“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer”
A quick reminder how it works:
- Have a look at the position for 1 minute (watch the clock)
- Think about the choices in front of you and pick the one you feel it is right
- Verify it in your mind the best you can
- Compare it with the solution
When I grew up the endgames were grouped in books based on the material situation. The one below for example would clearly be in a “King and Pawn“, or “A Pawn versus one or more Pawns” chapter. In the second case, it would be listed under the “Two versus One” sub-chapter. They would be much harder to solve than today for this reason alone. One such book I hold dear even today is “The Endgames of Chess” by G. M. Lisitzin. The Romanian translation of it from 1960 is today a treasure not only of chess wisdom, but also as a rare book. Below puzzle would definitely make the cut. Your challenge is to pick the winning line for White:
You might have asked yourself why the puzzle would be harder to solve. Well, my feeling is that seeing it printed in the “Two versus One” sub-chapter, is not giving away anything about the solution. Anyone can easily see the material present on the chess board. You could get the feeling that the extra pawn should win it for white. Still this is wishful thinking that does not help with the selection. Maybe it simply does not matter and all this is just smoke and mirrors. My book contains sufficient exceptions in every chapter to make the reader understand things are not that simple.
Then you start asking yourself what can you use to figure out the solution? Creating a passed pawn is a must. However white cannot do it immediately because the game would be lost. Of course above I made it easier by proposing the most logical two continuations. Still it is not clear at all which line should be the one leading to victory. Obtaining the passed pawn requires a number of moves, so you need more help.
The second thing you should consider is the opposition. That is by far the most important type of position in any “King and Pawn” endgame. Well, that could help since only one of the given moves wins the opposition for White. Let’s see how the play could continue with this in mind:
Now let’s see if the opposition is important in the other line as well:
I hope you liked the above. It definitely highlights the importance of the opposition. Would it have helped you if the puzzle could be listed under the “Opposition” chapter? That is how it would be listed in the book “Chess Endgames” by Laszlo Polgar (2002). It made perfect sense to me when I first saw it and it is possible I might have gotten better a lot faster if I had access to it when I needed it. Do not forget that we stand on the shoulders of giants.