Weekly Endgame Column #8

Lund 2018: Black to move and win.

This week I shall follow up on last week’s column with a knight vs. bishop endgame with focus on the shortest diagonal in front of the pawn. I shall also present a study of my own, with solution to follow next week.

1. Knight + pawn vs. bishop

Erwin L’ami – Robin Van Kampen, Reykjavik Open 2014. Black to move – how to defend the position?

This game shows how basic endgame knowledge can be an important part of the decision-making process; and how much it helps the player. I have written about this in Sharp Endgames.

In the game, Black chose an active defense and was able to just make the draw. This is how the game went:

62…b6!? 63.cxb6 c5

Black has sacrificed a pawn to get counterplay with the c-pawn. Now it becomes a race since the shortest diagonal in front of the b6-pawn is only 3 squares long – which means that the Black king will be needed in the defense against this pawn. We learned this in last week’s column. So, Black’s task is to get rid of the h-pawn and then run to the queenside with the king afterwards.

64.Ke5 Bb7 65.Ne6

White has to release the knight at some point, to try to support the b-pawn.

65…c4 66.Kd4 Kh5 67.Kxc4 Kxh4

White’s idea is to place the knight on a5 and the king on c7, threatening to block the bishop on the long diagonal. To defend against this, Black has to play …Ba8. Then White can play Nb7 and Kc7-b8 to trap the bishop. To counter this idea, Black must be in time with the king to eliminate the b6-pawn, and thus the bishop is sacrificed. It turns out that Black is just in time to execute this plan.

68.Kc5 Kg4 69.Kd6 Kf5


At this point White has realized that the above plan does not work, and instead tries to keep up the pressure otherwise.

Here is the forcing line: 70.Kc7 Ba8 71.Nd8 Ke4 72.Nb7 Kd5 73.Kb8 Kc6!= Black is just in time to secure the draw.

The rest of the game posed no real threat to Black:

70…Ke4 71.Nc6 Ba8 72.Kc5 Bb7 73.Na5 Ba8 74.Nc4 Kd3 75.Ne5+ Kc3 76.Nc6 Kb3 77.Kb5 Kc3 78.Kc5 Kb3 79.Nd8 Ka4 80.Kd6 Kb5 81.Kc7 Bg2 82.b7 Bxb7


Let’s go back to the starting position to discuss a different approach to the position based on the teachings of last week:

Black to move.


Black’s defensive idea here is completely different from the game. Black is not afraid to give up the b7-pawn, and instead wants to secure the c6-pawn. At some point, the White knight will have to leave the protection of the h-pawn to grab the c6-pawn, and the Black king can then pick up h4. After the knight picks up c6, the shortest diagonal in front of the c5-pawn is 5 squares long (a4-e8). Thus, the bishop can take care of the pawn on its own!

63.Ke7 Kg7 64.Kd8 Kf6 65.Kc7 Kf5 66.Ng2 Bf3 67.Ne3+ Kf4 68.Nc4 Bd5 69.Na5 Kg4 70.Kxb7 Kxh4 71.Nxc6

Even though Black lost the b7- and c6-pawns, the draw is fairly easy to achieve. This continuation is not tempo-sensitive like the game and thus Black has greater freedom: everything does not depend on one tempo. Black’s guiding principle is simply the rule that at least 5 squares is needed for the shortest diagonal in front of the pawn. Knowing about basic endgame theory can be a powerful tool in the decision-making process!

2. Knight vs. pawns – own study composition

Lund 2018: Black to move and win.

This position can be solved from the diagram position, or you can play out the position against a chess engine as a sharp endgame. Either way, try to find the solution till next week’s Endgame Column.

Here are my thoughts behind the study:

  • In my book Sharp Endgames, I have treated positions with knight vs. pawn in the chapter Lord of the Rings, and here I came up with a way to explain these positions using the ring system 1-2-3. You can read more about in the book, but the knowledge comes in handy in this study. The pawn must be stopped on a2, and the connecting points for the knights are d3-f4-h5
  • Why not add another pawn that the White king is able to fight, and see if Black can somehow combine the threats of promoting both pawns? The fact that the White king cannot approach and get in front of the f6-pawn immediately (g5 is covered), gives rises to a curious king movement along the h-file
  • Black eventually prevails by staying flexible and combining the threats, using the knowledge from Lord of the Rings!

Good luck with the solving!



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