Weekly Endgame Column #4

This week, we shall follow up on last week’s exercises. On the way, a couple of new important pawn endgames with 3 vs. 2 will be treated.

Solution to exercise 1

The question concerned the push of either of the 3 pawns.

A) 1.f6?? gxf6 2.gxf6 Kf7 3.Kf5

Because the h-pawn is on h7, White is unable to get to this pawn from the side, attack it and win it. All Black has to do at this critical moment is to count the reserve tempos with the h-pawn and make the right retreat with the king to the back rank: either the corresponding squares are e6/e8 or e6/f8. With an even number of reserve tempos (0, 2) the corresponding squares become e6/e8.

3…Ke8!

An uneven number of reserve tempos (1) gives the corresponding squares e6/f8.

4.Ke6 Kf8 5.f7 h6=

Or 5.h6 Ke8=

B) 1.h6?? gxh6 2.gxh6=

With no reserve tempos on the h-file, the opposition is on the squares e6/e8.

C) 1.g6! hxg6

1…h6!? is a clever defensive try, although it doesn’t save Black. We already had a look at the position without h-pawns last week, and the key for White is not to push the f-pawn prematurely. Because of the g6-pawn and the threat of f5-f6, Black’s king cannot enter the d-file, and thus Black will get into zugzwang and will be forced towards the h8-corner. At the right moment then, White can sacrifice the f-pawn and mate with the g-pawn 2.Kd5! Kf6 3.Ke4 Ke7 4.Ke5+- Black is to move and will be forced towards the h8-corner.

2.hxg6+-

This position is winning for White no matter who moves first. We saw that last week. White to move can triangulate the king and lose a tempo – as we just saw above.

So, playing 1.g5-g6 is a no-brainer, and incidentally, the only pawn move to win from the starting position.

Solution to exercise 2

This turns out to be a no-brainer too, as all 3 pawn moves win for White.

A) 1.f5!+ gxf5 2.gxf5+ Kf6 3.Kf4+-

Black’s h-pawn is on h6, and White can use a king triangulation to get at it from g6.

B) 1.h5! gxh5 2.gxh5+-

This essentially leads to the same position: with the pawn on h6, it will succumb to a king triangulation.

C) 1.g5! hxg5 2.hxg5

This position is winning for White because Black is to move. We saw that last week. If White were to move, it would not be possible to push the Black king back – the reason being that Black is able to use the d-file here, and a White 3.Kd4 would be answered with 3…Kd6!

Black could try to defend with 1.g5! h5!?:

2.f5! gxf5 3.Kf4 Kf7 4.Kxf5 Kg7

Of course not 5.g6?? Kh6!= now as 6.Kf6 is stalemate. White instead plays:

5.Ke5 Kf7 6.Kd6!

Black has no access to the f6-square, and thus White is able to out-maneuver the Black king around the corresponding squares f5/g7.

Now either 6…Kg6 7.Ke6!+- or 6…Kg7 7.Ke7!+-

Solution to exercise 3

White has several ways of winning this position, and we shall have a look at them in turn. The fact that White’s h-pawn is still on h2 gives White the flexibility to even enter f+h vs. h with Black’s pawn on h7.

But, there is one way of playing that throws away the win!

A) White plays 1.f5! and makes sure that the f6-square is covered, preventing Black from playing g7-g6 and exchange on f5. This is possible after 1…Kf6 2.Kf4 or 2.h4 – in both cases 2…g6 can be answered with 3.g5+ and 4.f6+-

If Black does not play g7-g6, White will get all 3 pawns to the 5th rank and play g5-g6: a position that wins no matter who’s to move.

As mentioned above, 1.f5! is in fact a no-brainer as the position with f+h vs. h is winning for White because of the pawn on h2 – even if Black’s pawn is on h7. That is, White can confidently allow Black to play gxf5 gxf5.

B) White can also play 1.g5!? g6:

The clue to this position is two-fold:

1. After a future h4-h5xg6 h7xg6, it has to be Black to move with the king’s on e4/e6. We saw that in the solution to exercise 2.
2. If Black captures on h5 after h4-h5, White has to play f4-f5 with check in order to win.

Both these clues lead to 2.h3! being the right move for White:

2…Kd6 3.h4 Ke6

Needless to say, the Black king has to stay on the 6th rank for now, to not let the White king forward.

4.h5

Now 4…Kd6 5.hxg6 hxg6 6.f5+- wins for White.

If Black plays 4…Ke7, White wins with 5.hxg6 hxg6 6.Ke5+-, simply approaching the g6-pawn from the side.

The best defense is to capture the h-pawn:

4…gxh5 5.f5+

As mentioned above, it is important that this pawn push is a check.

5…Kd6 6.Kf4 h4 7.Kg4 Ke5 8.f6 h3 9.Kxh3 Ke6

The tempo gained by f4-f5+ earlier makes the difference – White to move is able to get the king to g6 in time:

10.Kh4 h6 11.Kh5! hxg5 12.Kg6!+-

The f6-pawn will promote.

This was yet another way to win the position, but now we come to the one move that throws away the win.

C) 1.h4?? g6!=

The reasons for White’s failure to win should be clear by now:

C1) 2.g5 Kd6 3.h5 Ke6! 4.hxg6 hxg6= and White is to move.

Black even has the option of 3…gxh5! as the king is on d6, and thus there is no f4-f5 with check. In the end, the White king will not be able to make it to g6 as we saw above.

C2) 2.f5 gxf5 3.gxf5 Kf6= The h-pawn is on h7, and due to 2 reserve tempos on the h-file, Black keeps the opposition on e6/e8.

C3) 2.h5 gxh5 3.gxh5= is essentially the same. With only 1 reserve tempo on the h-file, the corresponding squares are e6/f8 though.

C4) Waiting with pawn pushes with moves like 2.Kd4 does not help White after 2…Kd6: White is unable to out-maneuver Black and gain/lose a tempo.

Conclusion: the difference between the h-pawn being on h6 or h7 has a huge impact on the positions! I believe these pawn endgames to be among the most important to be familiar with.

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