Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Applying Endgame Knowledge

I don't intend to have a lot of my own games on this site. My intent is to keep this site focused on material that will help other people as well as myself. It would be easy to list a bunch of ICC blitz games that I found interesting, but few others would.

However, if it demonstrates a general point that I want to reinforce, I'll succumb. Here is an example of how a little bit of endgame knowledge goes a long way.

I've known for a long, long time how to play Queen vs. Pawn on the 7th rank positions, but I've always been a bit sloppy in the execution (not "crisp" as NM Alex Betaneli would say). This endgame was very well covered in Silman's Complete Endgame Course, and even though I have only had this book about a month, I have put this refresher course to practical use and executed this endgame in several online games. The following endgame still isn't "crisp", but it possesses much higher turgor pressure than my old efforts.

53. Kc2?

53. Ke2 draws: 53...Kc3 (... Ke5 54. Ke3=) 54. Ke3=. After White's actual move it was easy to calculate the pawn race and see that I would win provided I knew how to win the Q vs. P endgame.

53... Ke3! 54. Kc3 Kf4 55. Kc4 Kxg4 56. Kxc5 Kf5 57. d4 g4 58. d5 g3 59. d6
g2 60. d7 g1=Q+

This is the position I calculated up to before playing my 53rd move. It was important to visualize that Black queens with check. What follows is not the quickest, most crisp win, but I used the basic technique and got the job done: 61. Kc6 Qc1+ 62. Kd6 Qd2+ 63. Ke7 Qe3+ 64. Kf8 Qd4 65. Ke7 Qe5+
66. Kf8 Qd6+ (66... Ke6 !? is a cute move Fritz found, but there's no need to
take such risks in an actual game. The idea is 67. d8=Q {67. d8=N+ is a better practical shot but it's still mate in four} 67... Qh8#) 67. Ke8 Qe6+ 68. Kd8 Kf6 69. Kc8
Qc4+ 70. Kd8 Ke6 71. Ke8 Qc6 0-1

Because I was familiar with the basic Q vs. P endgame, I was able to calculate ahead 15 ply to the queen check and evaluate it as a won endgame for Black. Even though I absolutely suck at blitz (you should have seen the rest of the game! oy...) I was able to do this in a few seconds of counting.

One of the values of studying endgames is that it allows you to spot transitions into simpler, winning endgames from more complicated ones. This is especially important if you are deciding to enter a pawn endgame, because of their concrete and unforgiving nature. For example, after you master K+P vs. K, you can calculate an endgame with an outside passed pawn down to these K+P vs. K endgames. Once you understand how to win an "outside passer" endgame, you can spot an opportunity to simplify from a B vs. N endgame to a won "outside-passer" pawn endgame. And so on.

Finally: although I won the endgame, there were numerous, simple tactical errors throughout the game, which demonstrates the supremacy of studying tactics and correcting sloppy thinking. If I had played better earlier on, I would not have had to worry about the endgame. However, endgame knowledge is immensely useful as a "safety net", especially since a lot of people hate studying endgames. Also, some opponents, even stronger ones, will try to simplify down to an endgame if they feel threatened. If your endgame skills are better than theirs, they may be in for an ugly surprise.


fuzzbot said...

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likesforests said...

Sweet endgame! It's also useful to know that the weaker side can only draw K+P vs K+Q if he has a rook pawn or a bishop pawn--as you clearly do.

Anonymous said...

What about the simple sequence 1...c4 2.dxc4 Kxc4 with the opposition?
Isn't it a trivial win for Black?

Grandpatzer said...

Anonymous: it wins the opposition but not the game. You can try it out against the computer, but basically imagine: W: Kf2, p g4; B: Kf4, pg5 with White to move. White can play Kf1 or Kg1 and reseize the opposition of Black capture's White's g pawn.