Here’s another of my pawn ending questions for you.
It’s Black’s move. What would you play here?
In one of my club’s recent lockdown arena sessions I miscalculated two pawn endings in consecutive games. In the position above I was facing a slightly stronger opponent and failed to find the correct move.
You’ll find the solution below, but here’s a position from my next game. My much stronger opponent had sportingly sacrificed the exchange, but I later felt forced to return it to reach this position with White to play.
I’d intended to play 56. Bxa3 here, but suddenly panicked, as I always do when facing someone higher rated. I saw that the black king was going to capture my king-side pawns, and played 56. Kb3? instead, which, as you might expect, loses horribly.
Of course this was a hallucination: I’d completely forgotten about my extra pawn on d3. The pawn ending is trivially won after 56.Bxa3 Bxa3? 57. Kxa3 Kg4 58. d4! (or 58. Kb4!, but 58. Kb3 is only a draw). So Black would instead have played 56.. Bf6, hoping to hold the bishop ending a pawn down.
Totally ridiculous, but these things happen in rapid chess.
Here’s the solution to the puzzle at the top of the article.
I played 40.. a5? here: my opponent found the only drawing move 41. bxa5! bxa5 and we shuffled our kings round until the position repeated itself three times.
In fact White’s last move (Ke3-d3) was a mistake. 40. b5 would have drawn, as would 40. g4 and 40. Kf3: check them out for yourself.
I have just one winning move: 40.. a6!, to stop him creating a protected passed pawn. Now my threat is 41.. b5. 41. a5 loses to 41.. b5!. 41. b5 loses after I trade off two pairs of pawns. 41. c5 loses to 41.. bxc5 42. dxc5 Kd5 (or Ke5) when Black’s two queenside pawns hold up White’s three (an occasion where it’s better to have disconnected pawns).
An instructive position, I think.