In the previous article on chess endgames, we discussed two situations to show offensive and defensive techniques applied in endgame positions. In this article, we will see two more endgame positions on similar themes.
Here we see a very simple set up. But you may have doubt about who has the better position – White with two linked passed pawns or Black with a Rook. Actually, White has a slight advantage because of the favorable position of his King to give support to the pawns.
But still White had to play very precisely to win the game.
White moved to gain ‘opposition’. If Black tried Rf5, White would play Ke4. If Black Rook then captured pawn at g5, White would simply push f-pawn and Black cannot stop its promotion.
Black is simply helpless!
If you looked deeper, you will find that Black could offer a greater fight with the following moves. And the more the resistance you offer, the more is the chance of your opponent making a wrong move, allowing you to salvage the game.
A point to note. If you thought either of g7 or f7 would do for White at move 5, you would be sorely mistaken. It would go like 5. f7 Rxg6+ 6. Ke7 Rg7 and after the White King moves, Black simply exchanges the Rook with Pawn to snatch a draw!
Other moves by White King would be worse. For example, 5. f7 Rxg6+ 6. Ke5 Rg5+ 7. Ke4 Rg1 8. f8=Q Re1+ 9. Kf5 Rf1+ and Black wins the Queen and the game! So one cannot be too careful in endgame situations!
6. Ke6 would be a mistake because of 6… Ke4 7. Kf7 Kf5 resulting in a draw! On the other hand, Black’s attempt to reach the pawns by 6… Ke5 leads to 7. f7 Rg6+ 8. Kc5 and one of the pawns get promoted!
Black could still make a last attempt by playing 9… Ra1 10. f8=Q Ra8#! But White had a counterplay with 10. f8=N+ Kf6 11. g8=Q Ra8+ 12. Kd7 and Black has nothing effective to do. You will surely appreciate the number of surprises that can remain hidden in a position! You should also make a note of “underpromotion” (pawn promoted to a piece other than Queen) which, though relatively rare, can sometimes offer the only solution to a tricky situation!
This position exemplifies the need to think deeper even after you have found an apparently winning line. White played 1. Rxe8 expecting 1… Rxe8 after which he foresaw 2. Nxf6 Rg7 (to prevent Rh7#) 3. Rxg7 Kxg7 4. Nxe8+ and win!
But what actually happened must have taken White by surprise, though it was not a very difficult line to see.
So what looked like an easy win ended only in a draw.