

From what we have seen so far it

would appear that as long as he has
time to get organised the defender
can often survive when a pawn
down. However, all of these exam
ples have assumed the defender's
king can blockade the queening
square. If this is not possible defend
ing is far more demanding:

Compared with before the black

king no longer obstructs the pawn;
indeed White's rook is doing a good
j ob of cutting it off. Consequently
Black's rook has twice as much work
to do if the pawn is to be prevented
from promoting. Clearly the pawn is
able to advance, so Black's only
hope is that the white king which
supports the pawn may eventually
get stuck in front of it.
1 g6-h6
The pawn will advance whoever
moves first.
2 h6-g7
Black may keep his rook on the hfile, which comes to the same thing.
3 g5-g6
4 i;;t>g7-g8
5 g6-g7
:gt-bl (D)

Black's last stand. White's pawn

is so near to being promoted, yet apparently - so far. Should Black re
quire any waiting moves he simply
oscillates his rook between h 1 and
h3 (or h2 if it becomes available) .

72 The Soldiers

While his rook keeps the white king

off the h-file, Black's king aims to
trap it from the other side. One solu
tion for White would be 1 l:tf2-i2-i7h7, a manoeuvre which is only flawed
by the absence of this 9th file ! Am I
being silly? Yes, but this does dem
onstrate that such a simple plan wins
when all the pieces are moved a file
or two to the left.
As the position is, White must
search for another idea, and 1 l:tf2a2-a7 + is not it because then Black
would play . . . 'it> e7-e8 , which leaves
White no better off. Clearly the an
swer must involve checking the
black king away from the e-file.
Of course the winning process is
not quite so straightforward, I will
now introduce to you the all-impor
tant technique required in this so
called 'Lucena' position (in case it
comes up in Trivial Pursuit or your
local pub quiz machine - both of
these positions are named after fa
mous players).
1 l:tf2-e2+
2 l:te2-e4!
The key move. The problem with
the immediate 2 'iti>g8-f7 can be seen
in the line 2 . . . l:th l -fl + 3 f7-g6
l:t fl - g l + 4 'iti> g6-f6 l:t g l -f l + 5 f6e5 l:tfl-gl 6 'iii> e5-f6 l:tgl -fl +, etc.
Clearly White's king and pawn
both need protection, and this is pro
vided by the text. Known as 'build
ing a bridge' , the rook is able to offer
cover while simultaneously cutting
off the enemy king.

3 g8-t7
4 'iftt7-g6
5 'i!rg6-f6
The checking sequence cannot
be maintained for very long, for ex
ample 5 . . . l:t g2-f2+ 6 'it>f6-g5 l:.f2g2+ 7 l:.e4-g4.
Taking into consideration the
way White now applies the finishing
touch, I suppose Black could try
5 . . . 'ift d7-d6, hoping for 6 l:.e4-e5 ?
.:r. gl xg7 with a draw. Better is 6 .i::.e4e6+ ( 6 l:te4-d4+, forcing the king
even further away, also looks good)
which transposes to the text in the
event of 6 . . . d6-d7 7 l:.e6-e5, while
6 . . . 'it>d6-d5 7 l:.e6-e5+ (or 7 l:.e6-e8)
7 . . . 'ito>d5-d6 8 l:te5-g5 also wins.
6 l:.e4-e5
White wins. The decisive l:.e5-g5
is coming soon.
I hope that the reader will have
gathered from these lines that, al
though these techniques (Philidor's
and Lucena' s) are important, once
you know and understand them there
is always more than one way to dem
onstrate the win or the draw. In other
words, there is no need to learn all of
these moves by heart when memo
rising a few of the general principles
will prove equally valuable. Any
way, just to be sure, a revision test is
rapidly approaching.
First let us have a look at some
more endings with pawns, still con
cerning ourselves with the theme of
one side having a material advan
tage . Something which should be

The Soldiers 73

evident by now is that if you have to

be a pawn down the chances are that
a rook and pawn ending holds the
best prospects of saving the game. It
is true that opposite-coloured bishop
endings - which we will look at later
- are often drawish, but these are
more difficult to arrange.
The phrase ' all rook endings are
drawn' is popular. Of course it is not
exactly true, but the inference is
there. Active rooks can work won
There is no doubt that the simple
king and pawn ending below is win
ning for White.

However, if a pair of pieces could

be added Black would be wise to
choose rooks. Then the resulting
ending is a theoretical draw, though
Black has to work for it, 1 . ..h7-h5!
being the correct way to start. The
logic behind this is simple and is
based on White's having to create a
passed pawn. For the e-pawn to
come to e6 it needs the support of
the f-pawn (f2-f4-f5), which in turn

needs the support of the g-pawn (g3g4), which (and here we see the point
of l . . .h7-h5) means h2-h3 is neces
sary to set the whole operation in
motion ! Throughout we have stuck
with the policy of ' when material
down - exchange pawns and not
pieces ' and this is Black's aim with
l . . .h7-h5. In conclusion, we know
that with a well-placed king Black
can draw a rook and pawn vs rook
situation, and this fact forms the
foundation of Black's defence.
Believe it or not, there are open
ing variations which are analysed
so deeply that Black works on the
grounds that even if White makes the
'best' moves, then a rook and four
pawns vs rook and three pawns end
ing (with the pawns on the same side
of the board) is the best the first
player can hope for. This is why, as
suming the endgame is defended
with a certain degree of accuracy, a
draw is practically prepared from the
opening (remember that in high
level chess, having the white pieces
is considered to be a significant ad
Admittedly it is naive to suggest
that White could only win by creat
ing a passed e-pawn as detailed
above. A more sensible winning at
tempt and the correct defence will be
illustrated after Question Time:
Q. With Black to play in the posi
tion below, how would you continue?
A. I like to think that the reader
would have recognised this as a vari
ation from 'Philidor's position ' and

74 The Soldiers

would have chosen the preventative

1 ...!. This prevents the ad
vance of the white king, and after 2
f5-f6 Black could return his rook
with 2 .. J:f.a6-al, preparing to harass
the enemy king with plenty of check
ing from behind. If you recall, the
king would like to hide in front of
its own pawn, but once the pawn
reaches f6 this is not possible.
Anyway, now is the time to tell
you that there is a more sophisticated
drawing technique:
1 ...
I know what you are thinking. I
have shown you a simple method al
ready, so why am I confusing the is
The reason is that it is very useful
to know of another approach be
cause when situations of two pawns
vs one pawn are reduced there is not
always sufficient time to arrange our
preferred defence.
The text monitors the passed
pawn immediately, though it should
be noted that this move is not critical
yet. Also acceptable are the flexible

waiting moves l ... and 1

c 1, but not 1 . . . l1al-gl +? ! 2 g5-f6,
which is awkward for Black, nor
1 . . . l: al -a5?, which runs into 2 g5g6 ! .
2 g5-g6
A waiting move. White is not ac
tually threatening anything, for ex
ample 3 ftb7-b8+ f8-e7 and the
advance of the f-pawn is covered.
3 g6-f6
Definitely the trickiest continu
ation. 3 f5-f6 threatens checkmate
but 3 . . . l: f2-g2+ (the first of many)
forces a draw. After 3 g6-f6 Black
has a critical 50/50 decision to make.
His king must move, but should it go
to the 'short' side of the pawn (the
side with the fewer files) or the
'long' side?
3 ...
Which did you choose and what
was your reasoning? The logic be
hind the text will soon become clear,
but I would suggest that the main
reason why players select (incor
rectly) 3 . . . f8-e8? is, once again,
the slightly irrational fear of being
checkmated in the corner.
4 l:tb7-b8+ g8-h7
5 ltb8-f8!
A clever move. In response to 5
f6-e6 (preparing f5-f6) Black has
5 . . . h7-g7, but the text has 6 f6-e7
in mind.
5 ...
Now we see how Black was justi
fied in choosing the short side for his
king - his rook has plenty of room to
give the enemy king some sideways

The Soldiers 75

checks on the ranks, which is not

possible with the black king in the
way on d7 .
6 l:f8-e8
White's last move left him ready
to block the checks but took the rook
away from the support of the f-pawn,
hence the return of Black's rook to
the f-file.
7 l:e8-e7+
l:f2-fl (D)
8 '/J.e7-a7
5 .l:f.f8-e8+ with 6 l:.e8-e7 complet
ing a nice manoeuvre.
At the moment the black rook is
passively placed, so the best way to
start the defence is to improve this
Immobilising (temporarily) the
white pawns.
2 l:b6-b7+
After 2 W g5-h6 (intending 'ifi> h6g7 to target the f7-pawn), Black
should switch his rook to another ac
tive post with 2 . . . l:c5-c l ! . Then, af
ter 3 l: b6-b7+ e7-f8 4 f4-f5 Black
must separate the white king and
pawns with 4 . . . l:c l -gl ! , e.g. 5 l: b7b8+ f8-e7 6 f5-f6+ e7-e6 7 l:lb8e8+ <Jr> e6-f5 8 l: e8-e7 l:l gl -g6+ 9
h6-h7 l: g6-g5 10 l:e7xf7 (or 10
e5-e6 'it>f5xf6 ! ) 10 ... 'it>fSxeS 1 1 l:lf7g7 e5xf6 (illustrating why Black's
rook went to g5) leading to an instant
3 f4-f5
3 'it> g5-f6 l:c5-c6+ drives the king

White has made no progress.

Expanding further, take a look at
the following situation. The position
may have arisen from a 4 vs 3, a 3 vs
2 or these may have been the only
kingside pawns on the board for
some time. Whatever the case Black
must be careful, and it is not practi
cal to wait for a rook and pawn vs
rook position to develop.
White is winning if he has the
move. 1 f4-f5 threatens (after 1 .. Jk7a7, for example) not the basic 2 e5e6? but rather 2 f5-f6+ e7-e8 3
l: b6-b8+ e8-d7 4 l: b8-f8 'it>d7-e6

76 The Soldiers

4 lt>g5-f6
5 l:[b7xt7+
Is this position familiar? Again
the defender makes the correct deci
sion. As we are well aware by now it
is better to put the king on the short
side of the pawn.
6 :t7-a7
As has been demonstrated pre
viously, the position is drawn.
Now it is time to move on to an
other common situation in which
one player has an extra pawn which
is away from the main group . I have
already said that if you have to be a
pawn down, then a rook ending gen
erally offers best chances of survival.
This is illustrated very well in the
following example:

It is vital that the reader under

stands the concept of the active rook.
The above position is a theoretical
draw only because the black rook, in
contrast to its opposite number, is so

White has two main plans:

a) He might try advancing his
pawn to a7 with the intention of
bringing his king up for extra sup
port, hoping to free his awkwardly
placed rook and then promote the
The advantage of this method is
that the black king cannot come out
into the open (e.g . . . . 'it>e6 fails to
l:[ a8-e8+ and a7-a8'ili , and . . . <it> d7
runs into l:[ a8-f8, when . . . .l:. a2xa7
meets with l:[f8xf7+).
Also, however tempting White' s
kingside pawns may b e to the black
rook, even with the white king away
from them they are still safe. Indeed,
it would appear that the defender's
rook must stay behind the a-pawn at
all times, but this is not actually true.
When attacked by White's king the
rook does move along the a-file, but
when the king reaches the b6-square
the active rook checks it away, re
turning to its main task of covering
the a-pawn once the danger has
b) The problem with the previous
winning attempt is obvious. Al
though it is clearly risk-free, White's
rook is just too passive, and when the
pawn is on a7 his king has no cover
from the awkward checks . If White
is to mount a serious challenge he
must leave his pawn on a6. This
leaves the vital a7-square for the
king so that, with the pawn on a6,
king on a7 and rook on a8 White has
a manoeuvre such as .l:.a8-b8, : b8b6, a8-b7, a6-a7 and a7-a8'ik .

