Two Instructive Endings

I’ve played two rather similar endings online recently. Both started off with bishop against knight before the minor pieces were traded off into a pawn ending. I was very lucky to win both games after my opponents, with not a lot of time on the clock, went wrong.

In the first game I was black in a blitz game against an opponent who likes playing very solidly with white, and, as usual, we traded off into an ending.

I might have tried to exploit my bishop but instead decided to go for a pawn ending where I had a better pawn formation and a more active king. Would it be enough to win?

33.. Bd4
34. Kf1 Bxc3
35. bxc3 Kf7
36. Ke2 Ke6
37. Kd3 Kd5
38. c4+ Kc5
39. Kc3 g5
40. a3 a6

41. a4?

White had several moves to hold here, including f4 and g4, but this move gives my king access to b4.

41.. a5
42. h3 h6?

Returning the compliment. 42.. f4 was winning, as was, perhaps less obviously, 42..h5.

Now White has one way to draw: 43. f4!.

43. h4? f4!

This time I managed to find the win.

44. gxf4 gxh4!
45. f5 h3
46. f6 Kd6 and White resigned

A few days later, in a rapidplay game, I reached this position, again with the black pieces. I’d been struggling since miscalculating a tactic in the early middle game, but had managed to escape to the ending, where I have a knight on the back rank against a powerful bishop as well as doubled isolated f-pawns.

It’s White’s move here: what would you play?

28. Be4, to prevent f5 followed by Kf6, seems to give White excellent winning chances, but instead, aware that a bishop three squares away dominates a knight on the side, he preferred…

28. Bd5?! f5
29. f4 Kf6
30. Kf2 b6
31. a4 a5
32. Ke3 Ne6

Now my knight is well placed so he decided to exchange, giving me the chance to go wrong.

33. Bxe6

33.. Kxe6!

I had enough time left to see that 33.. fxe6 34. Kd4 would be Zugzwang: it was more important to bring my king in than to undouble my pawns.

34. Kd4 Kd6
35. g3 f6

Now we have no spare pawn moves it’s all about the opposition. I was hoping for 36. Kc3? Kc5 with Zugzwang.

36. Kd3! Kc6

36.. Kc5 was also a draw, but I thought I’d give my opponent one more chance to go wrong before offering a draw.

37. Kc3?

Running short of time, he goes wrong. If he’d played Kd4 I’d have pressed the ‘½’ button. Kd2 and Kc2 were both also draws: White must either prevent Kc5 or meet it with Kc3.

37.. Kc5
38. Kb3 Kd4
39. Kb2 Kxc4
40. Ka3 Kc3
41. Ka2 Kb4 and White resigned.

All these basic pawn ending ideas (breakthroughs, spare moves, Zugzwang, the opposition) are explained in simple terms in Chess Endings for Heroes. With little time on the clock it’s always easy to go wrong so they need to become second nature.

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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