An Interesting Pawn Ending

My thanks to Maks for sending me this pawn ending from last Monday’s match against Ealing. He was playing black against Alastair Johnstone.

Up to this point the game had been played accurately, if not quite at the level of Magnus and Nepo, but here White made a fatal mistake.

27. Re5? looks natural enough, but allows Black to force a pawn ending where his king is more active.

The game continued 27… Re6 28. Rxe6 Kxe6 29. Kc1 Kd5 (only winning move) 30. Kd2 Ke4 (h6 and Kc4 were the other wins)) 31. Ke2 c4 (this and Kd5 are the two wins) 32. b3 (or 32. b4 when 32… h6! is the ony win) 32… Kd5! (the only winning move: d3+ and cxb3 draw and all other moves lose) 33. b4

33… a5? (now it should be a draw, h6 and Ke4 were the two moves to win) 34. a3? (Missing his chance: 34. c3 draws with best play according to Stockfish) 34… axb4 (Kc6 also wins) 35. axb4 Kc6 (h6 also wins) 36. Kd2 Kb5 (Again h6 is the other move to win) 37. c3 dxc3+ 38. Kxc3

This is an important type of position for understanding pawn endings. There is a trebuchet position on the queen side: the player making the first king move will lose a pawn and the game. Whatever happens, it won’t be a draw. Therefore Black has just one winning move: everything else loses.

38… h6! 39. h3 g5! (Again this wins, everything else loses) 40. fxg5 hxg5 41. h4 gxh4 42. gxh4 f4 43. h5 f3 44. Kd2 (One of the important points of this position is that if White pushes both sides promote, but Black has a skewer at the end to pick up the queen: 44. h6 f2 45. h7 f1Q 46. h8Q Qa1+!) 44… c3+ 45. Kxc3 f2 46. h6 f1Q and White resigned

A very instructive ending: you’ll learn a lot by playing it out yourself.

You can play through the game online here.