The Soldiers 77

Black cannot afford to sit back

and watch this happen. His king is
fairly restricted because once it ven
tures too far into the open White can
push the a-pawn and bring the rook
out of the corner with tempo. But
there is hope for Black, for with the
pawn still on the 6th rank White's
kingside pawns are no longer im
mune. As soon as White's king jour
neys over to the queenside the black
rook should attack these pawns be
cause it is inevitable that it will be
forced to give itself up for the a
pawn. If White changes his mind and
plays a6-a7 before his plan can be
properly implemented, then Black
can always return his rook to the a
file as in 'a' . A very interesting situ
ation may arise - by the time Black
has been forced to give up his rook
he may have two or three connected
passed pawns on the kings ide, and
with White's king far away on the
other side of the board a spectacular
race could occur. This would be very
exciting, but I would rather have the
pawns !
In other words, Black has winning
chances if White becomes unjustifi
ably ambitious. Looking at our origi
nal position this may seem a little
outrageous, but it does demonstrate
the problems involved with over-rat
ing a passed pawn when the accom
panying rook is passive. I have often
seen White lose such positions when
Black has a pawn added (e.g. on e6).
In such a situation Black really has
the better chances . Ironically, we

know that White could then carry out

an active defence without the a
pawn, but if it is there and White is
pre-occupied with it then he can eas
ily end up neglecting his defensive
duties, allowing his opponent to ad
vance (king and pawns) with disas
trous consequences.
With the positions of the rooks re
versed, as in the diagram below, the
situation changes:

1 l:.d4-a4!
Adhering to the principle of plac
ing rooks behind passed pawns, and
We reach a position from the fa
mous game Alekhine-Capablanca,
Buenos Aires Wch (34) 1927.
Black is blockading the a-pawn
passively with his rook while his
king holds its ground in the centre .
White's main winning plan revolves
around forcing the black king to
commit itself one way or the other.

78 The Soldiers

White can then concentrate on at

tacking on the side of the board
which is neglected.
2 e3-d3
3 'it>d3-c3
4 l:ta4-a2!
Demonstrating one of the chief
advantages of having the rook in a
more active position. Really the text
is just a waiting move, White know
ing that Black cannot do the same,
because the white a-pawn will ad
vance if the black rook leaves a6 .
Frustrating for Black is the fact that
even when his king attacks the a
pawn he will be unable to capture it
since this leads to a lost king and
pawn ending.
A decision has to be made. On
4 . . . 'it>c5-d5 White goes the other way
with 5 c3-b4, answering 5 . . . d5 c6 with 6 b4-c4, when White has
progressed a rank further.
5 c3-d4
5 . . . l:. a6xa5 6 l:t a2xa5+ b5xa5 7
'it> d4-e5 only leaves Black's remain
ing pawns at the mercy of White's
king. Instead Black tries to activate
his rook, electing to blockade with
the king.
6 'it>d4-e5
7 e5-f4
8 'it>f4-g5
9 g5-h6
10 'it>h6-g7
Actually this was not played in
the game (Alekhine chose 10 f'2-f4),
but it is a more consistent approach.
10 ...

The only move which avoids los

ing a pawn or the advance of the a
11 l'ta2-d2!
With White's own king perfectly
placed he can now sacrifice his a
pawn in search of new targets on the
kingside. The threat is l:. d2-d6+ fol
lowed by l:.d6-f6, when Black will
lose pawns whether or not he ex
changes rooks.
12 l:td2-d5+
White's idea is the same after
1 2 . . . a5-b6 ( 1 3 l:t d5-d6+ and 1 4
13 J:.d5-d4+
14 .l:.d4-f4
White will win enough of Black's
pawns to secure victory.

OK, as a temporary refresher let

us have a brief look at the following

Whoever has the move it is clear

that White has no trouble winning.
He just advances his f-pawn which

The Soldiers 79

is, in fact, immune to capture. Be

cause of our now familiar skewer
trick we know that the black king can
venture neither to the 6th rank (al
lowing a deadly check) nor to the f
file ( . . . 1il g7-f7 , l:t a8-h8 ! ). The black
rook must remain behind the a
pawn, so the f-pawn advances unhin
However, the game is drawn with
the pawn on g2 or h2 instead, as the
black king's only safe squares are g7
and h7 . To try to make any progress
White would have to jettison his a
pawn in order to activate his rook,
but even then Black is fine (as illus
trated earlier).
Drawing some conclusions from
our examples I would say that if it
is not possible to support an extra
passed pawn from behind, then pro
tecting it from the side is still better
than from the front because the rook
is free to perform other functions
elsewhere. However, the only effec
tive place for the defender's rook is
behind the passed pawn, and it is
this sort of activity which offers draw
ing chances that would simply not
exist in an equivalent minor-piece
With all this in mind I would like
to offer a piece of advice that does
seem to contradict many players'
natural defensive inclinations: when
a pawn up in a rook and pawn end
ing it is better to have two extra
pawns on one side and one fewer on
the other than it is to have only one

extra on one side while being level

on the other.
I am well aware that certain play
ers prefer the 'safety ' of just one ex
tra pawn on one side, but we have
seen how one solitary pawn is not
such a threat when an enemy rook
gets behind it (which is often the
case). Two connected passed pawns,
on the other hand, are for more diffi
cult for a rook to handle.
The following position should be
easy for Black:

The white rook finds itself pas

sively placed, while the black pawns
provide the cover required to prevent
any nasty white checks. Black's plan
has nothing to do with trying to win
the a-pawn but everything to do with
advancing on the kingside to trouble
the white king. Here is a sample con
1 a6-a7
White cannot even dream of get
ting his king up to help his a-pawn Black's pawns are too fast. Of course
the text move restricts White's rook,

80 The Soldiers

but at least it presents Black with op

portunities to make a mistake (e.g.
l . . . f6-e5 ?? 2 lt a8-e8+ wins for
1 ...
2 'it>f2-g2
As the white king is well placed to
draw a king and pawn vs king posi
tion, he would dearly love to trade
his a-pawn for either of the black
pawns. Note that 2 .l:ta8-f8 is not pos
sible as 2 .. J !a3xa7 defends the f7pawn.
3 g2-f2
4 fl-gl
There is no reason whatsoever for
Black to want to play 4 . . . f7-f6?, but
he should avoid such a move anyway
because White then has 5 l:.a8-f8 .
5 .:l.a8-b8
White is forced to concede that,
with the crushing . . . 'iii>f4-f3 and . . . g4g3 threatened, he must give up his
pawn for nothing in order to give his
rook much needed defensive duties.
Defeat is still inevitable.
Black is free to advance his king
and pawns at leisure.
6 l:.b8-b4+
7 'it>gl-g2
8 .:l.b4-b8
Cruelly confining the king to the
back rank as 9 g2-g3 f5-f4+ is mate !

9 'it>g2-gl
10 .l:.b8-h8
Hoping to stop . . . <t> g5-h4-g3, but
there are several other methods of
1 1 .l:.h8-b8
12 l:tb8-b4+
13 .l:.b4-bl
Engaging in the same winning
manoeuvre as we saw earlier, but this
time with an extra pawn. At the very
least the g-pawn has provided shelter
from what would normally be irritat
ing checks from behind.
14 <t>gl-fi
15 'it>fi-gl
Black wins.
The above was a simplified ver
sion with a basic 1 pawn against 2
situation. Nevertheless my argument
remains the same. If the attacker has
a 4 vs 2 pawn maj ority on the king
side, then it is reasonable to assume
that he will be able to generate two
connected passed pawns . Mean
while, the opponent's 2 vs 1 queen
side pawn majority will only reduce
to a comparatively harmless single
passed pawn, and this is only a prob
lem in the unlikely event of the de
fender managing to get his rook
behind it, ultimately forcing the at
tacker's rook to a passive position.

Stren gths and Weaknesses

1 3) Weak pawns and

The number 13, unlucky for some
and rather difficult for me too as
these are not the easiest subj ects to
deal with.
Various pawn structures have al
ready been discussed, including the
difference between apparently strong
connected pawns and notoriously
weaker isolated pawns. What is clear
is that when two pawns are together,
they at least have the ability to look
after each other. I would suggest that
it is not simply the fact that a pawn
is isolated that makes it weak, but
rather the resources often required to
defend it. We have seen how it is far
better to have active pieces, but as it
is not always possible to casually
give up pawns, having weak pawns
often means obliging pieces to look
after them. Worse still is when pieces
are driven to clearly poor posts in or
der to fulfil this passive role.
When we use the word ' infiltra
tion' in chess, generally this refers to
a kind of invasion into enemy terri
tory. Probably the most common is
the placing of a rook or two on the
7th rank thanks to the domination of
an open file. But remember that the
king can be used actively, too. lndee.d,

when the king is being centralised

there is always the possibility of in
In most general middlegame text
books the isolated pawn (particu
larly the d-pawn) is investigated. The
fact that many top grandmasters are
content to have an isolated d-pawn
when they also have lots of pieces is
a testament to its attacking potential.
But when an endgame arrives the
situation changes for the worse.

In this position the d5-pawn

threatens to become a burden for
Black unless he manages to create
some activity for himself. Black has
two major worries. First there is a
real danger that the white rooks will
infiltrate after 1 l: a l -c l (intending
l:c 1 -c7). Secondly White could sim
ply focus his attention on the d-pawn

82 Strengths and Weaknesses

with the doubling up of his rooks on

the d-file. Note here how the d4square is extremely well covered by
White (indeed we are often told to
blockade isolated pawns), rendering
the simplifying . . . d5-d4 virtually im
White's doubling, with one rook
on d4, is bad news for Black's d
pawn. If Black relies on his two
rooks to defend it (getting his king to
e6 takes too much time), then unless
they both manage to do so from the
side, a later e3-e4 break will utilise
the pin on the d-file to win the pawn.
So, which of these two options
should White choose? I suppose I
would combine domination of the c
file with bringing the king to d4, but
others may play differently.
In his book My 60 Memorable
Games, ex-World Champion B obby
Fischer gives three games against
another ex-World Champion, Tigran
Petrosian. Since the following game
was played after he had written this
book, we can only speculate whether
it would have been memorable
enough to be included in a follow-up
volume, or whether it was just an
other day at the office.
After 15 moves of play the mate
rial situation is still level but the po
sition is far from balanced. Black has
two isolated pawns, which Fischer is
hoping to expose as genuine weak
nesses, whereas White's two pawn
islands are very solid. White can deal
with any counterplay on the half-open
b-file with b2-b3 (since the b-pawn

Fischer - Petrosian
Buenos Aires Ct (7) 1971

is not alone it can rely on the a2pawn for support). Black's pieces are
tied down to protecting the two weak
pawns which means that he will have
trouble keeping White's pieces at a
distance. Of the two open files it is
the c-file which is the more inviting,
although Black must keep an eye on
the e-file, too, as White already has a
rook there.
16 .ie3-c5
White's knight on the rim is not
too dim, with the text clearing the
way for a safe passage into c5 . Al
though the immediate 16 : al-c l is
also reasonable, the text has the ad
vantage of forcing the exchange of
Black's best minor piece, his dark
squared bishop. Black has several
holes in his position, and with ex
change the weaknesses become more
We must also remember that
White is the one with a potential out
side passed pawn thanks to his 2 vs 1

Strengths and Weaknesses 83

majority, so Black could be in big

trouble in anything except a rook
17 j.c5xe7
18 b2-b4
19 tt:Ja4-c5
A necessary retreat to add further
protection to the twice-attacked a
pawn. White should now refrain
from exchanging rooks immediately
since this would allow the enemy
king to come over to the centre.
20 t'2-f3
21 l:r.el-e5
The first hint of the coming inva
sion. White exerts pressure on the
d5-pawn while toying with the idea
of doubling rooks on the e-file.
22 tLlc5xd7+ l:.a7xd7
Black 's light-squared bishop was
hardly that threatening, but White
gave up his well-placed knight in or
der to clear the c-file.
23 ...
As well as the nice tactic 24
j.d3xa6 l:.a8xa6 25 l:.c l -c8+, White
also had the simple l:. c l -c6 in mind.
The text prevents both of these but
gives White's rook an entry point on
the inviting 7th rank.
24 l:.c1-c7
Practically forced due to the threat
ened 25 l:t e5-e7 . Black has tempo
rarily managed to keep White at bay,
but now all of his pieces are passive.
25 l:.e5-e2
26 liPgl-t'2

27 f3-f4
Note how both the b4- and f4pawns nicely complement White's
light-squared bishop . Only the king
is not doing very much, but Bobby
has a plan to change that. One idea is
an infiltration of the king with liP f2g3-h4-g5, when f4-f5 may follow.
27 ...
Denying White access. However,
Black's pieces are in such a mess that
White has enough time to find a suit
able square for his king.
28 t'2-f3
f7-f5 (D)

29 f3-e3
This move is practically forced as
Black cannot allow White to post his
king on d4, from where it has easy
access to either side of the board.
The text does vacate the d5-square
for potential occupation by the
knight but, unfortunately for Black,
it has also widened the scope of
White's bishop.
30 e3-d2
During the last few moves Black
has pushed pawns as his pieces have


