Saturday, May 19, 2007

King & Pawn vs King & Pawn

I don't wish to play pawn endings like a Grandmaster.

Brinckmann-Leonhardt, Berlin, 1928. Black resigns??

Nikolai Grigoriev, a great composer of pawn endings, said "Grandmasters do not like pawn endings because they simply don't understand them." Let us seek to understand pawn endings as Grigoriev and very few others do.

With that in mind, I played dozens of King & Pawn vs King & Pawn endings. Here are the ones that tricked me. Learn them, so they won't trick you in a real game.

Mackenzie-Sellman, New York, 1880. White to move.

First, White and Black are both 4 moves from promoting--that implies a draw. But, there's a trick! After White plays h8=Q, Black can't play a1=Q without being captured, so I evaluated this as a win for White.

However, there's a second trick. This is a rook pawn, and Queen vs Pawn is drawn if a rook or bishop pawn reaches the seventh rank with its king nearby.

1.Kg6 Kb2 2.h6 a3 3.h7 a2 4.h8=Q Kb1 (draw)

Hanham-Judd, Mew York, 1889. Black to move.

After 1...Ka4 2.c4 Ka5, White must choose between attacking his opponent's pawn or advancing his own pawn.

If White attacks Black's pawn, Black has time to attack White's pawn.

If White advances his pawn, the pawns become fixed on c6 and c7. The resulting position should be familiar if you've studied pawn endings. Black will win the pawn but White can take the opposition to force a draw.

1...Ka4 2.c4 Ka5 3.Kd5 Kb4 4.c5 Kb5 5.Kd4 c6 6.Kd3 Kxc5 7.Kc3 (draw)

Janowski-Mieses, Paris, 1895. White to move.

Obviously, 1.Kf3 to lock in Black's king. But now does White have time to promote his pawn to queen before Black runs out of moves?

1.Kf3 Kh2 2.Kf2 h3 3.c4 Kh1 4.c5 h2 5.c6 (draw)

Pillsbury-Walbrodt, Nuremberg, 1896. Black to move.

Both pawns promote the same turn, but when Black promoted a1=Q White can no longer play h1=Q or his piece is immediately captured! I wasn't tricked by this, but the position contrasts well with Mackenzie-Sellman. Black wins!

1...Kb4 2.Kg5 a5 3.h4 a4 4.h5 a3 5.Kg6 a2 6.h6 a1=Q 7.Kh6 Qf6 (White resigns)

Blumenfeld-Izbinsky, St. Petersburg, 1905. Black to move.

I would be extremely impressed if anyone fully understood this position without reading these comments. White will queen a half turn before Black. After queening, White would like to play Qa8+ then Qb8 (skewer), but he won't get a chance since Black will queen with check.

The game went 1... b5 2.f5 b4 3.f6 b3 4.Kd3?!

Blumenfeld's brilliant move scored a win where there would have been a draw. Play might have continued like so:

4...Ka4 5.Kc3 Kb3 6.f7 b2 7.f8=Q

It's White who queens with check and wins the game.

What's even more interesting is that if Black had realized this, he could have drawn with 1...Kb6, aiming to get in front of White's pawn.

Feel free to write me if you have any questions or just enjoyed these positions. I'll write a new entry on Friday. ¡Hasta Luego!   :)


Loomis said...

Your last diagram you have listed as black to move, but your lines start with white to move. It is also an interesting position with black to move -- perhaps easier to find the idea.

Since black will queen first with check, white has to go after the pawn with Kd3 and Kc3 if black defends it with Ka4 and Ka3. but once on the black king is on a3, white queens with check. So it is black that has to stop the white pawn by stepping inside the square, 1. ... b5 2. f4 Kb6. And now if 3. f5 Kc6 draws and 3. Kd5 b4 draws.

Temposchlucker said...

Interesting stuff. Do you use the Nalimov tablebase? Without it Fritz is often wrong in pawnendings.
BTW have you ever read my post about the Endgame Composition Generator "Grigoriev"?

Temposchlucker said...
And posts before and after this date.

likesforests said...

loomis, great analysis!

In the real game it was White to move and after 1.f4 Izbinsky pushed his pawn with 1...b5?? apparently believing he would queen with check and have an easy draw.

Black to move is even trickier, because Black is probably already imagining his trophy when he sees he'll queen one turn earlier with check. But if he pushes his pawn forward (twice), he loses!

By the way, I corrected the diagram and text for the next person. (I show the diagram one turn later when it really is Black to move).

likesforests said...

tempo, I have the 4-man Nalimov tablebase and it makes a big difference in some positions. Convekta sells the 5/6 man tablebases for $50, or you can spend eons downloading them--I haven't decided what to do about those yet.

I just checked out your posts on King & Pawn vs King & Pawn and they are very interesting. I made the wrong move on my first try to solve Rogers-Shirov so doubtless I need to do more work understanding them. You don't get second tries in real games!

Temposchlucker said...

There are a few pretty fast servers with Nalimov tablebases out there. In case you have a fast connection yourself you can think it over. It took me 2 hours to download 7 Gb. Which I found quite impressive.

likesforests said...

I downloaded all the 5-man tables. Wow. I punched in a K+B+B vs K+Q position and apparently the side with the Queen mates in 28 moves. Now that is power! said...
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transformation said...

very impressive. i feel that such an approach cannot but meet with successs.

less talk about gizmos, and more focus on effort and application with our OWN brains ... real chess:::::

important distinction, IMHO: we can blow a lot of hours with chess engines, tablebases, but the simple fact of studying endings in parallel to tactical study cannot do anything but confer great benefit.

dont get me wrong. i love my pc. it is all good. but my simple advise is cultivate endgame study with pc's rather than pc's with some chess study.

until one gets to a higher rank, distraction with--as i have said in the past many times to you--opening analysis is also ill advised. we all want tools, and tricks, and magic, but it is touching the pieces, and blindfold analysis, or solutions with diagrams without touching pieces practicing calculation.

if you wish to go further that way, then Schereshevskys Endgame Strategy and Mullers Secrets of Pawn Endings. deft combination of those two is worth far more than junior, fritz, fruit, crafty, nalimov, rybka, stacked like jack in the beanstawk, etc. as blaise pascal said: life is distraction.

looking, seeing, listening. pausing. calculating. visualization. this will make you better.

dont get sidetracked with technology. use it, but dont put it forefront. IMHO.
warmly, dk