Power Play 15: Practical Pawn Endgames

by ChessBase
7/6/2011 – Some chess DVDs take awhile to get interesting, but within the first ten seconds of GM Daniel King's new DVD he presents a position for which the viewer has to make a decision regarding what to do. In Chess Cafe Steve Goldberg shows us this position and writes of the product: "It's a quick moving, highly instructive DVD that is typical of King's Power Play series." Review.

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King and Pawn Essentials

By Steve Goldberg

Power Play 15: Practical Pawn Endgames, by Daniel King (DVD), ChessBase 2011, Playing Time: Four hours, $35.95 (ChessCafe Price: $29.95)

In the introductory segment, King identifies four aspects he intends to cover:

  • Calculation – this is central to king and pawn endings.
  • Knowledge of the basics – the "building blocks" of king and pawn endings.
  • Knowledge of motifs – e.g., triangulation and opposition.
  • Creativity – such as a tactical idea coming into play that "can turn a position on its head."

Following the introduction, thirty-six test positions are then presented in order of difficulty. These can be examined either at this point in the DVD or, more likely, after the subsequent nine instructional segments. These nine videos cover topics such as

  • Basic king and pawn endgame elements, such as simple opposition and the nature of rook-pawn (a- and h-pawn) drawish positions.
  • Space advantage, by which King refers to obtaining a dominant king position or having advanced pawns, whether passed or not.
  • "Reserve tempi" (waiting pawn moves).
  • Triangulation.
  • Effectively utilizing an outside passed pawn.
  • Tactical considerations of 3-on-3 and related pawn formations.
  • Strong use of the king, including "shouldering" away the enemy king.
  • Stalemate possibilities.

The latter portion of Power Play 15: Practical Pawn Endgames contains, ostensibly, solutions to the thirty-six test positions. However, the viewer will find only thirty-three test position solution segments.

In nearly every case, a separate video segment is presented for the solution to each test position. However, two test positions are included within one of the "solution" video segments, and inexplicably, solutions to two of the test positions (Larsen-Wade and Socko-LeKieu Thien Kim) seem not to be presented at all. Fortunately, the game files for both of these test positions are included in the database, so an enterprising viewer can still find the game continuation, but without King's explanations. This is an unfortunate production error that mars an otherwise sparkling DVD. Unless this was an isolated problem in my copy, I would advise the ChessBase staff to quickly correct this omission.

Both the instructional segments and the test positions offer examples of very practical play; for example, a case in which a player must decide whether to offer to trade into a king and pawn ending. Will the resultant endgame be favorable or unfavorable? This is a pertinent question that can frequently make the difference between a win or loss on your scoresheet.

Let's look, for instance, at King's treatment of the important topic of triangulation in the "Pawn Endings 5" segment. He begins with the following position from Alekhine-Yates 1910:

The question King asks is, "Should White play Re5?" It's the kind of position and kind of question that arises frequently. Knowing how to correctly answer will result in many favorable outcomes in your games.

Indeed, King answers, White should play 40.Re5, because he can force a winning endgame. But there are a few pitfalls along the way. Black must respond 40…Rxe5, and White replies 41.fxe5.

Now if Black plays 41…Ke6, White follows with 42.Kd4 and Black is in zugzwang and loses. So instead, Black played 41…Ke7. White must be careful – if he responds with the natural-looking 42.Kd4, Black answers with 42…Ke6 (triangulation) and now it's White who is zugzwang, with a draw as the likely result. Or, if White plays 42.Kb4, a race occurs, again with a likely draw. Instead, White played 42.Kd3, so that if 42…Ke6, 43.Kd4 (triangulation again) wins.

Black avoided this with 42…Kd7.

King points out that if White follows with 43.Kc3, Black responds with 43…Ke7, and nothing has been gained. Instead, White played 43.e4. Black can't capture with 43…fxe4+ because of 44.Kxe4 Ke6 45.Kd4. So Black is forced to play 43…f4.

Play then continued 44.Ke2 Ke6.

Now White must be very careful. If he blunders with 45.Kf3, Black captures with 45…Kxe5 and White actually loses.

The correct move is the triangulation move 45.Kf2. Now Black has nothing better than 45…Kxe5, after which White plays 46.Kf3 and wins.

Despite the apparent omission of two of the test position solutions, Power Play 15: Practical Pawn Endgames is an entertaining and informative DVD sure to be helpful to most intermediate-level players. Few players are sufficiently competent in endgame play, and this presentation will help provide a good foundation to build upon.

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