Strengths and Weaknesses

been unable to leave their (passive)

positions. Black's previous conces
sion presented White with the plan
of d3-c4 and .l:. e2-e6, so Black
sends the knight to the d5-square .
However, White's next highlights
the drawback of this knight sortie.
31 .l:.e2-e7!
Infiltration !
32 l:te7-t7+
33 .l:.c7-b7
34 i.d3-c4
White's pieces are incredibly well
co-ordinated. A possible finish is a
'lawnmower' checkmate : 34 . . . .l:. a8c8 35 .l:. f7-h7 li d6-f6 36 .l:. h7-h8+
li f6-f8 37 .i. c4-f7+ 'it> e8-d8 38
It is worth remembering that the
characteristics of pawn structures
can be used to aid in rook infiltra
tions, as the following example illus

The position is completely sym

metrical, but we can establish that

whoever is to move has a big advan

The two open files are very im
portant, but since all possible entry
points on the e-file are protected it is
clear that it is the c-file which has
more significance.
With White to play a typical mis
take is 1 .l:.clxc8? as this gives this
invaluable line to Black, while White
is unable to profit from occupation
of the e-file. Also unsuccessful is 1
lielxeS. This move, which hopes for
1 . . . lic8xe8? (or 1 . .. t7xe8 ?? for that
matter), runs into 1 . . . li c8xc l ! , when
both rooks are active and a draw is
the likely outcome.
White has an excellent alternative
in 1 :cl-c5! (with Black to move he
should play 1 . . . .l:. c8-c4 !). Two en
emy pawns are attacked and White
threatens to double on, and take con
trol of, the c-file. The point is that if
Black exchanges rooks now with
1 . . . .l:. c8xc5 , then 2 d4xc5 improves
White 's pawn structure. An isolated
pawn will have become a supported
passed pawn, which bodes well for
White in a king and pawn ending.
Consequently Black would then be
forced to concede the e-file, leaving
him very passive.
The following encounter is one of
my favourites. My opponent is a very
amicable guy, but he had not played
too ambitiously and with 16 f2-f4 he
made his second draw offer.
Many players may think that
Black is worse here because he has

Strengths and Weaknesses 85

18 b2-b3
And now the same goes for the
safety of Black's a-pawn, for White
no longer has the option of bringing
a rook in front of the a2-pawn.
19 gl-f2
Intending 20 . . . a5-a4. Black is
happy to offer this pawn if it means
an infiltration of his rooks down the
b-file may be possible. Of course
White does not have to break his
pawns by capturing on a4, but a
timely . . . a4xb3 will still leave White
with weaknesses on the queenside.
20 a2-a4
White puts a stop to Black's plan
with an ugly-looking move. Note
that the a5-pawn is still isolated, but
no enemy minor pieces can attack it.
The b3-pawn will continue to be a
worry for White, who will find it dif
ficult to manoeuvre his knight to b5,
where it would effectively seal off
the b-file.
21 i.e2-f3
Throughout this game Black takes
advantage of the fact that he has not
moved his d-pawn to great effect.
There may be some moving back
wards and forwards, but nobody is
perfect. With the text Black plans to
infiltrate with a rook down the d-file.
22 i.f3xa8
23 f2-e2
24 :n-cl
White anticipates the arrival of the
black rook to d3, making sure that it
will not be allowed to c3 and then c2.

J. Fries Nielsen Ward
Copenhagen Open 1994

doubled f-pawns and two isolated

rook's pawns. However, the rest of
the game shows this to be a some
what simplistic view. For the mo
ment though, let me say that Black
has compensation for his structural
damage in the form of two very use
ful half-open files.
Clearly there is no point in cas
tling as the king wants to be in the
centre for this ending. Obviously this
is because kings need to be central
ised, but also Black would prefer to
protect his d-pawn with his king
rather than tie down any other piece
in the event of White doubling rooks
on the d-file.
17 g2-g3
White considered this necessary
to avoid any problems on g2 (e.g.
1 7 ... ll:ic6-d4). However, Black now
knows that his h-pawn is safe from a
.l:f.fl-f3-h3 manoeuvre.
17 ...

86 Strengths and Weaknesses

26 lZJd2-f3
Seeing that White was getting
ready with 27 l:.c 1 -d 1 , Black chooses
to retreat and live to fight another
lZJb4-a6 (D)
28 ltbl-b2
The start of a wonderful journey
which takes a while to accomplish
but is nevertheless worth the time
and effort.

32 g3-g4
White decides to take emergency
measures, though this thrust is prac
tically forced since . . . l:t b6-b4 (with
a timely . . . .l:. b4xa4 in mind) and
. . . lZJd6-e4 leaves White struggling to
keep the rooks out.
32 ...
33 f3xg4
With the change to the kingside
formation comes an opportunity for
Black to try a new approach.
34 'iti>g4-f3
35 f3-f2
Anticipating Black's next, which
aims to land a rook on g2.
36 l:tbl-gl
I guess White was anticipating
36 . . . l:tb6-b8, but then 37 l:tc3-c l al
lows White to contest the g-file.
37 f2xgl
Unexpectedly Black returns his
attention to the d-file for what this
time will be a genuine infiltration !
38 lZJd.2-fi
White is forced to concede access
since 38 .l:. c3-c2? fails in view of
38 . . . l:.d6xd2 39 .l:.c2xd2 lZJh4-f3+.
38 ...
Not as nice as the 7th rank, but for
Black the fun is just beginning.
39 gl-f2
40 <i1i>f2-e2
Keeping the rook flexible and
making sure that its opposite number
does not suddenly become active.
41 .l:.c3-d3
42 lZJfi-d.2 (D)
43 e3-e4 ';)

29 lZJf3-d2
Here we see another problem with
having to defend pawns passively
with rooks . Black (coincidentally)
threatened 29 . . . ltb6-b4, when White
cannot defend both the b3-pawn and
29 ...
30 l:tb2-b l
If White had not found the knight's
planned final destination before, he
does now. The knight is heading for
31 e2-f3

Strengths and Weaknesses 87

It may seem silly of White to give

up a pawn when he does not get any
real piece activity to compensate.
However a close inspection reveals
that the h-pawn is doomed anyway.
Often the final detail of invasion
plans revolves around putting the
opponent in zugzwang, and this is
the case here. After either 43 tiJd2-f3
or 43 tDd2-fl , 43 . . . tDd6-e4 leaves
White lacking a constructive move,
44 l:[ d3-d l being unplayable be
cause of the fork 44 . . . tDe4-c3+.
43 ...
From Black's point of view it is
pleasing to win a pawn while simul
taneously confining the enemy king
to the back rank.
44 e2-dl
45 l:td3-f3
46 e4-e5
47 tiJd2xe4
48 l:tf3-fi
Here comes the king !
49 dl-e2
50 :n-d1
51 1:.dlxd7
52 l:td7 -c7

Black has five isolated pawns and

consequently has no interest in cap
turing the e5-pawn. Instead it is now
his active king which wins the day.
53 i;t;>e2-dl
White finally puts an end to his
suffering. He knows that he is in real
danger of being mated and correctly
sees no point in trying to put up any
resistance. The game could have
ended thus: 54 1:.c7xc5 e3-d3 55
d l -c l e4-e3 56 .:.c5-c8 e3-e2.

1 4) Pawn less Endings

"No pawns?" I hear you ask, "And
just how likely is that?". Well, let me
tell you a story . . .
Once upon a time i n the tourna
ment where I achieved my first ever
grandmaster norm, after 62 moves
and 6 hours' play, I found myself (as
Black) in the following rather unique

Savchenko - Ward
Bern Open 1 993

88 Strengths and Weaknesses

I knew the theory regarding single

and double combinations of pieces
(a summary will follow), but of two
rooks and bishop vs rook, bishop and
knight I had no idea. I had never
reached anything like this combina
tion of pieces before and it is un
likely that I ever will again !
My gut feeling was that, only an
exchange down, I should be able to
hold on for the draw. However, not
least because I was playing a tough
Russian, I expected having to utilise
the 50 move rule (a draw can be
claimed if 50 moves pass without a
pawn move or a capture).
As the game progressed and we
entered the 'quickplay finish' phase,
I became more and more concerned
about the amount of pressure I was
being put under. Soon we both en
tered our last five minutes on the
clock and I was faced with a di
lemma. S hould I continue to write
down the moves for when the re
quired 50 moves have been played,
or should I j ust get on with it and
earn the draw in the 'blitz ' ? I opted
for the latter when I realised that,
when approaching the 50, my oppo
nent could perhaps exchange rooks
which would mean having to start
counting all over again !
In fact he brought his king up to
add extra weight to the attack and,
just when I thought I was in trouble, I
managed to turn the game around
and (believe it or not) it was his king
that was nearly mated, the final re
sult being a draw.

Have no fear - I am not about to

launch into an in-depth study of this
freak endgame. Even now I am not
entirely sure about it and I have never
seen it in any books.
Instead I would like to briefly
cover the other, far more common,
possibilities which readers would do
well to understand and remember.
Such knowledge is crucial when we
consider the importance of any re
maining pawns in an ending: "Can I
let my last pawn go and still expect
to win or if I sacrifice my knight for
his last pawn, is it not a theoretical
Queen vs Rook or Two Minor

The queen against rook situation is

one which many players hope to deal
with if and when it ever arises in a
game. The novice's view of an out
come ranges from an easy win to a
draw. Although at top level a resig
nation would not be out of the ques
tion, the truth is somewhere in the
If you ever try to win a king and
queen vs a king and bishop (or knight)
ending, it is a fairly trivial procedure
and can be achieved almost as if the
minor piece is not there at all.
With a rook this is not the case;
essentially the technique revolves
around luring the defender's rook
away from its king. Although I sus
pect that there are a number of ways
to go about winning, I would like to

Strengths and Weaknesses 89

bring to your attention some of the


move is actually his only one, be

cause 7 'ifc3-el# is threatened and
6 . . l:t a2-e2 loses the rook to the fork
7 'fic3-d3+. Remember it is this part
ing of king and rook that tends to
spell doom and gloom for the de
6 ...
7 b3xa3
The game is drawn.

Obviously in order to achieve vic

tory, the attacker will need to ap
proach the enemy king with both his
queen and king. However, the care
needed when bringing the queen in
close is highlighted above in a posi
tion which is already drawn ! The big
problem comes in the form of 'stale
mate' . White is in check and must
zigzag his king towards the action.
1 'iti>b8-a7
Of course the white king can
never come to the c-file in view of
. . . .:tb2-c2.
2 'iti>a7-b6
3 b6-a5
4 a5-b4
5 b3-a3
6 a3-b3
Either White knows what is com
ing or else he is in for a shock. Either
way it was unavoidable since bring
ing the king to b3 is the only way to
stop perpetual check. Black's next

Note that with the queen on a3,

there would also be stalemate dan
gers, but Black could force nothing.
White need only avoid capturing the
kamikaze rook when it checks on d2.
The reader should appreciate that
the board being symmetrical means
that these examples are applicable in
all four corners of the board, and
generally it is the corners where the
defender will attempt to make his
last stand. The logic behind this is
that there are fewer directions from
which the aggressor can attack.
The attacking solution (i.e. a sim
ple winning method) is to withdraw
the queen a little - still leaving it
monitoring key squares but remov
ing the stalemate problems - and then
bring the king in as illustrated in an
other of Philidor's positions (hope
fully you have not forgotten his
drawing rook and pawn technique
described in section 12).
In the following position White to
play wins by 'triangulating' with the
queen in order to reach the same po
sition with Black to play.
1 'irb5-d5+ g8-h8

90 Strengths and Weaknesses

Black could expect to receive the
same treatment after 4 . . . ..tg8-h7 .
5 'ir'dS-hl+!
Out of our nominated two squares
White is homing in on the former.
5 ...
As seen before, 5 . . . l:t a7-h7 runs
into an effective long diagonal queen
move, 6 'ii'hl-a8 mate !
6 'ji'!
The king and rook are forked just
as intended. By all means try putting
the rook on other squares on the third
move. The principle is the same:
White should be looking, through a
series of checks, to manoeuvre his
queen to a square that performs the
winning 'forking function' .
Although I am not supposed to
bring pawns into this section, the
reader may be interested to learn that
it is possible for a king and rook to
draw against king and queen if the
defender has an accompanying pawn
on the second rank (not on the a- or
h-file) . If the attacking king is kept
on the other side of a rook barrier the
defender can huddle his pieces to
gether and oscillate the rook be
tween the two squares controlled by
the pawn. The pawn should be on the
second rank so that the queen cannot
operate behind it.
As for pawnless endings with a
queen against two minor pieces, I
doubt you will ever reach one, but
here is some help just in case you do.
With queen versus two bishops or
bishop and knight the queen should

2 'ir'd5-hl+ 'it>h8-g8
2 .. J g7-h7 3 'Whl -a8#.
3 'ir'hl-h5
The point is that now the rook is
forced away from the black king. So
where should it go? Logic dictates
that with his king on a light square he
should at least opt for a dark square
in order to reduce straightforward di
agonal forks (e.g. 3 . . . lt g7-g2 4 'ii'h5d5+ ), but the truth is that he will
eventually lose it wherever he goes.
Let us select this move and start
work discovering a forced sequence
which ends in the capture of the
rook. Any 'quiet' move just gives
Black the time to bring the rook back
to his king, so checks are necessary.
Ultimately the crucial check will be
along a rank or file which permits
the queen to simultaneously hit the
rook along a diagonal. The only two
squares that achieve both of these
aims are gl and b8.
4 'ii'h5-d5+
The centre of the board is a good
place to start the process.

