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Endgame Corner

Karsten Müller


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The Classical Era of Modern Chess

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Knights and Knightmares

The knight is a tactical piece, so concrete calculation is often called for to avoid unpleasant surprises.

A) Morozevich's Miracle

A rook is usually much stronger than a knight in a pure endgame.

155.01 Morozevich, Alexander (2727) – Van Kampen, Robin (2618)
19th European Teams Warsaw POL (8.3), 16.11.2013

Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/1k2N3/8/6P1/2p5/6K1/8/r7 w - - 0 50"]


The best chance to fight, as 50.g6?! runs into the direct 50...c3 51.g7 c2 52.g8Q Rg1+ 53.Kf2 Rxg8 54.Nxg8 c1Q-+.

50...c3 51.Ne3

Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/1k6/8/6P1/8/2p1N1K1/8/r7 b - - 0 51"]


51...Ra2!? is much easier; e.g., 52.g6 c2 53.Nxc2 Rxc2 54.Kf4 Kc7 55.Ke5 Kd7 56.g7 Rg2 57.Kf6 Ke8-+.

52.Kf4 Kc6 53.Kf5 Kd6 54.g6 Rg3!

Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/8/3k2P1/5K2/8/2p1N1r1/8/8 w - - 0 55"]


55.Ke4 is met by 55...Kc5 56.Kd3 c2 57.Kd2 Rxe3-+, and 55.Kf4 by 55...Rxg6-+.

55...Rg2! 56.Ne3

56.Nb4!? is more tricky:

A) 56...c2? is met by 57.Nxc2=.

B) and 56...Ke7?? runs into 57.Nd5+=.

C) 56...Kc5 works as well: 57.Nd3+ Kd4 58.Nc1 c2 59.Kf6

Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/8/5KP1/8/3k4/8/2p3r1/2N5 b - - 0 59"]

And now 59...Rg1 60.Ne2+ (60.g7 Rxc1 61.g8Q Rf1+ 62.Ke6 c1Q-+; 60.Na2 Ra1 61.g7 Rxa2 62.g8Q Ra6+ 63.Kf5 Ra5+ 64.Ke6 Re5+ 65.Kf6 c1Q-+) 60...Ke3 61.Nxg1 c1Q 62.g7 Qxg1-+.

D) 56...Kd7 57.Kf6 c2

Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/3k4/5KP1/8/1N6/8/2p3r1/8 w - - 0 58"]

White is defenseless because of 58.Nxc2 (58.Nd3 Rg3 59.g7 Rxd3 60.g8Q Rd6+! 61.Ke5 c1Q-+) 58...Rf2+! (58...Rxc2? 59.g7=) 59.Kg5 Rxc2 60.g7 Rg2+ 61.Kf6 Ke8-+; 56.g7?! Rxg7 57.Ke4 Kc5 58.Kd3 Rg3+-+.


56...c2? is met by 57.Nxc2!!

Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/8/3k2P1/5K2/8/8/2N3r1/8 b - - 0 57"]

And now either a body-check or an underpromotion follows: 57...Rf2+ (57...Rxc2 58.g7 Rg2 59.Kf6= Body-check!) 58.Kg5 Rxc2 59.g7 Ke7 60.g8N+=.


Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/8/3k2P1/8/4K3/2p1N3/5r2/8 b - - 0 57"]


White's passed pawn is not really dangerous anyway, so 57...c2! was called for: 58.g7 c1Q 59.g8Q

Endgame Corner
[FEN "6Q1/8/3k4/8/4K3/4N3/5r2/2q5 b - - 0 59"]

59...Qb1+! 60.Kd4 Rd2+-+ and Black wins the fourth phase of the game, as given in Chess Today #4758.

58.g7 Kf7 59.Kd3 Rf3 60.Kd4 Kxg7

Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/6k1/8/8/3K4/2p1Nr2/8/8 w - - 0 61"]


The miracle has occurred. Black cannot free his rook, as he has to keep his c3-pawn.

61.Kd3?? runs into 61...c2 62.Kd2 Rxe3-+.

61...Kf6 62.Kc4 Ke5 63.Nb4 Ke4 64.Nc2 Rh3

64...Kf4 65.Nd4 Kg3 66.Ne2+= (However, not 66.Nxf3?? c2-+).

65.Nb4 Rg3 66.Nc2!

66.Kb3? Kd4 67.Na2 Rg2 68.Nxc3 Rg3-+.

66...Rf3 67.Nb4 Kf5 68.Nc2 Kg4 69.Nd4 Rg3

69...Rh3 70.Kb3 Kf4

Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/8/8/8/3N1k2/1Kp4r/8/8 w - - 0 71"]

This is met by 71.Kc2 (Of course not 71.Ne2+? Ke3 72.Nxc3 Kd4-+) 71...Ke4 72.Nb5=.

