The importance of knowing endgames

by CHESS Magazine
3/12/2018 – Can you play rook and pawn vs rook? It is one of the most common endgames, and your ability to win it, when it is winnable, or draw it when that is possible, will bring you a fair number of rating points. The endgame expert André Chéron did pioneering work in this field, and Milos Pavlovic, grandmaster and chess trainer, gives us some vital tips, based on Chéron's work. It's all in the latest edition of the UK-based Chess Magazine.

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What does the name André Chéron mean to you? Milos Pavlovic presents one of the famous endgame theorist’s very helpful rules of thumb...

Why endgames are so unpopular? Is it because they are generally difficult, or is it because they are often underestimated? The well-known phrase ‘all rook endgames are drawn’ has perhaps unintentionally played down the significance of endgames.

Needless to say all the world champions have been very strong endgame players. Thanks to Kramnik’s match victory over Kasparov we really started to appreciate such positions again in tournament chess. That said, due to the modern-day enormous use of analysis engines, we still don’t look anything like as much as we should at endgames; the accent is all on openings.

To really understand the openings one has to start by first learning endgames, but that part is somehow missing these days. An almost empty board is rather confusing to many and found boring by others. However, to really grasp the role of geometry in chess, it is essential to start right from there: with the endgame.

There are many type of endgame and usually we don’t come across that many in our tournament games. My former trainer, the late legendary Dragoljub Velimirovic, always told me that there are around 50 endgame positions that are worth knowing. Just like with the openings, endgames also have certain rules and theory behind them. If you don’t know them, you will either lose or miss a win. It really is as simple as that.

The importance of endgame knowledge is really high. Just think of that epic match in 1987 between Karpov and Kasparov, where the latter triumphed in the final game thanks to a fine bishop versus knight endgame (with queens on). Trying to understand which minor piece is better and when is not easy, but endgame study can really help there.

For the purpose of this article I decided to give not minor piece endgames, but four rook endgames. I hope that you find them useful in your own games.

[Event "CHESS Magazine article"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Cheron Endgames 1"] [Black "White to play"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [Annotator "Milos Pavlovic"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3r4/8/8/6k1/8/3P4/3K4/5R2 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "14"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [SourceDate "2005.09.12"] {The famous endgame expert André Chéron established certain rules in some type of rook endgames, including some with just rook and centre pawn versus rook. One rule is that the number of the rank which the pawn occupies plus the number of files that the defending king is from the pawn should not be more than six. Here we have the pawn on third rank (3), plus two files between it and the black king (2), so it’s a draw.} 1. Kc3 Rc8+ 2. Kd4 Rd8+ 3. Kc4 Rc8+ 4. Kb5 Rd8 {[#]} {The key point. White must either retreat his king or defend with his rook, thereby allowing the black king to escape from its prison.} 5. Rd1 Kf6 6. d4 Ke7 7. Kc6 Rc8+ {With the black king back in place, it’s an easy draw.} 1/2-1/2

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[Event "Chess Magazine article"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Cheron Endgames 2"] [Black "White to play"] [Result "1/2-1/2"] [Annotator "Milos Pavlovic"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "3r4/6k1/8/8/8/3P4/3K4/5R2 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [SourceDate "2005.09.12"] {Here we have same position, but the black king is on g7 and it’s still a draw (3+2=5). This endgame was analysed by Chéron, as well as by Smyslov and Levenfish, but would you be able to draw it?} 1. Kc3 Rc8+ 2. Kd4 Rd8+ 3. Kc4 Rc8+ 4. Kb5 Rd8 {Thus far the defence has been fairly straightforward, but what to do when White defends the pawn from the side?} 5. Rf3 $1 Kg6 6. Kc5 Rc8+ 7. Kd6 Rd8+ {[#]} 8. Ke6 ({An important alternative is} 8. Ke7 {when} Rd5 $1 {maintains the blockade, Black holding after, for example,} 9. Ke6 Rd8 10. Rg3+ Kh5 11. Kf5 Kh4 $1 12. Re3 Rf8+ 13. Ke5 Re8+ 14. Kd4 Rd8+ 15. Kc5 Rc8+ 16. Kd6 Rd8+ 17. Ke7 Rd5 $1 $11) 8... Kg5 9. Rf5+ Kg6 $1 10. Rd5 Re8+ 11. Kd7 {[#]} Re3 $3 {The only way to draw and an important motif to remember. Chéron first found this idea.} ({Instead, after} 11... Ra8 12. d4 Kf6 13. Rc5 Ra7+ 14. Rc7 $1 Ra4 (14... Ra5 15. Kd6 Ra6+ 16. Rc6) 15. d5 Ke5 16. d6 Kd5 17. Rb7 $1 { White wins.}) 12. d4 Kf6 13. Rh5 (13. Rd6+ Kf5 14. Kc6 Ke4 15. d5 Rc3+ 16. Kd7 Rh3 $1 {is a draw too.}) 13... Re7+ $1 14. Kd8 ({Likewise, after} 14. Kd6 Re6+ 15. Kd5 Re1 16. Rh7 Rd1 17. Rd7 Ra1 $1 {White can't improve his position.}) 14... Ra7 15. Rh6+ {[#]} Kg5 $1 16. Rc6 Kf5 17. d5 Ke5 18. d6 Kd5 19. Rc7 Ra1 { By now the draw is clear, as if} 20. d7 Kd6 21. Rc2 {Black has} Ra8+ 22. Rc8 Ra7 1/2-1/2