Strengths and Weaknesses 91

win unless the defender has time to

organise his forces in such a way that
an impenetrable fortress that can be

6 -e7



Even when the white king ap

proaches it cannot stay long enough
to trouble Black.
The ending of queen versus two
knights is a very curious exception,
since provided the knights are fairly
well co-ordinated, they are able to
keep the queen at bay.
Rook vs B ishop or Knight

Above is one such set-up, with the

black bishop and knight combining
well to prevent the white king from
coming too close.
1 'ii'f5-h5
i.. g7-h8!
The knight controls the g6- and
f7-squares, and the bishop stops
White using the f6-square (as well as
defending the knight). The important
thing from Black's point of view is
that he cannot allow White to disrupt
his blockade. When forced to make a
move, he should either move the
bishop to and from g7 and h8, or do
the same with the king between g8
and h7.
After 1 . . . 'it> g8-f8? White has 2
W h5 -h7 , when Black is forced to
move his knight.
2 e6-e7
i.. h8-g7
3 'ii'h5-h3
i.. g7-h8
4 'ti'h3-c8+ g8-h7
5 e7-t'8

Much earlier it was observed that it

would be impossible to give check
mate with a king and rook against a
king if the defender had the option
simply to 'pass' whenever he so de
sired. It follows that a bishop or a
knight can perform this passing role.
This is generally true, but let us look
at some problems which might oc
cur, starting with the bishop:

Usually there is a greater chance

of trapping a knight than a bishop
because the latter is a long-range

92 Strengths and Weaknesses

piece. The diagram position illus

trates the only problem for the de
fender - when the king is trapped in
the ' wrong' corner.
The winning plan is quite simple
- White aims to give a check on the
back rank which can be met only
by blocking with the bishop. Then
White makes a passing rook move
along the 8th rank, forcing the de
fending king to abandon the bishop.
1 .l:f.c7-cl
Black is lost wherever the light
squared bishop stands, so bl seems
to be the safest. White must remem
ber to keep the black king locked in
its current cage (i.e. with access to a8
and b8 only), and at some point an
attack on the bishop will provide the
tempo which allows the rook to de
liver the deadly check.
Trying to stay hidden. Alterna
tives lose more quickly, e.g. l . .. i. bl
g6 2 .l:f.c l -gl i. g6-f7 3 i. f7-e6
4 .: n -fs+.
2 .:c1-c2
White's intention is to squeeze the
bishop out of the comer and into the
open. 2 . . . i. a2-bl also meets with the
same reply.
3 .:c2-b2
Unfortunately for Black 3 . . . i. b3c4 allows 4 b6-c5+, winning the
4 l:r.b2-e2
5 .:e2-f2
White need not chase the bishop
now as 5 . . . 'it> b8-c8 runs into 6 .l:. f2f8+.

i.d7 -e6
6 .:f2.f8+
7 .:f8-h8
The fact that this move is avail
able may help to explain why this is
the 'wrong' comer. With a king on a8
and a bishop on b8 a passing rook
move leads only to stalemate.
8 .:b8xc8#
Summary: should you succeed in
eliminating your opponent's last
pawn(s) and find yourself defending
a king and rook vs king and bishop
ending, then try to stay in the centre !
If for some reason you are forced
back it is imperative that you head
for one of the two corners with the
squares of opposite colour to your
bishop. Then, claustrophobia aside,
you will have no trouble drawing.


The biggest problem with king

and knight occurs when the two be
come separated. Then, and with an
other emphasis on 'knights on the
rim are dim', there is a real danger of
losing the piece. The following ex
ample is typical.
If White could now magic his
rook to e7 the knight would be lost
immediately, but with the white king
dominating the centre it is only a
matter of time until White catches up
the with the knight. Meanwhile the
black king cannot play any part in
the proceedings.
1 .:r.ct-c8
2 .:c8-g8
3 l:lg8-g5

Strengths and Weaknesses 93

Any other pawn promotion allows

3 . l:. a7-a8#.
3 .
4 g8-f8
The knight has only two squares,
and both are in Black 1 s hands.
4 .



Rook and B ishop/Kn ight vs


And it is goodnight to a bad

knight !
Of course there are some other
rare exceptions, but the only other
significant problem for the defender
concerns knights and their incom
patibility with corners . This is a hint
to help you solve the following:

Q. Black to play. With White's

pawn about to promote, how does
Black win?
A. Easily !
2 g7-g8
3 h7-h8tiJ+

Actually we are only going to take a

look at rook and bishop vs rook. I
have twice had the unenviable task of
trying to win with a rook and knight
against a rook, and twice I made ab
solutely no progress. In fact with a
few exceptions this ending is a draw,
as long as the defender is careful.
As for rook and bishop vs rook, in
recent years this has become a sci
ence of its own. From a 'flat' posi
tion (i.e. without any peculiarities) it
is a theoretical draw, but many
grandmasters - including our own
Nigel Short - have failed to success
fully defend. Despite this I have an
international master friend who be
lieves that it is not possible to win
even from an apparently advanta
geous position. In order to prove him
wrong, and provide an example of
how technical it can be, one instruc
tive study is illustrated below:
White has advanced to an aggres
sive position and his well-placed
bishop provides some useful cover
for the king. Black's king is certainly
uncomfortable on the edge of the
board, but he still has the rook to

94 Strengths and Weaknesses

or not they are capable of defending

a defensible position or of convert
ing a promising one. Generally they
hope to avoid this ending - I have
kept my fingers crossed, and it has
worked so far !

contribute to the defence. White still

has some manoeuvring to do.
1 .:n-d7+
1 . . . d8-c8 loses instantly to 2
.:d7-a7, with mate to follow.
2 .:d7-a7
3 .:a7-f7+
Again the only move, as 3 . . . 'it>f8g8 4 .:f7-f3+ is final.
4 .:f7.f4
The threat was 5 .t d5-c6+ 'it>e8d8 6 .:f4-f8+. The alternative 4 ... .:e3d3 pins the bishop but leaves Black
unable to cope with 5 .:f4-g4 (in
tending 6 .: g4-g8#).
5 .td5-e4
Blocking out the black rook with
the aim of delivering mate with 6
.:f4-f8#. Now Black has no choice
but to transpose to the previous los
ing line.
6 .te4-c6+
7 .l:.f4-f8+
White wins.
Tricky, but do not panic ! Even
professionals worry about whether

If you are interested in learning

the full truth about these pawnless
endings, and the details of how to
win with queen versus rook, or de
fending with rook versus rook and
bishop, I suggest you refer to John
Nunn 's Secrets ofPawnless Endings,
a 320-page tome devoted to this
group of endings !
Two Minor pieces vs King

If you did not know already, two

knights against a bare king is a draw.
Mating positions are possible but to
achieve them in practical play re
quires a great deal of help from the
defending side. Ironically it is a theo
retical win if the defending king is
accompanied by a pawn which has
not advanced too far and which is
blockaded by one of the knights. The
method of achieving victory in
volves using the free knight and king
to drive back the king, calling the
other knight into action later. With
the pawn free to move it is possible
to 'stalemate' the king and then de
liver checkmate before or just as the
pawn promotes. It has already been
calculated where the pawn must be
in order for the win to be possible,
but not only does this extremely

Strengths and Weaknesses 95

complicated ending really exceed

the range of this book, this is also
supposed to be a pawnless section !
Two bishops against a king is
fairly easy and the reader may like to
spend some enjoyable time trying to
give checkmate against a willing vic
tim or computer.
We are left with one other permu
tation which is still rare but, when it
does occur, certainly has a tendency
to cause nightmares . Indeed it was
watching a frustrated individual toil
ing away (while his opponent was
counting the allocated 50 moves)
that led me to learn the mating tech
nique for king, bishop and knight vs
king at quite an early age.
Perhaps it is a little advanced for
this book, but it is nevertheless inter
esting to see how these two minor
pieces combine so well.

Just like completing a Rubik's

Cube there are undoubtedly several
ways to achieve a solution. The start
ing position for mine is as above.
Whichever method is used the reality

is that you can only force checkmate

in the corners which are the same
colour as the bishop. In our example,
although White will be striving to
mate Black in the a8 corner, the h l
corner i s also O K . We start with the
black king in a 'safe' corner with the
last move (.i h7) ensuring that it will
be sent on its way to the other side of
the board. It is not difficult to force
Black back from the middle of the
board to the edge. If the defender is
aware of the s afe and unsafe corners
he will know where to try to hide.
Hence the positioning of the pieces
above. Were they all starting in more
central positions on the back rank,
then our wonderful sequence of two
knight moves, two king moves and
two bishop moves would be picked
up somewhere in the middle.
2 li:if7-e5
Stubbornly refusing to be sent to
the other corner. If the king opts to
run for some open space, then the re
ply is not as mechanical, but never
theless shows some nice points, e.g.
2 . . . e8-d8 3 f6-e6 d8-c7 4 li:ie5d7 c7-c6 and just when the king
thinks it has escaped we see a barrier
formed with 5 .i h7-d3 ! c6-c7 6
.i d3-e4 c7-d8 7 e6-d6 d8-e8 8
.i e4-g6+ e8-d8 9 .i g6-f7 d8-c8
10 li:id7-c5, etc., as in the main text.
3 li:ie5-d7+ -e8
4 6-e6
5 e6-d6
6 .ih7 -g6+ e8-d8
7 .ig6-t7

96 Strengths and Weaknesses

8 ltJd7-c5
9 ltJc5-b7+ d8-c8
10 'itd6-c6
1 1 c6-b6
12 i.f7-e6+
13 i.e6-d7
With an excellent manoeuvre
White has succeeded in caging the
black king in the unsafe corner, and
he now moves in for the kill.
14 ltJb7-c5
15 ltJc5-a6+ b8-a8
16 .i.d7-c6#

A. Perhaps the most instinctive

move here is 1 a8-b7, the logic be
ing that with the black king close to
its pawn, the white rook cannot cope
alone. In this case the white king is
too far away to make an impact, but
there is a standard move here which
wins on the spot: Ufa7-a5! . The aim
of this move is to cut the connection
between the black king and pawn. In
fact the white king now has all the
time in the world to come back be
cause Black is unable to advance his
pawn, e.g. 1 .g4 g3 2 l:.a5-a3 g3-g2
3 .l:.a3-g3. Note that in a couple of
moves White will have to move his
rook along the 5th rank so that his
king can come by on the left of the

1 5) Cutting off the king

Throughout this book, starting with
the first section, I have stressed the
importance of the king 's role in the
endgame. With this in mind it is clear
ti1at it pays to restrict the freedom of
the opponent's king, and a good way
to do this is to put a rook on the 7th
rank - usually hitting a pawn or two
in the process.
Q. What should White, to move,
play in the position below?

Cutting off the king is a useful

concept which the reader would do
well to look out for. I would like to
think that I would not miss such an
opportunity again. I say this because,
in the following critical game, I
needed a win (which I thought I de
served) in order to gain first place in
the tournament. The more I look at it,
the more disappointed I feel that I
was such a fool !
I had actually arrived quite late for
the game because they had moved
the round forward by half an hour,
and the only notification had been
signs in German around the Ham
burg tournament hall ! So I was rather
short of time in the diagram position,
but that is a poor excuse for my
somewhat careless move 74 a2-a4 ? ! .

Strengths and Weaknesses 97

Ward - K.Miiller
Wichern 1 992

Oddly enough, the computer data

base proves that this is actually a
good move (the quickest way to win,
in fact), but only with a very precise
follow-up. From a practical view
point it is a bad decision, for those
without a silicon brain ! Instead, I
would have done far better to play:
74 ltd4-e4!
This move cuts off the enemy
king one file further away than it al
ready is. Play might have continued:
74 ...
Sometimes when the defender's
king is cut off like this it is possible
for him to defend with the rook in
front of the pawn (note this is in con
trast to our usual principle of placing
rooks behind passed pawns) . After
74 . . J: h3-h8 75 a2-a4, if it were not
for the fact that the white rook is de
fending the a4-pawn, then Black
could keep checking the king (on a8,
b8 and c8). As it is the white king can
just approach the rook.