70.Kb3 Re3 71.Nb5 Kf4 72.Nxc3 Ke5 73.Kc4 Rh3 74.Nb5 Rh8 75.Nc3 Rc8+ 76.Kd3 Rd8+ 77.Kc4 Rd4+ 78.Kc5 Rd3 79.Kc4 Rxc3+ 80.Kxc3 ½-½

Morozevich certainly knew the following famous classic.

155.02 Lasker, Emanuel – Lasker, Edward
New York (6), 23.03.1924

Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/8/8/8/NK3k2/1p4r1/8/8 w - - 0 93"]

The knight can even draw against a knight's pawn.

93.Nb2 Ke4 94.Na4 Kd4 95.Nb2 Rf3

Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/8/8/8/1K1k4/1p3r2/1N6/8 w - - 0 96"]


96.Nd1? Kd3 97.Kxb3 Kd2+-+.

96...Re3 97.Nb2 Ke4 98.Na4 Kf3 99.Ka3 Ke4 100.Kb4 Kd4

100...Kf3 101.Ka3 Ke2 102.Kb2 Kd2 103.Nc5 Re5 104.Nxb3+=.

101.Nb2 Rh3 102.Na4! Kd3 103.Kxb3 Kd4+ ½-½

B) Maxime's Miracle

In endgames with rook and knight against rook and knight usually a slight initiative weighs heavily.

155.03 Kramnik, Vladimir (2784) – Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime (2719)
WorldCup 2013 (47.2), 27.08.2013

Endgame Corner
[FEN "1R3Nk1/5np1/8/6PP/8/6K1/8/7r b - - 0 57"]


The first check is right, as 57...Rxh5? 58.g6+- and 57...Nd6? 58.g6 Rg1+ 59.Kh2 Rc1 60.Ne6+ Rc8 61.Rb6 Nf5 62.Rb7 Re8 63.Kg2 Kh8 64.Kf3 Nd6 65.Rf7+- are both insufficient.


The best try, as 58.Kf2?! runs into 58...Rxg5 59.Ne6+ Kh7 60.Nxg5+ Nxg5 61.Kg3 (61.Rb6 Ne4+ 62.Kf3 Nf6=) 61...Ne4+ 62.Kh4 Nf6 63.Kg5 Ne4+=.


But the second check is wrong, as the checks will run out soon.

The only defense is 58...Nd6! 59.Ng6+ (59.Ke5 can even be met by 59...Rxg5+ 60.Kxd6 Rxh5 61.Ne6+ Kh7=) 59...Kf7 60.Ne5+ Ke6 61.Nf3 Ra1 62.Rb4 Ke7 when Black should be able to hold.

59.Ke3 g6

59...Nd8 60.Ne6 Re1+ 61.Kf4 Rxe6 62.Rxd8+ Kf7 63.g6+ Ke7 64.Rg8 Kf6 65.Rf8+ Ke7 66.Rf7++-; 59...Re1+ 60.Kf2 Rd1 61.Nd7++-.


The right capture, as 60.Nxg6+? is met by 60...Kg7 61.Rb7 Rg1

A) 62.Kf4 Rf1+ 63.Ke4 Kg8=.

B) 62.Nf4 Rg3+ 63.Kd4 (63.Ke4 Rxg5 64.Ne6+ Kf6 65.Nxg5 Nd6+=) 63...Rxg5 64.Ne6+ Kh6 65.Nxg5 Nxg5=.

C) 62.Ne5 Rxg5 63.Rxf7+ (63.h6+ Kf6 64.Nxf7 Rh5=; 63.Nxf7 Rxh5=) 63...Kh6 64.Kf4 Rxh5=.


60...Nd8 61.Nd7 (Of course not 61.Rxd8?? Rxf8 62.Rxf8+ Kxf8 63.Kf4 Kg7 64.Kf5 Kg8!=) 61...Kg7 62.Rxd8 Kxg6 63.Rg8+ Kh7 64.Rf8 Rxf8 65.Nxf8+ Kg7 66.Ne6+ Kg6 67.Kf4+-.

61.gxf7 Kxf7

Endgame Corner
[FEN "1R3N2/5k2/8/6P1/8/4K3/8/5r2 w - - 0 62"]


Now White's pieces are too clumsily placed and Kramnik's king has no good shelter. Thus, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave can make a Houdini-like escape.

Surprisingly the only move to win for White is 62.Nd7! Rf5 63.Rf8+ Kg6 64.Rg8+ Kf7

Endgame Corner
[FEN "6R1/3N1k2/8/5rP1/8/4K3/8/8 w - - 0 65"]

65.Ke4! The point, which was missed by Kramnik. 65...Ra5 66.Rf8+!? The smooth solution. (In this position the clumsy 66.Nf6 wins as well, e.g. 66...Ra1 67.Rd8 Kg6 68.Rd5 Re1+ 69.Kf4 Rf1+ 70.Ke3 Re1+ 71.Kf2 Ra1 72.Ne4+-)

A) 66...Ke7 67.g6 Kxd7 (67...Rg5 68.Rf7+ Ke8 69.Nf6+ Kd8 70.g7+-) 68.g7+-.

