A Simple Endgame

Some chess books teach endgame technique: how to win when you’re ahead and draw when you’re behind. We’ll look at a simple position suitable for beginners, taken from Winning Chess Endings, by grandmaster Yasser Seirawan. Keep in mind that this chess book is not for beginners, at least not for low-level novices.

After Black moves axb6, White wins with a6!

Diagram-1  with Black to move

White has just advanced a pawn to b6, in Diagram-1, attacking a black pawn but allowing that black pawn to capture it. If things proceed as usual with exchanges, this endgame will probably end in a draw. Both sides will have a king and a queen, with neither side having enough of an advantage to win the endgame (all the pawns will be gone).

White wins with a6!

Diagram-2  with White to move

After the black pawn captured the white pawn that was on b6, in Diagram-2, it’s now White’s move. Don’t take it for granted that the white pawn must capture that black pawn; consider the other possibility, advancing that white pawn.

White did not recapture but advanced: a6!

Diagram-3  after the winning move a6!

Why is advancing that white pawn much better than using it to capture the black pawn at b6? Either way, the white pawn will be advanced to White’s sixth rank, two squares away from queening. Notice that the white pawn will soon be promoted to a queen on the corner square.

Winning-Chess-Endings-Seirawan-001D

Diagram-4  with White to move

As the opposing pawns race to become queens, we arrive at the position in Diagram-4. With White to move, the pawn at a7 will now move to a8, becoming a queen. If the black pawn on h2 then advances to its queening square, it will be captured by the white queen. Notice now why it was so important for that white pawn to advance forward rather than capture the black pawn. If the capture had been made, two queens would be on the board: one at b8 and one at a1. This endgame would then very likely have ended in a draw. By advancing the white pawn forward, White has a queen and Black does not, which should make this an easy win for White. This demonstrates the importance of looking ahead when deciding what move to make.

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