75 l:te4-e8
76 a2-a4
77 b4-c5
78 c5-b5
79 b5-a6
Black persists in harassing the
white king and pawn. Nevertheless
they keep marching on. The only dif
ficulty will be extracting the king
from in front of the pawn in readi
ness for promotion.
80 a4-a5
81 'itiia6-b6
82 b6-a7
83 a5-a6
84 'ifiia7-a8
85 l:.e8-el
Keeping the black king in the wil
derness to prove the point, although
85 lte8-b8 immediately would work
here, too.
86 a6-a7
ltb3-b2 (D)

Essentially this was the position I

reached in the game, but with one
major difference. My rook and the
black king were each one file to the

98 Strengths and Weaknesses

left. It is not swprising that this makes

a significant difference to the game's
87 nel-hl
The white king and pawn have
made it as far as is presently possi
ble. Now the white rook sets out to
force the black rook off the b-file.
88 .l:.hl-h8
The alternative to letting the white
king out to c5, as in the text, is to of
fer him the c8-square with 88 . . . cJiie7d6. White then wins with 89 n h8-b8
ltb2-h2 90 a8-b7 lt h2-b2+ 9 1
b7-c8 .l:. b2-c2+ 9 2 ri;;c8-d8 n c2h2 93 .l:.b8-b6+ d6-c5 94 l::t b6c6+ ! (intending to promote with
check after 94 . . . cJiid6xc6) 94 . . . cJiic5b5 95 lk6-c8 .
89 .l:.h8-b8
90 a8-b7
91 b7-a6
92 a6-b6
93 b6-c5
With spite checks running out, the
a-pawn is destined to promote.

1 6) Zugzwang!
I gave the definition o f this German
word earlier. This situation, in which
a player's position goes from being
OK to terrible simply because he has
to make a move, is most often seen in
the endgame stage (when fewer
pieces mean less options) . In a tour
nament in Denmark in 1 995 I had
two incredible examples of it in suc
cessive games !

Jansa - Ward
Hiller# Politiken Cup 1995
My opponent, a pawn up but his
knight in trouble, had just retreated
his king with 62 cJiid4-e3. This was
an amazing tournament for me. Be
fore round 1 I knew that I would
need 7 out of 9 for a grandmaster
norm, but I started disastrously with
a draw and a loss in the first two
games. I won in rounds 3 and 4 and I
was eager to keep on a roll in the 5th
round, despite the quality of my op
Capturing the errant knight comes
to mind, but this means losing my
trump card (the f-pawn) and so de
nies Black any winning chances
(there is no win because the bishop is
the 'wrong' colour for the pawn). As
things stand, the knight is far away
from the queenside on h2, so instead
I concentrated on the fact that White
has a chance of running out of moves
in this position.
63 b2-b3

Strengths and Weaknesses 99

Already White starts to feel the

strain. He is not able to move his
knight because of . . . f2-fl 'ii , and the
king must remain on either e3 or e2
in order to meet . . . g2xh2 with
..t> (e2 or e3)xf2. Thus pawn moves
are his only option, and we have al
ready seen that there is a limit to the
number of waiting moves which can
be made by pawns.
64 a3-a4
This at least forces the bishop off
of one of the two key diagonals. At
present the bishop prevents both
..t> e3-e2 and c5-c6. The text tempo
rarily stops this excellent long-range
piece from fulfilling both of these
objectives, but Black has plans to re
The alternative 64 b3-b4 results in
an even earlier arrival of 'zugzwang' ,
e.g. 64 . . . a5-a4 65 c5-c6 i.. b5xc6 66
e3-e2 i.. c 6-b5+ 67 e2-e3 i.. b5 c4.
i.. c6-e8
65 'iPe3-e2
i.. e8-b5+
66 e2-e3
i..b5-f3! ! (D)

With the black bishop once again

performing two crucial tasks (hold
ing back the c-pawn and denying
White's king vital squares) we see
that White is in total zugzwang ! 67
b3-b4 is futile in view of 67 . . . a5xb4,
so instead White spoilt the party by
continuing with 67 tl\h2xf3 f2-fl 'ii ,
resigning a few moves later.
In round 6, playing White, I man
aged to achieve a comfortable plus
from the opening. With the queens
off I was looking to convert this

Ward - Ahlander
Hillerd Politiken Cup 1995
While Black was contemplating
his 13th move I considered myself to
be half a pawn up. Black has doubled
c-pawns and, in contrast, White has
an effective pawn majority on the
kingside. As rook endings tend to of
fer more chances for the defender, I
made it my aim to eliminate the

JOO Strengths and Weaknesses

B y move 30, after considerable

manoeuvring, this goal had been at
tained. Obviously a king and pawn
ending is ideal, but I 'knew' that I
should be able to win a minor-piece
ending thanks to my structural ad
vantage. In particular my potential
for an outside passed pawn had to be
realised by a kingside pawn advance,
in conjunction with the usual cen
tralisation of the king.
With Black to make his 43rd move,
we join the action with me feeling in
a confident mood !



Clearly the g-pawn is intended as

a decoy, but Black will have to deal
with it sooner rather than later.
44 llib3xc5
lbb7 -d6+
Going into a pawn ending would
be suicidal for Black. He needs to
preserve the knight to make things
awkward for me.
45 'it>c4-b4
46 b4-a5
47 a5-a6
48 a6xa7
'iit f4-e5
49 llic5-b7
50 a4-a5
White sacrifices the c-pawn, pin
ning all his hopes on the rook's
pawn, encouraged by the fact that
knights are poor at halting extreme
wing pawns.
51 a5-a6
52 <it>a7-b6
lbc3-b5 (D)

The black knight is now rooted to

this post, where it is required to stop
a6-a7 (- a8 'ii'). White 's next task is to
remove the defending knight.
53 llib7-c5

Strengths and Weaknesses IOI

54 lt:Jc5-a4
55 b6-b7
A precautionary measure to stop
Black's king coming to the rescue
via c8 and b8.
56 b7-b8
57 lt:Ja4-c3 (D)

Offering a deflection sacrifice

which cannot be taken. The result of
this move is that White is now able to
push the pawn a square nearer to pro
58 a6-a7
59 lt:Jc3-e4
The point of this cheeky move is
that after 60 b8xa8 d8-c8 6 1
tbe4-d6+ 'ifi>c8-c7 62 lt:Jd6-e8+ c7c8 there is no way out for the white
king. Even without the c-pawn the
position is still drawn.
60 tbe4-c5
61 rJi>b8-b7
62 b7xc6
Now Black is in big trouble.
62 . . . tb a8-c7 loses to 63 tbc5-e6+. I

was expecting 62 . . . d8-e7, when

after the simple continuation 63
lt:Jc5-a4 rJ;e7-d8 64 lt:J a4-b6 lt:J a8-c7
65 c6-b7 Black has no moves.
63 lt:Jc5-e6! (D)

Zugzwang ! The black king has
no legal moves, leaving only the los
ing 63 . . . lt:J a8-c7 64 lt:Je6xc7 and
63 ... tba8-b6 64 c6xb6.
Certainly these two examples have
added a lot of weight to the argument
that pawns become more valuable
the nearer they are to promoting.
Nevertheless, as I warned earlier the
intention is not to give the reader an
inflated idea of the value of pawns
when compared with pieces, rather
to remind you that these foot soldiers
can sometimes win the battle.
Perhaps it is my imagination, but
in endgame texts today a certain
term seems to be all the rage. So tell
me ...

102 Strengths and Weaknesses

Q. What do you think is a 'Mutual

Zugzwang' ?
A . Well, zugzwang normally
means that if you are compelled to
move (as of course you are) then in
certain critical positions you are
heavily disadvantaged for having to
do so. If such a zugzwang is mutual,
then it applies to both players . As a
basic example, take a simple king
and pawn endgame.
Whoever has the move will lose.
After 1 f5-g4 'it>d4xe4 Black wins
because the white king is misplaced.

Similarly after 1. . 'ii>d4-c5 2 'ii>f5xe5

Black cannot get his king to e7.

5 All the King's Men

1 7) Wh ich is better:
K n ight or B ishop?
What chess book would be complete
without the age-old comparison of
the two minor pieces? There is not
really anything I can say that has not
already been said before. Which of
the two is the better depends on the
position, although in general it is fair
to say that bishops are held in higher
esteem in the endgame.
Weaker players tend to favour
knights, not so much because they
can jump but because they can oper
ate on both light and dark squares.
Of course this is a valuable asset, but
as the king is always around to per
form the same function, perhaps the
long-range power of the bishop is a
more important factor.
With special reference to ' flat' po
sitions with pawns on both sides, it
has long been thought that the bishop
is superior. The following old game
is one such example of the bishop's
power on a relatively open board.
Even with Black to play, many
players would assume that a draw
should be the fair result. Watch and
learn !
As usual the first step for both
sides is to centralise the king. It

Stoltz Kashdan
The Hague 1928

should be observed even at this stage

that although the white knight occu
pies a nice central square, its possi
ble entry points are covered by the
2 gt-n
3 fl-e2
4 e2-d3
The black king has been able to go
one rank further in the centre, but as
the white pawns can advance to dark
squares, it will eventually be re
quired elsewhere to attack them.
Black's next aim is to force the
white king to give way, and another
of the bishop's attributes - its ability
to gain (or lose) a tempo - will con
tribute to this phase. The fact that the
knight cannot 'pass ' prompts White

104 All the King 's Men

into having to bide time with pawn

5 h3-h4
Black's intention is to make the
white king commit itself so that his
own king can invade in the opposite
direction. If both players then create
passed pawns the bishop is capable
of both aiding his own pawns while
keeping an eye on the opponent's.
The knight, on the other hand, takes
longer to get from one side of the
board to the other.
6 tbd4-f3
7 'it>d3-c3
White seems to have decided to
put his king on the queenside, so
Black will now focus his attention on
a kingside invasion. First he must
keep the knight at bay.
8 tbf3-d4
9 tbd4-c2
10 tbc2-e3
White attempts to erect a barrier.
Black's pawns are on hand to facili
tate the decisive breakthrough.
1 1 ""c3-d2
12 tbe3-g4
13 tbg4-f6+
Black is happy to retreat his king
from the centre because he has his
eye on the h4-pawn. White now re
lies on his knight to provide a
counter-attack on Black's g-pawn, as
g2-g3 merely creates another weak
ness which cannot be defended.
14 tbf6-d7
Forcing the knight to make a deci

15 tbd7-f8
An unattractive choice which
aims to distract Black' s king. After
1 6 tbd7-c5 'iP f5-g4 1 7 tb c5-d3, in
stead of the immediate 1 7 . . . g4xh4
(allowing 1 8 tb d3xf4) Black has
1 7 . . . i. c8-f5 .
Although this allows White to
trade off the pawn that he feared los
ing for nothing, Black now has big
ger fish to fry. 16 h4xg5 'iPf5xg5 will
result in the black king going back
to attack the trapped knight.
16 g2-g3
17 g3xh4
'iPf5-g4 (D)

18 tbf8-g6
19 tbg6-e7
Now the b3-pawn is under attack.
Also possible is 1 9 . . . i. f5-e4. In or
der to demonstrate the major princi
ple in question, here is an illustrative
sample variation: ( 1 9 . . . i. f5-e4) 20
tb e7 -c8 g4xh4 2 1 tb c 8xa7 r.P h4h3 followed by 22 . . . h3-g2, when
there is no stopping the h-pawn (the
bishop has the b-pawn under control).

All the King 's Men 105

20 b3-b4
21 'iii>d2-d3
22 cJi>d3-e4
23 lbe7-c6
24 e4-d5
Efficient. Now 25 lbc6-e5+ meets
with 25 . . . g4-f4
25 b4-b5
26 lbc6xa7
27 b5-b6
And Black soon won.

It is in blocked positions that

knights are better than bishops. In
such endgames the knight demon
strates its superiority with an ability
to manoeuvre to all the good squares.
A lot depends on just how obstructed
by pawns the bishop is. Below is an
example of 'good' knight vs ' bad'

Averbakh - Panov
Moscow 1950

White has a dream position. His

knight is exceptionally well placed,
combining with the kingside pawns

to produce an impenetrable barrier.

