I wonder what you’re scared of. Ghosts or monsters? Zombies or vampires? You know what I’m scared of? Queen endings! All those checks! How am I supposed to calculate them all? I have to calculate all possible pawn endings as well. I also have to be careful not to move my king into a mating net. (Yes, I’ve done that!)
Here’s a queen ending I had the other day in an online blitz game against Mike Healey, who is a very much stronger player than me, especially at fast time limits, but always plays sportingly to give his opponents a chance.
We reach this scary queen ending after Black’s 37th move. Black has an extra doubled pawn. As you’ll see over the next few moves both sides have opportunities for pawn promotion, perpetual check and even snap checkmates.
How would you continue here? Who stands better? What should White be thinking about?
White should be able to hold this position as long as he’s aware of the danger of Black playing e3. There are several moves that lead, according to Stockfish, to equality.
My choice, though, wasn’t one of them.
Now if Black plays 38… e3! he stands better, the point being that 39. fxe3? Qd5+! is a winning pawn ending, so White has to allow a trade on f2, leaving Black a good pawn up in the queen ending. Enough to win? You’ll need to ask a stronger player than me.
Now I have one drawing move, which I managed to find.
39. Qc8+! Kg7
40. Qc7+ Kh6
At this juncture I have a number of moves which draw, but again my choice wasn’t one of them.
Here, Black has one winning choice: you may not be surprised to discover that it’s 41.. e3+!. Now if I trade queens and take on e3 Black’s winning the pawn ending so my best bet would be 42. f3!?, when if Black trades queens at once he loses, but if he throws in 42.. Qd2+! 43. Kh3 first he reverses the result: the game would continue 43.. Qxd6! 44. exd6 e2 45. d7 e1Q 46. d8Q Qh1+ 47. Kg4 Qh5+ 48. Kf4 Qf5+ 49. Ke3 Qg5+, trading the second pair of queens for a pawn ending with a winning extra pawn. I guess this isn’t easy to see if you’re playing at speed.
Instead, he continued…
As well as the one win there were several draws, but this should lose.
I should now have played 42. Qf8+! Kh5 43. Qf4! Qd8 44. g4+! Kh4 45. Qf6+! when I get another queen.
I really should have seen at least some of this, but of course I didn’t. I just wanted to avoid the discovered check after e3 so tried…
Mike could still have played 42.. e3! here, which seems to be winning, but I guess he wanted to avoid my playing Qf8 with check, replying…
Finally the comedy of errors concluded as I was alert enough to spot that the black king was now too far away so I could trade queens and promote.
43. Qxd5! exd5
44. e6! and Black resigned.
Amusingly, Stockfish gave its Weighted Error Value: White=0.83/Black=0.37, suggesting that although White won the game Black played much more accurately. Perhaps chess, like life, isn’t always fair.
You might also see a slight similarity with the ending I demonstrated last week where again I scored an undeserved point when my opponent moved his king outside the square, allowing a passed pawn to promote. The moral yet again, is, though, become really good at playing endings accurately at speed. Practise, practise, practise!