These endgame puzzles have been previously posted on this site and here make up a collection available to everyone to enjoy.
They come from actual games, as well as from famous chess studies and compositions, filled with nasty tactical blows to dismantle the opponent (dry and too technical in nature endgame position, though indispensable in the OTB play, are not paid too much attention here).
Why endings? Because it is in an endgame that full potential of pieces, individually and in cooperation, is lucidly expressed.
Smyslov, a genius of the endgame, wrote that [his] father “instilled in me a love for so-called ‘simple’ positions, with only a few pieces. I was able to gain a deep feeling for what each piece is capable of, to sense their peculiarities, their strength and impotence in various different situations on the board, the limits of their capabilities, what they ‘like’ and what they ‘don’t like’ and how they behave… Such a ‘mutual understanding’ with the pieces enables a player to see what often remains concealed to purely logical analysis. It is then that the innate ability of a player, which I call a sense of harmony, manifests itself.” Thank you Maestro! Now, let’s go to study…
A knowledge of the endgame is the magic key to the secrets of chess mastery…
Delving into the secrets of the endgame reveals an amazing world of chess harmony.
The solutions to the problems below can be found at the end of this page.
1.Be6! Rxe6 2.Rb6! h1Q 3.e8Q+ Kf5 4.Qxe6+ Kxf4 5.Qh6+ 1-0
1.Ne2 Kb2 2.Nc3 Kc2 3.Ne4 Kd3 4.Kb5 Kxe4 [4…Kd4 5.Nc3 Kd3 6.Nb1 Kd4 7.Kc6] 5.Kxc4 K- 6.Kxc5 winning
1.Ra2 Bg1 2.Rg2 Kf3 3.Rxg1 Kf2 4.Re1 e4 5.Ne6 [5.Kd2? e3=] 5…e3 6.Nc5!! [on 6.Nf4? or 6.Nd4? follows 6…e2+! 7.Nxe2 Nf1!] 6…e2+ 7.Kd2 Nf1+ 8.Kc1! Kxe1 9.Nd3 mate.
1.Ng3+ Kh4 2.Kb2 c1Q+! [Black sacs one of the pawns so the other can promote] 3.Kxc1 Be4! 4.Nh1! [to blockade the pawn by all means; with the same idea 4.Bf5? Bxf5 5.Nh1 Kh3 6.Kd1! Kg2 7.Ke2 Kxh1 8.Kf2 doesn’t work, as then follows 8…Bd7! 9.Kf1 Bc6 10.Kf2 Bb5 winning] 4…Bxh1 5.Bh3!! [this amazing move is necessary for the upcoming sack; the move can only be understood when you see the final position] 5…Bc6 6.Bg2! Bxg2 7.d7 h1Q+ 8.Kd2! drawing
1.g6+! Kxf6 [1…Kg8 2.f7+ Kf8 3.Kh7=] 2.a5 bxa5 3.g7 Kf7 4.Kh7 Bxg7 stalemate!
Instead White used an inaccurate order of moves and lost: 1.a5? bxa5 2.g6+ Kg8! 0-1
White’s position looks totally lost. The only hope seems to be the a-pawn, but the line 1.a5 b2 2.a6 b1Q 3.Rxb1 Rxb1+ doesn’t offer much. What else is there?
1.a5 b2 2.Bb7!! Kf8 [2…Nb3 3.a6 Nc1 4.a7 Rf8 5.a8Q b1Q 6.Qa7 Qb2 7.Bd5 and White’s activity makes up for material deficit] 3.a6 Re8 4.Rd1 b1Q 5.Rxb1 Nxb1 6.a7 Ke7 7.a8Q Rxa8 8.Bxa8 Kf6 9.Kg2 Ke5 10.Bc6 g5!! 11.Be8 f5 12.Bc6 Nd2 13.Kf2 Nb3 1/2-1/2
1.Nd6 Kb8 2.Rb1+ Ka8 3.Ne8 Qg3+ 4.Ka4 Bd4 5.e5! Bxe5 [5…Qxe5 6.h8Q] 6.Nc7+ winning
1.g5! fxg5 2.Rf7+ Kd8 3.Rxg7! Rxg7 4.Bf7 Rxf7 5.h6! 1-0
1.Rh7+ Kxh7 2.Qxf7 Kh6 3.Rh1+ Qh5 [3…Kg5 4.f4#] 4.Qf4+ +/-
It is not that easy to materialize here, for if Black made it to taking out the e-pawn, it would be a draw. For example,
1.Rd6 Kg3, or
1.Rf1 Nh7 2.Rf5 Ng5 3.Rxe5 Kg4 4.Re8 Kf4 5.e5 Kf5 6.Kg2 Ne6
The only move to win is:
1.Kg2! Kg4 2.Rd6! Nh7 3.Kf2! Kf4 4.Rh6! Ng5 5.Rh4#
It didn’t happen every day that an endgame virtuoso like Vasya Smyslov got beaten in an ending.
