Sunday, March 12, 2006

Getting grip on K+p vs K+p

I worked for a month and a half on K+p vs K+p (chapter 2 of SOPE).
Chapter 2 is not about the race of the passed pawns (=chapter 3) or the rook pawns (=chapter 5) but only about two pawns on the same file or on adjacent files.
Finally I am beginning to feel that I get some grip on these positions.
I hadn't expected that mastering these seemingly simple positions would cost me so much time.

But underestimating simple looking positions is common all the way up to grandmasters.
Take for instance the next diagram from a game between I. Rogers and A. Shirov (Groningen 1990):

diagram 1.

White to move and win.
There was no time trouble involved.
Shirov (black) had headed for this position because he thought it was an obvious draw.
Can you find the win for Ian Rogers?

Now I'm so far that in these positions the first move I look at is often the right move.
I'm still not fail proof yet but that will come in the near future.

So time is ripe to get along with K+pp vs K+p.
At least I have the tools now to judge all the transitions to K+p vs K+p.

Man, this is hard work!


  1. Have looked at 'Secrets of Pawn Endings', and do you like it? It got amazing reviews at Amazon.

    I will probably read Pandolfini's endgame course before anything else, unless someone else knows of something better for the novice.

  2. P.S. Great work in the past month, both on the blog and the chess. It has been very fun and educational to observe.

  3. Blue,
    I don't know what to advise. I'm prepared to go to the bottom of things, which means that a comprehensive work like SOPE doesn't dig deep enough for me sometimes. I don't think there are better books on the subject out there.

    Pawn endings form only 3% of the endings, so it is perfectly reasonable to direct your efforts elsewhere. I'm committed to the following logic: complicated pawn endings are the underlying basis of all other endgames. "Simple" pawn endings are the underlying basis for complicated pawn endings, so I have to know them by heart.

    It is possible to avoid pawn endings (a lot of people do) so concentrating on rook- (and other light pieces-) endings seems to be more profitable if you want more result in less time.

    If you don't want to dig too deep, you can find everything on the internet by just googling around.
    If you are prepared to lay a good foundation, the other book of Muller and Lamprecht is probably the best choice for you (Fundamental Chess Endings).
    37 pages of SOPE are recorded in FCE, covering pretty well the basics.

    I don't think that you have to worry too much about too high a level, since I'm as much a novice to endgames as you. (you have seen me struggling with the material)

  4. I have been looking at Just the Facts Endgame book by Lev Alburt at Barnes and Nobles. This looks like a good book. I find Alburts books to be fairly readable. I wonder if anyone has read this one and can review it. I also wholeheartly agree with BDK great work Temposchlucker!

  5. I'm really surprised that Shirov thought this a draw considering how straightforward this is. The only way a draw comes out of this (besides bad play) is if the black pawn is already on f6 or the White King is on e4 or Black is on move then White wins the draw after losing the pawn.

    The rule is pretty simple - get your King in front of your pawn on the 6th rank. Both sides fight for this.

    If you calculate it White simply forces Black to circle around the White pawn and gains 2 tempo by moving to Kg3.


  6. One issue, here. I don't doubt that

    1) you have covered everything related
    to practical KP vs. KP endings.
    2) you have learned some good stuff.

    But bear in mind that much of what we learn, we forget. In the long run, considering the thousands of pieces of useful chess knowledge out there, perhaps the most useful thing is to learn "the greatest hits" of KP vs. KP openings.

    With any luck, those "greatest hits" will be what sticks in your brain.

  7. Jim, I have the feeling that this works different with different people. For me an empty board was almost mesmerizing. I had no clue in this kind of positions. The reason that I have been busy with K+p vs K+p so long is that I had to familiarize myself with an empty board. The board isn't empty at all, but full with virtual patterns. Now I'm beginning to see those patterns, and know the main methods of fighting, things begin to look more straightforward indeed. Shirov proofs that I'm in good company.
    (1.Kg3! is the right answer)

  8. Funky,
    can you explain a bit more what you mean? What are Kp vs Kp openings? What do you mean by greatest hits?

  9. Jeremy Silman has an endgame book coming out at the end of April. His middlegame book (Reasses Your Chess) did wonders.

  10. "greatest Hits"
    I just mean that, hopefully, the process of going over many examples of
    king and pawn versus king and pawn
    endings will enable you to remember the most essential aspects of the subject- since you will probably forget a lot of the lessons you teach yourself from specific examples.

    And I don't mean general rules like "Centralize the King", etc. Presumably we all know those- I mean subconscious rules that are general enough to apply to many cases, but too specific to be able top verbalize.

  11. Like Tak I too am surprised that Shirov thought this was draw. I too thought it was pretty straightforward at first, but a bit later I realized that it isn't if your calculating it rigorously. I suspect the non-Kg3 lines could could confuse someone's overall assessment, especially if they incorrectly see Kg3 as bad because it is not an opposition. In that sense there is the theme of a cornered King, where opposition doesn't matter much, is playing against the theme of two Kings racing towards what will be locked pawns to simultaneously attack while protecting. The timing is crucial.

    Once again shows how even strong players can blunder the endgame.