B) 66...Kg7 67.Kf4 Rd5 68.Nf6 Rxg5 (68...Rd4+ 69.Ke5 Kxf8 70.Kxd4+-) 69.Rg8+ Kxf6 70.Rxg5+-.

C) 66...Kg6 67.Ne5+!! Kxg5 68.Rf5+ Kh6 (68...Kh4 69.Nf3++-) 69.Nf7+ Kg6 70.Rxa5+- (Heimers).

62...Re1+ 63.Kf3 Rf1+ 64.Kg3 Rg1+ 65.Kf4 Rf1+ 66.Ke3 Re1+ 67.Kf3 Rf1+ 68.Kg2 Rf5 69.Nh7 Kg6 70.Rb7

Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/1R5N/6k1/5rP1/8/8/6K1/8 b - - 0 70"]


Of course not 70...Rf7?? 71.Rxf7 Kxf7 72.Nf6 Kg6 73.Ne4+-.

71.Kg3 Ra4 72.Re7 Rg4+ 73.Kf3

73.Kxg4?! stalemate.

73...Ra4 74.Rb7 Rh4 75.Nf6 Kxg5 76.Ne4+ Kf5 77.Re7 Rh8 78.Ke3 Rd8 79.Rf7+ Ke6 80.Rh7 Rd1 81.Nc5+ Kf5 82.Rf7+ Ke5 83.Nd3+ Ke6

83...Kd5?? runs into 84.Rd7+ Kc6 (84...Ke6 85.Nc5++-; 84...Kc4 85.Ne5++-) 85.Ne5++-.

84.Ra7 Rh1 85.Ke4 Rh4+ 86.Nf4+ Kd6 87.Ra6+ Kc5 88.Rg6 Kc4 89.Rc6+ Kb5 90.Rc1 Rh8 91.Ke5 Rh4 92.Rc8 Rh1 93.Ne6 Rh5+ 94.Kd6 Rh6 95.Rc1 Kb4 96.Kd5 Rh5+ 97.Ke4 Rh4+ 98.Nf4 Kb5 99.Ke5 Rh8 100.Rc2 Rh4 101.Rf2 Kc4 102.Ke4 Rh8 103.Rc2+ Kb5 104.Ng6 Rh1 105.Ne5 Re1+ 106.Kd4 Rd1+ 107.Nd3 Kb6 108.Rc3 Rb1 109.Kd5 Rb5+ 110.Nc5 Rb1 111.Nd7+ Kb5 112.Rd3 Rb4 113.Ne5 Rb1 114.Nc4 Kb4 115.Nd2 Rb2 116.Kc6 Rc2+ 117.Kb6 Rb2 118.Kc6 Rc2+ 119.Kb7 Rc3 120.Rd8 Rc5 121.Ne4 Rc4 122.Re8 Rc2 123.Kb6 Re2 124.Kc6 Re1 125.Nd6 ½-½

C) Knight Forks and Knightmares

With a dangerous passed pawn, promotion combinations often occur.

155.04 Rudolf, Anna (2281) – Kristinardottir, Elsa Maria (1819)
10th European Teams w Warsaw POL (2.9), 09.11.2013

Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/4N3/p7/P3np2/1P1K1pkp/
8/7P/8 b - - 0 45"]


A very strong push of the passed pawn.

45...Nf3+?! wins as well, but is much more complicated:

A) 46.Kc5 Nxh2 47.b5 axb5 48.Nd5 (48.a6 f3 49.a7 f2 50.a8Q f1Q-+) 48...f3 49.a6 f2 50.a7 f4 51.a8Q f1Q-+.

B) 46.Kc3 Nxh2 47.b5 axb5 48.Nd5 f3 49.Ne3+ (49.a6 f2 50.a7 f4 51.a8Q f1Q-+) 49...Kf4 50.Kd2 f2 51.a6

Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/8/P7/1p3p2/5k1p/4N3/
3K1p1n/8 b - - 0 51"]

B1) Of course not 51...f1Q?? 52.Nxf1 Nxf1+ 53.Ke1 Ng3 (53...h3? 54.Kxf1 h2 55.Kg2+- even backfires completely.) 54.a7 h3 55.a8Q h2=.

B2) 51...Ng4! 52.Nf1 Ne5 53.a7 Nc4+ 54.Ke2 Nb6 55.Ne3 Ke4-+.


