If You Don't Think Endgames Are Fun

If You Don't Think Endgames Are Fun

They never will be fun.

Nobody but you can change how you feel about endgames. All another person, or coach, can do is offer a suggestion or two about how you can increase the fun you experience playing endgames in chess.

We all know there are three phases of a chess game – opening, middlegame, and endgame. Dreading endgames is denying yourself fun in thirty-three percent of your chess.

Winning is almost always fun, which is the secret to having fun in the endgame in chess.

Fortunately, by focusing on how much easier it is to outplay your opponents and win in the endgame, you will find yourself looking forward to endgames.

Here is something else to get you excited about studying endgames in chess.

You only strengthen your middlegame technique when you work on improving your middlegame play. Improving your endgame play will also help you play better in the middlegame.

Who doesn't consider getting more bang for their buck fun?

The following endgame motifs will ensure you have more fun playing the endgame in chess.

Knight in Front of a Passed Pawn

When you have your knight in front of a passed pawn, it is invariably a draw. However, there is one exception you must know.

Knowing when to accept a draw offer and when to play on is vital. If you know the exception to the rule, you won't lose half a point by taking a draw in a winning position.

A knight can almost always earn a draw because the king must stay close to the pawn to protect it. This helps the knight, which is a short-range piece.

The knight fork is a vital part of defending against the passed pawn. In this position, if the white king lands on a6, the knight forks king and pawn from c7.

Always look for the square that allows a knight fork to help you move your knight to the correct square when it comes under attack.

If the fork occurs on c7, then a perfect square for the knight is d5, staying in touch with the c7 square.

Look at two possible variations where the black knight prevents the pawn from advancing.

GAME 1

There is a position in which the knight cannot defend against the passed pawn.

The Passed Pawn Triumphs Against the Knight

Against the rook pawn, a knight finds it harder to defend the endgame in chess because the opponent's king can cut off both escape squares. In the above example, where the knight successfully defended against the passed pawn, the knight could go to either side of the pawn.

From b6, the knight has access to six different squares, but from h8, the knight can only move to two squares – f7 and g6. A king on f6 or g7 prevents the knight from escaping to either of these squares.

White to move wins quickly after 1.Kg7 because the king controls both f7 and g6. However, if it is black to move 1…Kh5 draws the game by giving the knight a safe square on g6.

GAME 2

Whether you're attacking or defending, knowing which pawns to leave on the board is crucial if you want to win the endgame in chess. When studying endgames in chess, learn how to play as the attacker and defender.

The Queen Makes Use of a Zigzag

In almost every endgame in chess, a queen will triumph against a pawn or several pawns. The only pawns with a chance of winning such an endgame are advanced pawns.

There are times when even though a pawn has advanced to the seventh rank, the queen can prevent it from promoting. The vital factor in this endgame in chess is the position of the attacking side's king.

This is why the king's activity is a significant factor in the endgame in chess. Unless the king can aid the queen, a material advantage of +8 will sometimes not prove enough for a win.

Preventing the pawn from promoting involves two crucial elements:

  1. Forcing the king to step onto the promotion square, and
  2. Pinning the pawn against the king.

In the following position, White can stop Black from promoting the pawn. Learning the technique is more important than trying to memorize the moves.

Delivering checkmate will take more than twenty moves from this starting position!

Fortunately, once you know the technique delivering checkmate is not very difficult. Take your time because one misstep will allow your opponent to promote the pawn.

Remember your manners, and you will know which piece to move first. Yes, ladies, first is the correct approach.

The white king approaches when the black king blocks the promotion square. Here is one way for white to win this endgame in chess.

GAME 3

Queens Aren't the Only Piece That Zigzags

One of the curious qualities of the king is that it does not take extra time to move in a zigzag than in a straight line. For example, a king on a4 can reach d4 in three moves by heading straight along the fourth rank (b4, c4, and d4) or in a zigzag pattern (b3, c4, and d4).

Although the shortest distance between two points is along a straight line in many situations, in chess, the king can move on the diagonal without wasting time. In the endgame in chess, you can use this knowledge to cause your opponent to lose a vital tempo.

Instead of moving straight across a rank, you might prevent your opponent from advancing towards the pawns on the board.

Moving the king in a zigzag manner can prove the difference between holding on for a draw or losing the game.

If you can use a technique to win an endgame in chess, your opponent will most likely use the same technique to defend a position.

Here is an example of how easy it is to go from a win to a draw in the endgame in chess.

Many chess players with white would play 1.Kd5 or 1.Kd6 heading directly for the pawn on a6. Both moves would allow Black to save the game with 1…Kd3.

For example, 1.Kd5 Kd3! 2.Kc5 Ke4 3.Kb6 Kd5 4.Kxa6 Kc5 and the white king is stuck in front of the pawn. Black defended thanks to the zigzag movement of the king.

White can win using the zigzag by starting with 1.Kd4 taking control of the critical d3 square. Thanks to the unique properties of the king, it does not cost white any extra time to play Kd4-c5 than Kd5-c5.

After 1.Kd4, the white king keeps the opponent's king from reaching c6 and can get to the critical b7 square. The black king is one tempo away from reaching c6 in time to trap the white king.

GAME 4

Two Pawns Versus a Lone King

Reaching an endgame in chess with two pawns against a king is almost always a sure win. Even doubled pawns or isolated pawns can win the game for you.

Two isolated pawns can defend each other even without the king's support. The pawns can buy time for the king to reach them and convert the win.

The crucial technique involves advancing one of the pawns to form a knight jump.

No matter which pawn the black king approaches, the other will advance and form a knight jump or L-shape. 1…Ke4 2.c4 and the e3 pawn cannot get captured, or the other pawn promotes.

After 2…Ke5, the white king, has time to advance toward the pawns. If the black king goes to d6, the e3 pawn will advance to repeat the position except for one rank further up the board.

GAME 5

When you have doubled pawns winning is usually a case of supporting the front pawn up the board and using the second pawn to gain the tempo needed to control the critical squares.

Black has the opposition and does his best to keep it with 1…Kf7. The pawn on f2 will provide the vital tempo that wins the game for white.

After 1…Kf7 there follows 2.Kf5 Kf8 3.Ke6 Ke8 4.f7+ Kf8 5.f3 Kg7 6.Ke7 and the pawn promotes.

GAME 6

In Conclusion

You can make the endgame in chess fun again by becoming fascinated with the subtle move orders that turn a draw into a win. Use your endgame knowledge to save a game when you are at a material disadvantage in the middlegame.

Always be on the lookout for ways to transition from the middlegame to a won endgame or an endgame you know is a draw. Many opponents are unlikely to recognize your strategy until it is too late.

Yes, the endgame can be scary because if you blunder a piece, you have little or no time to recover. A single misstep with your king can cost you the game.

Rather than fearing the endgame, use this excitement to inject fun into the endgame in chess.

We all start as beginners in chess, but we improve. What applies to chess as a whole can apply equally to each phase of the game, including the endgame.

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