Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Merry Christmas Gift: Endgame Pointers

The Endgame is where it is at! You have to play these well to have any chance at long term success at chess.

Sure, you will win and lose a lot of chess games early or in the middle of a game against players stronger than you or weaker than you. But, in tournaments – and even in club play – you will usually find yourself paired with someone of equal strength. That means the games will go longer and by piece attrition, end up in an endgame. You have to be better than your peers at the endgame to rise above them.

Matter of fact, chess teachers used to start students off learning openings – after teaching them the basic movements of the pieces. Then tactics – pins, forks, etc were taught first.

But now, the best and fastest way to better chess, is to learn the endgame strategies! The teachers noticed that beginners often go on trading binges and end up with endgames anyway, no matter what openings they were trying to learn. So, now chess teachers are teaching endgame strategy first.

To win early and often, endgame play is where it is at! The lessons listed in this article will appear in [  ].  Who has the advantage - in tenths of a pawn - appear in ( ). Positive number means White is winning and a negative number means Black is winning.

This game started as a Fischer Random 960 game. This means the pieces on the back ranks were jumbled and could have been anywhere! But after the smoke from the opening and middle game battle has cleared, it looks like a run of the mill, regular old chess endgame, doesn’t it? The endgame is where it is at!

White to move
We pick this game up at move 25 for White.

White has a choice of three good moves;
1) Ra7,   [pinning the pawn] on c7 or
2) Kc3    [increasing control on the center of the board]    safely or
3) b5+    [backing the Black King up]    before [pinning] the pawn on c7.

25. Ke3?

This move puts the King in line for a future [pin] or check from the Black rook. [These types of endgames are often decided by who has the most active rook.] White's main advantage is the more active rook and the [more forward pawns]. (.5)

25. ......            g5
26. b5+           Kd7?
Moving to b7 to keep the White rook off the seventh rank was the better move. [Having control of your 7th rank is a huge advantage in the endgame]. (.7)

27. c5             bxc5
28. dxc5         Rb8
29. c6+           Ke8
30. Rb2          h5

Black moves to open up the King side when his rook is blocked and can't help over there quickly. White's rook can fly over there. But White is allowing Black some counter-play by not getting his [king over to help the queenside pawns] (.3).

31. h3? ......

The bad decisions keep coming by White. 31. h4 challenges the pawns now - BEFORE - the black rook [takes the open A-file] and slides into White's territory to assist them! (EVEN).
31. .....             Kf7?
31. ......            Ra8!

[Taking the open file], freeing his rook to harass White from behind!

32. Rb4?          ......

Still worrying about the king side instead of [pushing his queenside advantage] (.2).

32. ......            g4
33. hxg4         fxg4?

33. ....hxg4, [moving toward the center], planning f4 later then pushing the g-pawn for counterplay. Now (.9).

34. Kd3          Kg6?

The Black king is needed on the queenside. He should not be able to make any headway on the kingside if White is vigilant. [You can't play "hope" chess - making moves hoping your opponent makes a mistake] (3.0).

35. Kc4           Kf5
36. Kc5?        .......

Black to move - #36
36. b6! because it is time to [push the pawns]. The text allows Black his own threat of queening a pawn with 36. ....h4! (EVEN - again)

36. ....             Kxe5? (1.1)
37. b6             cxb6+
38. Rxb6         Rc8
39. Rb7?        .......

Rb4 is needed to watch the kingside (.2).

39. .....             h4?

Too early! 39. .....Ke4 first then e5! Then, there would be three pawns to deal with for White. Instead, White’s advantage grows large! (4).

40. gxh4         g3
41. Rb2??      .....

(EVEN) White totally wrecks his huge lead with this defensive looking move!
41. h5! starts the other pawn to the promised land and White still has plenty of time to get his rook home to the 1st rank to stop Black's g-pawn.

41. .....             Kf4
42. Kd6          e5?

42. .....Kg4 is needed to watch the h-pawn threat. Now 43. h5! returns White to a positional four-pawn lead (4).

43. Kd7??       Rh8 (EVEN)
44. c7             Kg4
45. Rb8          Rh7+
46. Kd6          Rxc7

Draw – no one is promoting any pawns.

White never pushed his advantage and let Black off the hook.

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