46.Ke3 also does not defend; e.g., 46...f4+ 47.Kf2 Nd3+ 48.Kg1 Nxb4 49.Kf2 Nd3+ 50.Kg1 Ne5 51.Nd5 h3 52.Nc3 f2+ 53.Kxf2 Nf3 54.Nd5 Nxh2 55.Nb4 Kf5 56.Nxa6 Ng4+ 57.Kg1 f3 58.Nc5 h2+ 59.Kh1 f2-+.


Black rushes and overlooks the coming knight fork. A real knightmare.

After 46...f4!!, there is no way to stop the forward f-pawn:

Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/4N3/p7/P3K3/1P3pkp/5p2/
7P/8 w - - 0 47"]

47.b5 (47.h3+ Kxh3 48.Kxf4 f2-+) 47...f2 48.bxa6 f1Q 49.a7 Qa6-+.


Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/8/p7/P3KN2/1P4kp/8/5p1P/8 b - - 0 47"]

Of course not 47.Nd5?? f4-+.


47...f1N does not help because of 48.b5 Nxh2 49.bxa6 Nf3+ 50.Kf6 h3 51.a7 h2 52.a8Q h1Q 53.Qg8+ Kf4 54.Qc4+ Nd4 55.Qxd4+ Kf3 56.Qd5++-; 47...f1Q 48.Ne3+ Kh3 49.Nxf1+-.

47...Kf3 is met by 48.Nxh4+ Kg4 49.Nf5 Kf3 50.Ng3+-.

48.Ne3 Kxh2 49.Kf4

The direct breakthrough 49.b5 wins as well.

49...h3 50.Kg4 1-0

D) The Breakthrough

One method to break a fortress is the creation of a passed pawn.

155.05 Schnegg, Anna Lena (2076) – Sikorova, Olga (2278)
10th European Teams w Warsaw POL (2.13), 09.11.2013

Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/8/8/7N/3n1pp1/5kPp/7P/5K2 b - - 0 74"]


The direct way does not work as White can sacrifice her knight.

74...Ke4!! wins, as Black can always create at least one dangerous passed pawn:

A) 75.gxf4 Nf3 76.Kf2 Nxh2 77.Kg3 Nf1+ 78.Kxg4 h2-+.

B) 75.Kg1 Nf3+ 76.Kh1 Nxh2 77.Kxh2 f3 78.Kg1 Kd3! 79.Nf6 (79.Nf4+ Kd2 80.Nd5 Ke1 81.Ne3 f2+-+) 79...h2+ 80.Kxh2 f2 81.Kg2 Ke2-+.

C) 75.Nxf4 Nf3 76.Kf2 Nxh2

Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/8/8/8/4kNp1/6Pp/5K1n/8 w - - 0 77"]

In the next step Black's king wants to invade to f3 or f2. This cannot be prevented in the long run, as the passed pawn h3 is very dangerous: 77.Nh5 Kf5 78.Nf4 Ke5 79.Nd3+ Ke4 80.Nc5+ Kf5 81.Nb7 Nf3 82.Nd6+ Ke5 83.Nc4+ Kd4 84.Nd6 Ne5 85.Nf5+ Ke4 86.Nd6+ Kd5 87.Nf5 Nd3+ 88.Kg1 Ke4 89.Nd6+ Kf3 90.Nf5 Ne5 91.Kh2 Nc4 92.Kg1 Nd2 93.Kh2 Kf2 94.Kh1 Nf1-+.


75.Nxf4? Nxg3+ 76.hxg3 h2-+.


Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/8/8/5n1N/5P2/5kpp/7P/5K2 w - - 0 76"]


The wrong capture.

76.Nxg3! Nxg3+ 77.Kg1! leads to a fortress; e.g., 77...Ne2+ 78.Kh1 Nxf4 79.Kg1 Ne2+

Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/8/8/8/8/5k1p/4n2P/6K1 w - - 0 80"]

80.Kh1!= (However, not 80.Kf1? Ke3 81.Ke1 Ng3 82.Kd1 Nf1 83.Ke1 Nxh2 84.Kd1 Nf3-+).

76...h2 0-1

Exercises (Solutions next month)

E155.01 Agopov, Mikael (2435) – Arnaudov, Petar G (2448)
19th European Teams Warsaw POL (3.15), 10.11.2013

Endgame Corner
[FEN "3r3k/6bp/6p1/8/1BP1npP1/
7P/7K/1R1B4 b - - 0 47"]

How to continue Black's initiative?

E155.02 Varley, Peter (2251) – Sipila, Vilka (2463)
19th European Teams Warsaw POL (7.18), 15.11.2013

Endgame Corner
[FEN "8/3k3p/6p1/1P1b4/p2p3P/
B2B1PP1/6K1/3n4 b - - 0 44"]

Is Black's knight the best or worst minor piece on the board? Black is to move.

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