I’d say round about a quarter of the games I play in our club’s weekly online tournament are decided in the ending. Which is why I keep on banging on about learning to play endings really well.

Here’s one from last week’s blitz arena: I was Black against a slightly stronger opponent.

It was White’s move in this pawn ending. Black has a more active king and can win the a2 pawn, but White can create a passed pawn on the other side of the board. What do you think?

If you thought the position was drawn you’re quite correct. However, there were some subtleties which escaped us both.

We continued:

36. g4 Ka3?

The wrong plan: I had four drawing moves here: Kc3, Kc4, Kc5 or fxg4 followed by king to the c-file. It was necessary to stop White’s pawn rather than trying to promote my own.

37. h4?

Missing the point: the winning idea was 37. Kd2! (or Kd3/Kd1) 37.. Kxa2 38. Kc2!, taking the opposition and thus imprisoning my king. Then White can proceed in untroubled fashion with h4 and g5. I’m sure my opponent, whom I knew to be an excellent endgame player, would have spotted this if we’d been playing at a faster time limit. Would I have spotted it in time as well?

37..  Kxa2
38. g5 hxg5
39. hxg5 a3
40. g6

40.. Kb2?

A difficult one! It’s far from obvious, at least to me, that 40.. Kb1 is the only move to draw. The game would continue 41. g7 a2 42. g8Q a1Q 43. Qxe6 and now, assuming tablebase perfection, 43.. Qb2+ is again the only way to share the point.

41. g7 a2
42. g8Q a1Q

43. Qg7+?

Understandably, my opponent decided to take the draw here, but, amazingly, at least to my eyes, 43. Qxe6 is a tablebase win. It’s mate in 80 since you ask. It seems White can win the f-pawn fairly quickly and take it from there. While I always tell my students that pawn endings are one of my favourite things in the world, queen endings are one of my least favourite things: there are just so many checks to calculate. I suppose, though, that if you want to become a GM you’ll need to be pretty good at QP v Q.

43.. Kb1
44. Qxa1+ Kxa1
45. Kd3 e5
46. Kc4 e4
47. fxe4 fxe4
48. Kd4 Kb2
49. Kxe4


For a draw lover like me it’s always satisfying to finish with just the bare kings: surely the way all well played games should end. This wasn’t a well played game, though.

Understanding the queen ending tablebase win is way above my level at any time limit, and perhaps way above yours as well.

However, the idea of entombing the enemy king, as White should have done on move 37, and I should have prevented on move 36, seems to me an idea well worth remembering.

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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