[Event "CHESS Magazine article"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Cheron Endgames 3"] [Black "White to play"] [Result "1-0"] [Annotator "Milos Pavlovic"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "2r5/5k2/8/8/8/2P5/2K5/4R3 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "29"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [SourceDate "2005.09.12"] {Here we have a a bishop’s pawn, but this position is not drawn owing to Chéron’s rule we saw above. The position is a draw, but only if the black king is on f5, not f7 as here. Another important rule to remember is: the less advanced a pawn is, the greater number of files that is needed to cut off the opposition king in order to win, but again that doesn’t prevent this position being drawn if we could only move the black king forward by two squares.} 1. Kb3 Rb8+ 2. Kc4 Rc8+ 3. Kb4 Rb8+ 4. Ka5 Rc8 5. Re3 $1 {With the black king on f5, 5...Kf4 would follow and draw, but the king is still on f7.} Kf6 6. Kb5 Rb8+ 7. Kc6 Rc8+ 8. Kd6 Kf5 9. Re5+ Kf6 10. Rc5 Rd8+ 11. Kc7 Rd3 { he same idea we saw in our last example, but here it doesn’t help the defender.} 12. c4 Ke6 13. Rh5 Rd7+ 14. Kc8 Ra7 15. c5 $1 {White wins because, compared with the previous example, Black runs of space and finds ...Ra8+ met by Kb7.} 1-0

[Event "CHESS Magazine article"] [Site "?"] [Date "????.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Cheron Endgames 4"] [Black "White to play"] [Result "1-0"] [Annotator "Milos Pavlovic"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "1r6/8/5k2/8/8/1P6/1K6/4R3 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "33"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] [SourceDate "2005.09.12"] {Here we have a knight’s pawn. These particular pawns don’t oblige to the aforementioned rule; the defender needs the total to be five to draw. Here the pawn is on the third rank and the king cut off by three files, so the total is six, meaning a win for White. Let’s see how.} 1. Kc3 Rc8+ 2. Kd4 Rb8 3. Kc4 Rc8+ 4. Kd5 Rb8 5. Rb1 $1 Ke7 6. Kc6 {[#]} Rb4 ({Alternatively,} 6... Kd8 7. b4 Rc8+ 8. Kb6 $1 {[#]} (8. Kb7 $2 Rc7+ 9. Kb6 Kc8 {draws}) 8... Rc4 9. b5 Kc8 10. Rh1 Rb4 11. Rh8+ Kd7 12. Rb8 $1 {and wins.}) 7. Re1+ Kd8 8. Re3 $1 {[#] Again this motive!} Rh4 9. Rg3 $1 Rh6+ 10. Kb7 Rh7+ 11. Kb8 Rh6 12. Rd3+ Ke8 13. Kc7 Rh7+ 14. Kb6 Rh6+ 15. Ka5 Rh5+ 16. Ka4 Rh4+ 17. b4 {White wins.} 1-0

I should also add that all these general rules have, unsurprisingly, their exceptions, but without knowing the rules we would be even more in the dark when we reach the endgame of rook and pawn versus rook. Forget Chéron’s discoveries at your peril!

The above articles were reproduced from Chess Magazine March/2018, with kind permission.

About CHESS Magazine

CHESS Magazine March 2018

CHESS Magazine was established in 1935 by B.H. Wood who ran it for over fifty years. It is published each month by the London Chess Centre and is edited by IM Richard Palliser and Matt Read. The Executive Editor is Malcolm Pein, who organises the London Chess Classic.

CHESS is mailed to subscribers in over 50 countries. You can subscribe from Europe and Asia at a specially discounted rate for first timers, or subscribe from North America.

UK’s most popular CHESS Magazine — established 1935! All the regular features of the UK’s best-selling CHESS magazine plus more! In this issue:

  • The King of Wijk – Yochanan Afek watched Magnus Carlsen win Wijk for a sixth time
  • A Good Start – Gawain Jones was pleased to begin well at Wijk aan Zee
  • All Tied Up on the Rock – John Saunders had to work hard, but once again enjoyed Gibraltar
  • Rocking the Rock – The best of the action from the Tradewise Gibraltar Masters
  • HIARCS and the World of Computer Chess – Mark Uniacke reports and discusses a paradigm shift
  • A Lovely Attack – Dan Bisby is always a dangerous opponent as Jon Speelman discovered
  • Doing It By The Book – Carl Strugnell managed to win without leaving his preparation
  • Studies with Stephenson – Brian is back and discusses the remarkable Penrose family
  • The Importance of Knowing Endgames – Milos Pavlovic presents one of Chéron’s handy rules of thumb
  • Plus all the regular features such as: How Good is Your Chess?, Saunders on Chess, Find the Winning Moves, Never Mind the Grandmasters, Studies, Home & Overseas News, Calendar and Book Reviews.

Download a free PDF preview of this issue!

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CHESS Magazine was established in 1935 by B.H. Wood who ran it for over fifty years. It is published each month by the London Chess Centre and is edited by IM Richard Palliser and Matt Read.


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