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LCB, Issue #006 -- Adding More Expertise on Critical Endgame Positions
November 01, 2011

Critical Endgame Positions

Lapoc Chess Board, Issue #006 -- Adding More Expertise on Critical Endgame Positions

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Last month we touched on many of the intricacies involved in King and Pawn endgames. This time round we're going to add some pieces to the picture and build on our knowledge in a number of endgame scenarios.

We begin with a return to minor piece endgames. This time we look at minor pieces supporting the advance of a rook pawn. You will see how things turn out when a bishop is on the wrong color square. Then it will be the knight's turn to try and help the pawn to the promised land. We finish up the minor piece section with a discussion on endgames between bishops of opposite colors.

We move on to rook and pawn endgames with discussions on the Lucena Position and the Philidor Position. We end things with a look at queen and pawn endgames, with the queen defending against pawns on the sixth and seventh ranks.

Minor Piece Endgames

Bishop and Rook Pawn vs Lone King

Whenever you try to promote a rook pawn in an endgame there are stalemating possibilities to be wary of. It's one of the main defensive strategies the weaker side will be playing for.

If you're defending a rook pawn advance you will bring your king to the corner and shuffle between the corner square and it's nearest square diagonally. Like a8-b7 or h1-g2 or something like that.

When the pawn reaches the 7th rank and the king is in the corner, the pawn will control one of the king's two flight squares. This will mean that the stronger king can't approach the pawn to defend it without taking away the weaker king's last remaining square bringing about stalemate.

In minor piece and rook pawn vs lone king endgames, the key for the attacking side is to take control of that promotion square with the minor piece, denying the defending king access to it. When that minor piece is a bishop, the critical aspect that will decide the result is the color of the squares controlled by the bishop.

If the bishop is on the same color squares as the promotion square in the corner then promotion and an easy win is assured. If you have a wrong colored bishop that cannot control the corner and drive the king out then it will be a stone wall draw. B&RPvsK Endgame.

Knight and Rook Pawn vs Lone King

A knight and rook pawn always prevail against a lone king with one exception. If the pawn is on the sixth rank or further back and is a safe pawn (can be defended) then it is an easy win. All that is required is that you use the knight to defend the pawn from the rear until the king can be brought across to take over as the defender.

The action is to far from the corner for stalemate to be an issue. The knight moves off to take control of the corner square, chasing the defending king out of the way. Finally the pawn waltzes home unchallenged and the game is a wrap.

The exception occurs when the pawn is on the 7th rank and the defending king is in front of it. Again the attacking king cannot approach the pawn to defend it and allow the knight to take control of the corner square.

Because as soon as the attacking king makes contact with his pawn he stalemates his counterpart in the corner. The knight can't move to take control of the queening square because clearly that would be the end of the pawn resulting in a draw immediately. N&RPvsK Endgame.

Opposite Color Bishops

The bishop that can get through the enemy cover and rip into opposing pawns is the one who has the advantage. It's important if possible to make sure your pawn chain is sitting on squares that the enemy bishop cannot access.

If you're a pawn down in a bishop of opposite colors endgame don't panic. Usually drawing the game is a doddle. If the pawns are on the same side just trade down until only your opponent's last pawn remains. Then place your bishop on a diagonal the pawn has to cross. Be delighted to give up your bishop for the pawn as this will give you the draw. Opposite Bishops Endgame.

Rook and Pawn Endgames

Lucena Position

The Lucena is a pretty nifty resource in the rook and pawn endgame. When you have this procedure nailed down it will help you win many such games. Every good player should know it. How to engineer it, how to execute it.

Virtually any rook and pawn endgame can be simplified to it. It is an absolutely won position for the stronger side. The procedure is straight-forward and easy to learn as you can see.

On the flip side if you find yourself in this kind of endgame as the side without the pawn, don't worry. You can avoid disaster. You must play to avoid the Lucena, you must instead reach another position which prevents it. That position is the Philidor Position.

Philidor Position

How can the weaker side avoid defeat in this endgame? Clearly by preventing the stronger side from getting to the Lucena Position. There is another position, a drawn position that the lone rook and king must reach.

The Philidor is the correct plan for preventing the Lucena. It will keep you in the game. Once set up correctly the defenders can keep the king off that sixth rank with ease. You can prevent the promotion of the pawn or the rook sacrifice that comes in the Lucena.

Isolating the Enemy King

A very important generic tip that you can apply to just about any endgame is the isolation of the enemy king. The king is as powerful as a minor piece and is a central player in the majority of endgames. Freezing him out of the battle is always a good plan.

You will have seen it used to great effect in the execution of the Lucena Position. In fact it is an especially common feature of rook endgames due to the rook's ability to control files.

Queen and Pawn Endgames

Queen vs Pawn on the 6th Rank

A queen can stop a pawn on the 6th rank with consummate ease. All you do is play the queen on to the queening square. The enemy king cannot approach to force the queen aside and support his pawn to promotion. It is simply a matter of time then. The queen just sits patiently on the promotion square while her king strolls in to pick off the pawn.

Queen vs Pawn on the 7th Rank

It's a bit more complicated if the pawn has already reached the second rank. The queen must shower the enemy king with checks forcing him in front of his pawn as often as possible. Whenever he steps in front of the pawn his counterpart takes the opportunity to move closer to the pawn. There is a disciplined technique for this. Eventually the king reaches the pawn and the queen can take it. Q&P Endgames.

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