Consequently the black king is un
able to j oin in the game (the same is
not true of White's king, which is
ready to infiltrate the opponent's po
sition). Black has a supported passed
pawn on e5, but like the other centre
pawns it is on the same colour square
as the bishop. Therefore the terms
' good' knight and 'bad' bishop White has an attacking minor piece
and Black a passive one. Note that
the bishop cannot attack the white
1 g4-g5
Making way for a king invasion
on f5 . Black is powerless to prevent
2 f2-f3
3 f3-g4
4 g4-f5
i.e7 -f8
The bishop must continue to pro
tect the d6-pawn, and Black is deter
mined to keep the enemy king out of
the e6-square.
5 lbe4-f6
6 g5xh6
6 g5-g6+ looks attractive, but
White is aware that he must win an
enemy pawn eventually. He knows
that he will never be able to capture
the d6-pawn while it is protected by
the bishop because this leaves the e
pawn free to make a sprint for pro
motion. With this in mind he needs
to create a distraction.
7 lDf6-e4
8 h5-h6

106 All the King 's Men

Black must capture this pawn

sooner or later, e.g. 8 . . . 'it>f7-g8 9
'iPf5-f6 <Ji>g 8-h7 I O r.P f6-f7 i. f8xh6
1 1 e4xd6.
9 e4xd6+ <j;f7-e7
10 d6-e4
The knight wisely returns to its
dominant post. Instead IO f5xe5 ??
i. h6-g7+ is suicidal, resulting in a
similar situation to that discussed in
section 9, in which the bishop is used
to control squares and gain tempi so
that White can't defend the c4-pawn.
11 d5-d6+
12 'it>f5xe5
White intends 1 3 c.Pe5-d5 to take
the c5-pawn. Let us see how the
game may have ended had Black in
sisted on forcing his opponent to
demonstrate his excellent endgame
13 'it>e5-e6 (D)
With his king up in support White
wants to go it alone with the d-pawn.
Black will therefore need his bishop
to cover the d8-square, but to say that
this is not easy is an understatement.

Q. Can you find a safe route for

the bishop to cover the queening
square of White's d-pawn?
A. No? Good, because neither can
I! The central knight is so powerful it
controls every relevant square - even
on a fairly open board. With 1 3 d6d7 c.Pc6-c7 14 e6-e7 coming next,
it is no surprise that Black resigned

If a bishop is accompanied by a
rook then the presence of a pawn or
two fixed on the same colour square
as the bishop is usually less of an in
convenience because the activity of
the rook should compensate. It is this
sort of logic that has led several
grandmasters to occasionally say
that 'there is no such thing as a bad
bishop' . I do not think that this
should be taken literally, but the in
ference is there. Players often under
estimate the impact a bishop can
have on the assessment of an end
There is certainly no denying the
power of the two bishops. When you
have two strong bishops, particularly
in an endgame where your opponent
has another combination of two mi
nor pieces, the bishops generally prove
to be a dangerous team. The range of
squares within your grasp is vast,
and the logic is that if you have one
' bad ' bishop, then the other should
be brilliant (I once managed to get
two bad bishops, but we will not go
into that!).

All the King 's Men 107

The position below is more like

opening theory.

his queenside, and . . . a7-a6 creates a

hole on b6.
The text threatens simply to chase
Black's rook off the c-file.
17 .tfi-h3
:cS-c7 (D)

Polugaevsky - Ostojic
Belgrade 1969

For years this position was de

bated with many claiming that Black
is comfortable. He has no obvious
weaknesses and we could be forgiven
for believing that a trade of dark
squared bishops results in 'good '
knight vs 'bad' bishop endgame.
In fact White's excellent handling
of the game is one of the reasons why
none of today's top players is willing
to take Black in this position.
15 :ctxc8+!
This appears to be the most accu
rate treatment. White concedes the c
file but he has every intention of
winning it back.
16 g2-g3!
Black's queenside pawns are
weak. Although the immediate 1 6
.te3xa7 runs into 1 6 . . . l:tc8-a8 Black
still must keep a careful watch over

18 :ht-cl!
Were it not for the fact that his b
pawn is en prise White may have
considered 18 .t h3xd7 followed tak
ing control of the c-file. As it is, he is
happy to retain the advantage of the
two bishops.
19 rJi>d2xcl
20 'ifi?cl-c2
White can now win a pawn with
21 .t e3xb6? ! a7xb6 22 .t h3-c8, but
this leads to an opposite-coloured
bishop endgame which Black has ex
cellent chances to draw. As you will
discover later, these endings tend to
be drawish.
21 b2-b3
22 a4! (D)
The black queenside is suddenly
looking rather delicate.

108 All the King 's Men

Generally the prospects of win

ning the game are excellent with
either minor piece if you are a pawn
up, although if there are pawns on
both sides of the board a bishop is
preferable, while a knight is stronger
the closer the pawns become.

1 8) More Scenes with

23 a4-a5
24 .i.h3xc8
Only now is White prepared to
break up his bishop duo, for this
time he is about to emerge a clear
pawn up in a same-coloured bishop
ending. As we know, with sufficient
pawns remaining on the board this
usually means a winning advantage.
Indeed after 24 . d8xc8 25 i.e3xa7
White went on to win comfortably.
. .

I hope that this section has helped

you weigh up the pros and cons a lit
tle. Obviously much depends on the
specific position. Bishops are excel
lent in that they can rest on one side
of the board and still have a consid
erable influence on the other. Having
said that, it is also true that while a
bishop controls more squares than a
knight, some of these squares are
often irrelevant. The knight is slow,
but if there is sufficient time it can
reach any square, whereas a bishop
is permanently denied access to half
of the board.

Have no fear, I am not about to tell

the famous story of how a competi
tor was ejected from the British La
dies Championship after it was
discovered that the player was in fact
a man in 'drag ' . But I would like to
add a few words about our prized
possessions. Many believe that an
endgame is not really an endgame if
queens are involved and, even if it is,
the outcome is bound to be a draw
because there is no doubt that a per
petual check should figure some
where !
These people are wrong. Queens
can be involved in endings and a suc
cessful pawn promotion does not
mean a return to the middlegame !
Obviously on a fairly open board with
exposed kings and queens around,
there is a lot of scope for checking.
But this does not necessarily mean
that the king should be kept safely
tucked away. Indeed if it is just an
enemy queen to deal with, often the
king can venture out without any
fear of being caught. Pawns usually
provide some sort of shelter, and it is
often difficult for a queen to keep

All the King 's Men 109

checking while guarding its own

pawns. This is why the king can do a
raid on some enemy pawns and then
return to safety when the mission is
In the following recent encounter
the exploratory king finds a nice ha

Sherzer I.Almasi
Hungary 1 995

1 ...
2 g3-f3
The only move, as the alternative
2 g3-h3 runs into 2 . . . g5-g4+ 3
h3-h4 ligl -h2#.
3 f3-e2
4 'iii>e 2-el
Throughout this game Black ap
pears to enjoy toying with his oppo
nent. Careless is 4 . . . lig2xa2 because
this leaves the queen offside, and
consequently after 5 lig8-d5+ it is
difficult for Black to avoid perpetual
5 elf2

6 f2-gl
Initiating a little repetition, just to
show who is in command.
7 gl-fl
8 'it>fl-gl
With this move the white king is
very boxed in and mate is threatened.
However, Black must be careful, for
if White had no pawns a kamikaze
queen sacrifice would lead to stalemate.
9 g8-c8+
10 ..Wc8-e6+
11 ..We6-c4+
12 c4-d4+ d2-c2
13 'iVd4-c5+ c2-b2
14 'iWc5-e5+
Here 14 . . . 'it>b2-bl would also have
been fine, but not 1 4 . . . 'iii>b2xa2? 1 5
'iie5-b2+ ! 'it;a2xb2 stalemate.
15 'ir'e5-e2+
Now Black's king is no longer in
the firing line. Obviously White can
not allow a queen trade, so this rules
out 16 gl -g2 'lic3-b2.
16 ..We2-e6
17 gl-g2
'iia lxa2+
18 'it>g2-h3
1 8 'iii> g2xg3 'ii'a2xb3+ wins for
Black. After the text it is also possi
ble to take the b-pawn.
19 h3-g4
20 g4-f3
I am not sure why White is playing on. Now Black makes a joke.
21 'iti>f3-e4
22 e4-f5

110 All the King 's Men

The trouble with queen endings is

that a lot of patience is required and
they are notorious for going well be
yond 1 00 moves ! When hardly any
thing remains on the board it is often
necessary to use to your advantage
the position of your opponent's king,
and on this note I would like to pro
vide an important and highly instruc
tive example.

intends to bring his king back along

the g-file so that the black queen will
no longer be able to pin the pawn.
Although his king can expect many
checks, his plan is to be able to meet
a check with a check. It is a brilliant
concept which needs a little prepara
6 1i'g3-gl+ al-b2
7 'iig l-f2+
'iii> b2-al
Black's own king cannot assist
in halting White's pawn so it stays
out of the way in the corner, though
White intends to use its exposure
wherever it is. If the black king goes
to the third rank, for example 7 . b2a3 , then White reacts by retreat his
king to g2. Then any black queen
check is met by a check on the third
8 'ii'f2-fl+
9 g7-h6
10 h6-g5
11 g5-g4
12 g4-g3
13 g3-h2
14 h2-gl (D)

White needs only to advance his

extra pawn one more square. Although
Black has no more checks at the mo
ment since these allow a promotion,
the onus is now on White to make the
final progression. Impatient attempts
to unpin the pawn merely result in
more checks or pins elsewhere. In
stead White needs a long-term plan,
and he has an appropriate one in mind.
1 'ii'g6-g3
2 g8-g7
3 'iii> g7-h7
4 'iii> h7-h6
5 h6-g7
After a little bit of manoeuvring,
White's strategy can be revealed. He

All the King 's Men 111

The ingenious strategy is very

close to completion. Note how any
check allows White to block with a
check of his own. Consequently,
with f7-f8 'ir' still threatened, Black
resorts to blockading - usually a sign
that the game can no longer be held.
15 'ii'fl -f6+
16 gl-fl!
A final precautionary measure.
White intends to get his queen to
either e8 or g8, but he does not want
the black queen to deliver a check.
16 ...
17 'i'f6-f4+
Aiming for either e8 or g8 with
18 ii'f4-e5+
19 'ii'e5-e8
White wins.
Black can retrieve his queen from
f8, but with two white queens on the
board, he can but dream of a perpet
ual check.

1 9) The value of the

pieces and which
ones to exchange
You may be wondering why this
section comes so late in the book, but
if this is the case, then I think that
you might be expecting too much
here. I am not going to radically alter
the ' points ' system, nor can I pro
vide an all-purpose super-formula
for which pieces to exchange.

During a game it is standard pol

icy to try to eliminate your oppo
nent's well-placed pieces, preferably
for your poorly placed ones . Obvi
ously common sense must prevail you cannot simply give up an unde
veloped queen for an enemy knight
that just happens to be on a good out
post ! Anyway, I have already pro
vided plenty of principles. We know
that once we have established a ma
terial advantage it is better to swap
off pieces rather than pawns, and that
the nature of a position should be
carefully assessed before trading a
bishop for a knight or indeed before
any exchange of minor pieces. We
have seen how rook endings provide
the active defender with the most
drawing chances, whereas a minor
piece or basic king endgame with
several pawns is promising for the
attacker. Thus it should be clear
which side is more likely to want the
rooks eliminated.
Now we come to some of the more
frequent piece imbalances. First let
me start with a very thrilling game
(see diagram on the next page). For
the moment I want the reader to draw
his own conclusions, so the game is
not annotated.
23 :d2-f2
24 l:thl-cl
25 c2-c4
26 :ct-c3
27 lk3-a3
28 :a3xa7
29 c4-c5

112 All the King 's Men

42 l:tf6-h6
43 l:th6-b6
44 We3-f4
45 f4-e3
46 h2xg3
47 l:.t2xe2
48 e3xe2
49 .l:.b6-g6 Wh3-h2
I I h2-hl
50 e2-f2
51 l:.g6xg2
52 'it>t2-e3
53 'it>e3-d4
54 b4-b5
55 d4-c4
56 b5-b6
57 c4-c5
58 b6-b7
59 Wc5-c6

London Lloyds Bank 1994


.:tc6-d6+ (D)




Q. Do you think that White was
unlucky not to win this game?
A. Certainly not. In the initial po
sition Black was an exchange down,
but it was he who made all the running.
I watched the game being played; in
the end Black was very short of time
and only just managed to eliminate
White's last pawn before his flag
fell. He had been pressing hard for
the victory and I would not be at all
surprised to learn that at some stage
he had missed a win which he might
have found with more time (Mestel
himself seemed to think so after the
Did the material situation count
for nothing in the previous example?
To compensate for the exchange

All the King 's Men 113

Black certainly sprung his king into

action quickly, but I do not think that
tells the whole story. Once the frantic
pawn-rush was under way Black's
long-range bishop coped just as well
as a rook. In particular the black rook
and bishop forged an effective part
nership, with the former performing
both attacking and defensive tasks.
In this respect Black's two pieces
fared no worse than White's, indeed
they could operate along ranks, files,
and diagonals ! Moreover, Black's
pawns eventually looked the more
Had the bishop been alone, then
Black would have had more diffi
culty controlling dark squares in
general, so an exchange of rooks in a
situation like this most definitely fa
vours the player with two rooks. In
this case, however, Black had too
much space to be forced into such an
unappealing exchange.
I am the first to admit that there
are always problems with making
too many generalisations, but I
would stand by the logic that if you
have a minor piece and however many
pawns for a rook, then it is in your
advantage to retain the remaining
pair of rooks - we know how strong
rooks can be in the endgame, provid
ing a means to create, hinder or help
passed pawns (remember that knights
and bishops are not so effective at
this kind of job).
I would also apply similar logic to
those situations with two minor pieces
for a rook and pawn(s). Suppose you

have a rook, knight and bishop vs

two rooks (with equal pawns). Al
though two rooks provide twice the
fire-power of one, to a certain extent
they may be duplicating. Only one
square can be occupied at one time
and twice as many rooks means that
more care must be taken to avoid
pins, forks or skewers !
These concepts and others are ig
nored in the following game between
juniors, one a 9-year-old talent for
the future.

