Another Ending Another Low

Another online club tournament, and, inevitably, another pawn ending. I was White against a slightly lower rated opponent, who, like me, was eager to trade everything off very quickly.

We reached this pawn ending after my 25th move. How would you assess it?

I was right to be optimistic about my chances here: a much better placed king and two pawn islands against three. You might want to guess my moves in advance.

My opponent found the only move not to lose quickly.

26.. c6!
27. b4 Ke7
28. a4 Kd7

All fine so far. Now I have three winning moves: Ke4, g4 and h4. The move I chose looked like the obvious selection, but it should only draw.

29. b5? a5?

The drawing move here was Kc7!. Stockfish also gives h5!? and g5!? as leading to a slight advantage for White, which, I presume, indicates that they reach a queen ending.

Now I decided to gain some space on the kingside, but chose the wrong pawn to advance. There are several winning moves, including g4 and h4, but not my choice.

30. f4? Kc7?

30.. f5! should lead to a draw here.

31. f5 Kb6
32. g4 h6
33. h4?

Again I failed to find one of the winning moves. One example is 33. bxc6 Kxc6, when the only path to victory is 34. h3! (34. h4? g5! is a draw).

33.. g6?

The draw here was 33.. g5!. Now I have two winning moves: 34. bxc6! Kxc6 35. g5! hxg5 36. fxg6! or the immediate 34. g5!.

34. Ke4? Kc5?

Another natural move, but another mistake. There were draws to be had with 34.. d5+!, 34.. g5! or 34.. h5!. Now either pawn capture should win.

35. fxg6! fxg6

36. h5?

I had two ways to win here but again missed them both. The simpler way was 36. bxc6! Kxc6 37. Kd4! g5 38. h5! when Black has to give way. But there was also 36. Ke3! (Kd3 and Kf3 only draw) 36.. d5 37. bxc6 Kxc6 38. Kd4! dxc4 39. Kxc4 with the opposition.

36.. gxh5!
37. gxh5 d5+!
38. cxd5 cxb5!

This is what I’d missed when going into this variation. I’d only considered 38.. cxd5, which is indeed winning for me. Now both sides promote and this week, unlike last week, the queen ending is drawn.

39. axb5 Kxb5
40. Ke5 a4
41. d6 Kc6
42. Ke6 a3
43. d7 a2
44. d8=Q a1=Q
45. Qc8+ Kb5
46. Qb8+ Kc4
47. Qe5

I decided to head for my favourite position again, king against king!

47.. Qxe5+
48. Kxe5 Kc5
49. Kf6 Kd6
50. Kg6 Ke7
51. Kg7 Ke8
52. Kxh6 Kf7
53. Kg5 Kg7
54. h6+ Kh7
55. Kh5 Kh8
56. Kg6 Kg8
57. h7+ Kh8
58. Kf6 Kxh7

I played two more games against the same opponent, both again with White, in the same competition, and on both occasions managed to reach endings with a material advantage which I was able to convert, although in the second of them I gave away two wins, while he gave away two draws.

A difficult pawn ending, I think, in which I gave away four wins and my opponent gave away three draws. If you play through some of the variations (including those I didn’t mention), I’m sure you’ll learn a lot and improve your pawn ending play. It’s probably too late for me, though.

Richard James

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Richard James

Author: Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy ( or and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966. Richard is a published author and his books can be found at Amazon. Richard is currently promoting minichess (games and puzzles using subsets of chess) for younger children through his website, and writing coaching materials for children (and adults) who want to start playing serious competitive chess, through View all posts by Richard James

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