Palmer - Rendle
County U-18 match 1996
In a very materialistic manner,
White has just sacrificed his fianchet
toed light-squared bishop for two
pawns in order to win the exchange.
Although this puts him up on points
(7 for 6), I would say that with so
many pieces remaining this is quite a
risky policy (it would have been an
even worse idea if the other rooks
were still on the board).

114 All the King 's Men

Not a good idea. The middlegame

is the time when minor pieces tend to
get the better of rooks (which are
usually saving themselves for the
endgame). Rooks are also not very
good at defending the king, which is
another reason why Black should
preserve queens. After 1 9 . .. 'ii'f6-g5
Black can generate an attack against
White's hole-ridden and relatively
defenceless kingside.
20 liJd5xe7 + .i.d6xe7
21 'ii'd3xf5
At least Black has two bishops in
return for the rook and two pawns.
22 c2-c4
23 c4xb5
24 lLid2-c4
Attacking the knight, but effec
tively conceding the bishop pair. I
prefer 24 . . . lLid7-e5 , as without the
knights the bishops can more easily
wreak havoc.
25 l:tal-dl
.i.c4xb5 (D)
26 l:tdlxd4

Ignoring the fact that White now

overlooks 27 l:td4-d5 ! (winning the

a-pawn), he still has the superior po

sition. It is precisely in these latter
stages that the rook really shines, and
here the minor pieces are not work
ing well together (they could do with
the help of a rook).
27 f2-f4?
28 b2-b4
29 a3xb4? !
Displaying a misunderstanding of
the position. Stronger is 29 l:td4xb4,
as White wants his passed pawn as
far away from the black king as pos
sible. Note that with an extra pair of
rooks on the board Black would be
able to combine kingside pressure
with holding back a passed pawn.
30 l:td4-d8+
31 :d8-b8
32 b4-b5
33 b5-b6
The black king seems to have suc
cessfully made the journey over to
the b-pawn. Nevertheless, because
the king will soon be required on c7
his last move was unnecessary, so
33 . . . .i. d7-e6 ! (intending . . . lLif6-d7)
is preferable.
34 b6-b7
35 l:tb8-f8
Black's latest problem (now that
his king has been lured to the queen
side) is the safety of his kingside
pawns, which are at the mercy of the
35 ...
36 g3-g4!
36 . . . g7-g5 makes things worse for
Black after 37 f4xg5 h6xg5 38 h4 ! .

All the King 's Men 115

37 g4-g5
3S f4xg5
lDf6-e4? (D)
Better is 3 8 . . . lDf6-h7 ! , transpos
ing to the game. The text presents
White with a tremendous opportu

remaining pawn. Nevertheless the

game was eventually drawn.

20) Opposite-Coloured
Bishops: Always a
Since these endings are charac
terised by the players operating on
(and dominating) different colour
squares, it is logical that they are
noted for their drawish tendencies.

39 l:.f8xe8?!
Unfortunately for him, he imme
diately misses it. The clever move 39
g5-g6 ! wins. In contrast to the game,
this ensures that Black's pawn struc
ture is shattered. After 39 .. t7xg6 40
l:.f8xe8 Black cannot defend the
pawns. The alternatives 39 . . . lDe4-d6
and 39 . . lD e4-f6 run into the stand
ard 40 l:. f8xe8 lDd6(or f6)xe8 4 1
g6xf7, when White promotes.
39 ...
40 '1Pgl-g2
40 h2-h4 lD g5-f3+.
41 h2-h4
42 g2-g3
43 :es-as
rt;d7 -e7
44 rt;g3-g4
Probably 44 . . . g7-g6 is more accu
rate, encouraging a trade of White's

White is a pawn down but he has

no trouble holding the draw. If Black
had a dark-squared bishop instead,
then he could use his c-pawn as a de
coy and infiltrate White's kingside
pawns. As it is White's king cannot
be dislodged, and his bishop ade
quately defends his pawns.
In fact the defender can often have
a two pawn deficit and still be able to
avoid defeat. In the position above,
for example, White can draw com
fortably without the f2-pawn - he ar
ranges a suitable blockade by simply

116 All the King 's Men

moving the bishop up and down h2b8 diagonal.

Generally, in order to be able to
win in a basic two pawns vs none
ending of this type, the pawns need
to be at least two files apart. I knew
this was the theory for a long time,
but I always used to assume that con
nected pawns would be an excep

White' s king from coming to c7 to

support the decisive pawn thrust.
2 i.a3-b4
Waiting in the hope that a foolish
black king or bishop move will en
able him to carry on with e5-e6+.
No such luck. In contrast to rooks,
which are best behind passed pawns,
here the defender's bishop has set
tled on its perfect position in front of
White's twosome. The point is that
White cannot advance his e-pawn
without his king supporting e6, but
the king cannot leave the d5-pawn
3 i.b4-c5
i.g8-f7 !
The position is drawn.

Let us now take a look at why the

attacker benefits from his passed
pawns being as far apart as possible.
i.h5-t7 !
However, I was wrong ! In princi
ple White's winning technique in
volves advancing the pawns in order
to always control the squares of the
opposite colour to his bishop . Had
White had the first move, then 1 d5 d6? would allow Black a simple
light-square blockade. However, 1
e5-e6+ ! wins for White, for example
1 . . . d7-d8 2 d5-d6 i. h5-e8 3 i. a3c l i. e8-a4 4 i. c l -g5+ d8-e8 5
d4-c5 (5 d6-d7+? i. a4xd7 ! dem
onstrates why the bishop is required
along this diagonal) and White wins.
The fact that Black is in zugzwang is
irrelevant because he cannot prevent

At first glance this position may

seem lifeless. If Black does 'nothing'
there is no way for White to make
progress, but we have already seen
how difficult it is to 'pass' sometimes.

All the King 's Men 117

1 i.e5-f4
A waiting move, effectively eject
ing the black bishop from its block
ading post since 1 . . . 'iii> c 8-b7 loses to
2 e7-d8 .
1 ...
2 h2-h4!
No, I have not forgotten the possi
bility of en passant. This is all in ac
cordance with the master plan of
obtaining two passed pawns.
i.fl -d3 (D)
3 g3-g4

Q. Can Black negotiate a trade of

his pawn for one of White's?
A. If he could, then he could then
give up his bishop for the last white
pawn in order to secure a draw.
However, the fact that White has
given Black a passed pawn is of little
consequence here. It would only be
important if Black could use it as a
deflection in order to trade it for one
of White's, but this is not possible in
this case because White's bishop
covers both c7 and h2 simultane
ously. Since the black king is too far

from the g-pawn, the winning proc

ess is simple.
4 g4-g5
5 e7-f6
6 g5-g6
7 f6-g7
Far more accurate than the imme
diate 7 g6-g7 ? ! , when White will
have difficulty bringing his king up
to support promotion on g8.
8 <:J;g7 -r7
9 -f8
10 g6-g7
11 g7-g8'ii'
12 f8xg8
d7 -cS
13 g8-r7
14 i.f4-h2
15 fl -e7
16 e8-d7
White wins.
Naturally, in order for any sort of
endgame involving opposite-col
oured bishops to arise, the other two
bishops could not have been traded
off in direct confrontation. So if
other pieces, apart from our mis
matched bishop pair, remain on the
board, it must be remembered that
extra pieces can change the character
of the game. However, the presence
of opposite-coloured bishops must
be taken into consideration by both
players - for example the aggressor
must be wary of a ' fair' trade of
knights which may leave him a pawn
up but in a dead drawn position.
To end this section, I would like to
share with the reader an experience

118 All the King 's Men

which I feel privileged to have wit
nessed. In the position below, many
top players would have agreed a
draw. Indeed it was proposed by
White, but the FIDE World Cham
pion (Black) declined and ground out
a glorious victory some 30 moves
later, leaving his opponent a dejected
and broken man.

There is plenty of to-ing and fro

ing in this game, with White (also a
top-class player) visibly suffering
throughout. Nevertheless Black does
make slow, steady progress. With the
text White guards his second rank
and challenges his opponent to come
and get him !
30 ..tfi-e2
31 h2-h4
32 h4-h5
33 h5xg6
34 g2-fi
35 fi-g2
36 rJtg2-fi
37 fi-g2
e5-e4 (D)

Alterman - Karpov
European Club Cup 1995
We have seen how a queenside
pawn majority is often considered to
be advantageous because, assuming
both sides have castled kingside,
there is a chance to create a passed
pawn some distance from the enemy
king. It is clear here that due to
Black's bind on the dark squares,
White's queenside pawns are going
nowhere, and with this in mind we
could be forgiven for believing that
White could eventually set up a simi
lar light-squared blockade on the
29 l:tc8-c2

The next stage of Black's strategy

is to advance his kingside pawns.
38 'iti>g2-fi
39 rJtfi-g2
40 rJtg2-fi
41 rJtfi-g2
42 g2-fi
43 fi-g2
And now the screws are really be
ing turned. White's next move looks

All the King 's Men 119

very ugly, but in view of the threat

ened 44 .. .f4-f3+, who can blame him?
44 f2-f3
45 g3-g4
Karpov is a positional genius. I
would not be surprised if this is the
continuation he had in mind at the
beginning of this rook and opposite
coloured bishop ending.
46 llc2xd2
Forced, but at least the rooks are
off and we now have an ending re
nowned for the defender's drawing
chances !
e3xd2 (D)
46 ...

Black is now ready to attack

White's queenside, and with the d2pawn constituting a major threat, the
light-squared bishop has real trouble
operating in what soon becomes
clear is a rather confined space.
47 i.e2-dl
48 g2-f2
49 f2-e2
b2-b l !
50 'itte2-d3
Black is n o t interested i n grab
bing the a-pawn if it means allowing

White 's king to take up a good de

fensive post on c2. The text (still pre
venting 5 1 d3-c2) keeps Black's
options open, and zugzwang is be
coming a distinct possibility.
Note that care must still be taken.
After 50 . . . b2-c l 5 1 d3-e2 i.b4e7 ? ! 52 b3-b4 ! , White can keep his
grip on the d i -square without losing
the a2-pawn.
51 a2-a3
52 d3-e2
53 b3-b4
The only move that does not im
mediately lose a bishop.
53 ...
54 i.dl-a4
Typical Karpov. The bishop heads
for the best square from which to de
fend the d2-pawn. With the bishop
on e3 instead of c3, the black king
has more freedom with which to sup
port the recently created passed bpawn.
55 i.a4-dl
56 i.dl-b3
57 i.b3-a4
58 'it>e2-dl
'iii> b2-al
59 i.a4-c6
Wonderful play, if rather tedious !

21 ) Tactics in the
'Endgames are boring ! ' - according
to most juniors, who usually prefer
studying puzzles and tactics. So what
of tactics in the endgame? Yes, they
do occur, just like in the opening and

120 All the King 's Men

the middlegame, the main difference
being that there are fewer pieces left
on the board.
In a way tactics in the latter stages
of the game are of the purest type .
With a smaller army you must utilise
your pieces to the maximum.
The disadvantage (from an in
structive point of view) with spe
cially composed problems is that
you are given a big hint that there is a
good continuation at your disposal .
But in tournament play no angel ap
pears at a 'critical' moment to inform
you that some extra effort here may
be rewarded. More often than not a
beautiful combination passes by,
with both players completely oblivi
ous to a delightful theme which may
never appear again.
I suppose the key is to endeavour
to alert at all times during a game,
and it is true that there is nothing like
a bit of deep analysis. Take, for ex
ample, the following simple position
which arose between two juniors
competing for their counties in the
National U- 1 1 team championships.

With Black having just played

. . . c4-c3, White paused for a short
while - way too short, in fact - when
he had plenty of time on the clock,
reaching the conclusion that it was
pointless retreating his king to pre
vent the c-pawn promoting, because
each of his king moves could be
matched by an equally effective one
from Black. Obviously it would be
silly and unfair to expect too much
from the youngster.
However, when I later pointed out
the flaw in his thinking (as well as
the fact that at this important stage he
had nothing to lose by taking his
time) he was annoyed with himself
and, needless to say, when set as a
puzzle for his team-mates later, there
was a 1 00% success rate !
Q. In fact, White, to play, can win
this pawn ending . Can you discover
what White missed during the game?

A. 1 d4-d3!
The game continuation instead
saw the immediate 1 h6-h7, and after
both sides promoted a draw was
shortly agreed.
2 h6-h7
3 d3-d2!
4 h7-h8+
The whole point of White's king
retreat is revealed - Black's king has
been forced onto the a l -h8 diagonal
so that White is able to promote with
4 .

All the King 's Men 121

5 'ilt'h8-b8+
Just one of the numerous ways to
win the pawn.
5 ...
6 d2xc2
White wins.
So tactics do occur in endgames,
and it is up to the player to ' feel '
when such possibilities are there.
Remember - it is no good spending
lots of time searching for a combina
tion that does not exist.
To finish here are some nice tac
tics from my own games . Treat them
as more problems if you wish, or try
to put yourself in a game situation
(pretend that it is your move and no
one has told you that you may have a
clever option available).
To begin with we have something
with which all players can identify tactics that lead to a win of material
or even checkmate !

G.Gross - Ward
Metz 1 995

I knew that I had a good position.

Material is level but my pawns are
much stronger, my rooks more active
and my king holds a dominant post. I
felt that I should be winning, but you
can imagine my delight when I spot
ted the entertaining way with which
to terminate the proceedings:
58 el-d2
.l:r.t7xf2+! !
After 59 .l:r.g2xf2, 59 ... e4-e3# !
It is all very well seeing good op
portunities for yourself, but one must
also be careful not to allow the oppo
nent similar possibilities. The queen
and knight are known to form a most
deadly attacking force, but the fol
lowing very tactical endgame taught
me just how tricky the pairing of
knights and rooks can be:

Ward - M.Houska
Surrey Open 1993
When I first entered this ending I
was hoping to win by virtue of my

122 All the King 's Men

extra pawn(s). I had certainly not
expected the flurry of activity and
excitement that actually occurred.
Black is threatening the very danger
ous 27 . . . b3xa2+. I knew that I had to
prevent this, but I must confess to be
ing far too casual. In fact I very
nearly played 27 a2xb3?? before the
alarm bells in my head started ring
ing. Then I realised that although this
removed, once and for all, the trou
blesome invader, 27....:Z.a8-al+!! 28
c;Pbtxal l:c8-cl# was not exactly
what I wanted !
27 a2-a3!
A better solution. The knight is
not actually attacked in view of the
same back-rank mate. Instead the a
file is kept closed and the only imme
diate threat, 27 . . . c!bb4-a2, entombs
Black's own knight and the threat of
28 . . . :c8-c l# can be parried by 28
.:Z.d7-d l .
Black is looking for a back-rank
check. He intends .. Jk2xf2-fl +. Still
disastrous is 28 a3xb4 ?? l:.a8-al +
29 bl xal ltc2-c l#.
28 c!bf3-g5!
Emergency measures are required
and, fortunately, White does have a
28 ...
c!bb4-a2 (D)
With the threat of29 ...l:c2-cl#, but
now it is too late for a passive white
rook retreat since Black can simply
double his rooks.
Fortunately the active white rooks
combine with the menacing knight
to provide a deadly solution to the

problems facing White on the queen

29 ltd7xh7+ 'iti>h8-g8
30 ltf6xg6+
31 lth7-t7+
Winning a rook with the skewer
3 1 lth7-h8+ makes no sense when
Black threatens immediate mate.
32 :g6-g8#
Although certainly the most en
j oyable kind, these instantly devas
tating tactics are not the only ones
that exist. Tactics which serve just
to improve your position are also
In the following game I found
myself in a position with three
pawns for the exchange, but as we
know by now the existence of an
other pair of rooks would have been
helpful because a rook can combine
well with the minor pieces to help
the advance of the pawns. White's
rook is passively placed, but in order
to win Black needs to activate the

All the King 's Men 123

Bronstein - Ward
Maidstone Menchik mem 1 994
My next aim was to push the g
pawn, a plan which requires some
preparation as the awkwardly placed
but useful bishop will need protecting.
57 ...
The knight is superbly placed on
c4 . There it controls several useful
squares as well as preventing the
rook from getting active on the b
file. However, Black can simply re
turn the knight once it has served its
purpose on d6.
Note that I did not like the idea of
exchanging off White's compara
tively poor bishop for my good
58 i.e3-f2
The whole point. White cannot
capture the bishop as 59 h3xh4 ?
tiJd6-f5 i s mate !
59 h3-g2
The crucial breakthrough has
been achieved. Black has been able to
advance his g-pawn without having

to exchange pieces . From this point

on Black can sit back and let the win
come naturally.
60 i.f2-e3
61 i.e3-f4
62 .:.e2-f2
63 i.f4-e5
A nice try, but with the f6-square
covered, Black has absolutely no
need to complicate things by captur
ing this bishop.
63 ...
64 g2-gl
S afety first ! White had managed
to manoeuvre his rook to the open
file, but the text move covers all of
the entry points. Thus White is de
nied the chance to create any prob
lems by activating his rook.
65 i.e5-c7
66 .:.f2-e2
67 gl-g2
White's rook has been forced into
passivity and the black king is finally
ready to contribute to the winning
process . The threat is . . . f5 -g4 (in
tending . . . h4-h3+ ), and after 68
g2-h3 Black has 68 . . . e4-e3 and the
entrance into White's position will
come via the e4-square.
The final type of tactic that I wish
to discuss comes in a rather surpris
ing form. However, before I spoil the
fun, study the position below:
The first feature of the position
that we notice is the black king,
which, despite the presence of the
enemy queen, has journeyed up the

124 All the King 's Men

42 'ii'h3-g4+! !
The master plan. Black ignores the
queen, but is only too aware that in
the long run the capture of White 's
last piece is unavoidable.
43 1i'g4-e6+
Black has nothing to gain by try
ing 43 . . . 'if.?f6-g7 . After 44 'i'e6-e7+
Black's maj or pieces are powerless
to intervene with White's checking
sequence. Instead Plaskett sportingly
returns to g5 in order to allow me the
pleasure of reaching the amazing fi
nal position.
44 'ii'e6-g4+
'it>g5xg4 (D)

Ward - Plaskett
Surrey Open 1993
board. However, my opponent had
calculated that his king was in no
danger because of my lack of influ
ence on the light-squares. Indeed, it
seems that there is even little chance
of a perpetual check.
I am the exchange and a pawn
down and, more importantly, Black
himself is threatening two check
mates: 4 1 . . .'if2xg2 and 4 1 . . .'ii'f2-gl .
Fortunately, after having the advan
tage earlier in the game I was still not
ready to give up, and a few moves
prior to this position a wonderful
idea had found its way into my mind:
41 'iib6-h3+
4 1 'ir'h6-e6+ is also possible,
transposing to the game.
41 ...

By sacrificing the bishop and the
queen I managed to arr a nge a stale
mate. Not as good as a win, but cer
tainly better than nothing !

Ind ex

of M aterial Balances

This index provides a n easy way to look u p particular endings i n this book.
It is arranged in increasing order of the amount of material possessed by
side with more 'points' , according to the standard scheme ii= 9, l:.=5,
i.=3, lLi=3 and = l .
Inside each grouping, the entries are in increasing order of the number of
points possessed by the opponent.
The numbers refer to pages.
Schematic examples without one or both kings

'iti> + 3



lLi + 3



1 2 , 14, 1 5 , 1 7 , 1 8, 1 9, 23, 24
1 2, 25, 27, 102, 1 20

'it? +
<it> + 2

2 1 , 22, 24, 25, 27
28, 62

..ti> +
'iti> + 3

30, 3 1
1 7 , 64


Real Positions

One Point

'it> +
<it> +


Two Points

<it> + 2
cit> + 2
+ 2


Three Points

+ lt:'i
<it; + 3


126 Index of Material Balances

Four Points

'it + .t + !.
<it> + .t + l!.
'it + lb + 8
cit> + lb + !.
<it> + .t + 8
'it + .t + 8
@ + lb + 8
'it + 48
+ 48

Five Points

+ .:.
+ .:.
+ .:.
+ .:.
'it + .t + 2!.
@ + .t + 28
@ + lb + 2!.
'it + .t + 2!.
cit> +lb + 28
cit> +.t + 28
+ 5!.
'it + 5!.
'its> + 5!.
Six Points
'it + .t + lb
'it> + .t + 3!.
+ .t + 3!.
+ lb + 3!.
'it + .:. +8
'its> + lb + 3!.
+ 68
@ + lb + 3!.
@ + .t + 38







@ + 28
'its' + lb
<it> + .t
cit> + lb
<it> + .t
+ lb + 8
@ + 38
@ + 4!.

4 1 , 44
38, 39, 40
1 00, 1 0 1
43 , 48

cit> + !.
@ + 2!.
+ lb
+ .t
'it + .t
cit> + 3!.
@ + .t + l!.
'it + .t + !.
'it + 4!.
@ + 4!.
cit> + .t + !.
'its> + 48
+ 5!.

33, 96
32, 56, 57, 62
1 16
1 06
1 17
59, 60
45 , 46

+ .t + l!.
.t + 2!.
'it + .:.
'it + 5!.
'its> + .:.
@ + lb + 38
'it + lb + 3!.

1 16
98, 99
38, 68, 69, 70, 7 1 , 74, 75, 97
1 00

Index of Material Balances 127

Seven Points


+ : + 28
+ .: + 28
+ i. + 48
+ i. + 48
+ i. + 48
+ .: + 28
+ i. + 48
+ i. + 48

Eight Points

w + l: + i.
w + i. + lb + 28
w + lb + 58

Nine Points

+ 'iii
+ 'ilf
+ 'ii'
+ 'ilV
+ .: + 48

Ten Points

'1ii> + 'ilf + 8
@ + i. + lb + 48

Eleven Points

c;i;> + .: + i. + 38
'it + 2i. + 58

Twelve Points



+ 38
i. + lb + 68
2: + 28
l: + i. + 4







<;t> + :
<;t> + l: + 8
+ lb + 38
@ + i. + 38
@ + lb + 48
@ + : + 28
'it> + lb + 48
w + i. + 48

73, 79
1 15
1 03 , 105
6 1 , 62, 73
1 19

'it> + :
w + .: + 28
'it> + lb + 58

1 15
1 00

+ .:
w + i. + lb
+ l: + 38

3 3 , 34, 35, 36
89, 90
5 1 , 76, 77

'1ii> + 'ii'
@ + l: + 58

1 10
1 14

'it + .: + lb + 38
w + i. + lb + 58


'it + 'ii' + 2
'iP + .: + i. + 3
1ii' + 2l: + 2
'iP + l: + i. + 48

1 09
1 23

128 Index of Material Balances

Thirteen Points

+ 2: + i.
+ 2l: + 38
+ 'iW + 48
+ : + i. + 58
+ 2i. + 78

Fourteen Points

+ : + tti + 68

Fifteen Points
+ 2l: + 58

Sixteen Points

+ 'i!f + i. + 48
+ 2: + 68

Seventeen Points

'ifi> + 2l: + i. + 48

Eighteen Points


+ 'i!f + l: + 48
+ 2: + tti + 58
+ 2: + tti + 58
+ 2: + i. + 58
+ : + 2i. + 78

Nineteen Points

+ 2: + tti + 68

Twenty Points

+ 2: + tti + 78

+ : + i. + tti
+ : + i. + 38
'iii> + 'iW + 38
@ + : + i. + 28
'it> + i. + tti + 78

1 12
1 18

@ + : + tti + M


: + i. + 58

1 12


'iif.? + 'if +tti + 38

+ 2l: + M

8 1 , 84

+ 2: + tti + 38


+ 'i' + i. + 38
'ifi> + 2: + tti + 38
+ 2l: + lti + 48
+ 2: + tti + 58
+ : + i. + tti + 78

1 24
1 22
1 07

+ 2: + tti + 68


'iii> + 2: + tti + 78