Black exploits an unfortunate position of the White’s king by using mate threats:
45…Rd6 46. Be3 Rd1+ 47. Bg1 fxg4 48. Kh2 g3+ 49. Kxg3 Rxg1 50. Rxb6 Rf1 51. Rb5 Kf7 52. a5 Ke6 53. Rb6+ Kd5 54. a6 f5 55. Rf6 Ke4 56. a7 Ra1 57. b5 Rxa7 58. Rxh6 Rg7+ 59. Kh3 Kf4 60. Rd6 Rg3+ 61. Kh2 Ng4+ 62. Kg1 Rb3 63. Kf1 Rb4 0-1
1.Rb1! cxb1Q 2.Bxb1 e3 3.Bxf5! e2 4.Bg4! e1=Q [4…Kxg4 5.f3+ and Kf2] 5.h3! a positional draw.
Karpov played 1.h7+ Bxh7 2.Kxe6 and eventually won. He had missed:
1.Rg6! [threatening 2.h7+] 1…Rd8 2.Kg5 Kh7 3.Rf6 Rg8 4.Rf8 Bd3 5.Kf6 Be2 6.Rxg8 Kxg8 7.h7+ Kxh7 8.Kf7 Bh5+ 9.Kf8 [as shown by Boris Gelfand]
1.b5! axb5 2.Bxb7! Nxb7 3.a6 1-0
1.Ne4 Qf3 These moves were obvious, now what? 2.f8Q!! Qxf8 3.Nf6!! [threatens 4.f4 and 5.c3#] 3…Qb8 [to stop 4.f4; 3…Qxf6 4.exf6 gxf6 5.f5 and mates; 3…gxf6 4.f4 and 5.c3 mate] 4.c3+ Kxe5 5.Nd7+ winning the queen.
1.Na6+ Ka8 2.Nxc7 Kb8 3.Na6 Ka8 4.Rb7 1-0 [5.Rb8+ Rxb8 6.Nc7#]
1.Rd8! and Black turned down his king in surrender.
1.Rf8+ Kg7 2.Bh6 Kxh6 3.Rg8! and there is no defense against 4.Rh5+ Bxh5 5.g5#
36…Rd2+! [36…Be7 37.Kxh3] 37.Kxh3 [37.Kh1 Be7–+. 37.Kf1 Be7–+]
37…g4+ 38.Kh4 Kh6! 39.Rh1 [39.d8Q Rxh2#] 39…Rxd5! 0-1 [40.cxd5 Be7#]
1…Kf2 2.Kh2 f5!! [2…Rg5? 3.Kh3 and if 3…f5 now, it is too late 4.Kh4] 3.Kh3 Rg1! 4.Kh2 Rg5! 0-1
1.c7 [1…e7? 2.Rb8] 1…Rc6 2.e7 Re6 3.Nd6 Rcxd6+ 4.Ke4 Rc6 5.Kd5! Rcd6+ 6.Kc5 Rc6+ 7.Kd5 and a positional draw.
1.b6! axb6 2.a7 1-0
1…Rxh2+! 2.Kxh2 Qh6+! 3.Kg3 Qh2+ 4.Kf3 Qf2+ 5.Kg4 Qh4+ 6.Kf5 Qf6+, stalemate or perpetual check
1.Rf8+ Kd7 2.Rf7 Ke6 3.Rf5! =
White obviously stands better. Just look on the rook on the d-file, and the Queen on f6, then you will know for sure. But won positions still have to be won, and preferably as quickly and brutally as possible, so that the opponent gets no chance.
Besides, it looks as if Black is thinking of straightening out his double pawns by c7-c6. Perhaps the win is not so easy after all? [Bent Larsen’s Good Move Guide, Oxford University Press, 1982]
30. g4! hxg4 31. h5! and the game continued 31…Qf8 32. hxg6 Qg7 33. Rd8+ Rxd8 34. Qxd8+ Qf8 35. gxf7+ Kxf7 36. Qf6+ Kg8 37. Qxe6+ Kh7 38. Qd7+ Kh6 39. e6 Qa8+ 40. Qd5 Qe8 41. Qe5 Qe7 42. Kg3 1-0
1…d3! 2.cxd3 [2.Kxe4 dxc2] 2…Rc4!! 3.bxc4 c2 4.Kxf4 c1=Q 5.Ke4 Qd1 0-1
Domination! The term was introduced into endgame literature by the famous French composer Henri Rinck. It’s an important principle of chess strategy, seen not only in endgames. Botvinnik described Karpov’s chess style as clever play for domination, in all stages of the game.
“Domination can be implemented in many ways. One can destroy and eliminate an enemy’s piece or simply deprive it of all moves. Or one can just make some important squares inaccessible to certain pieces in order to prevent their interference in the main events on the board.” Dvoretsky, Endgame Manual
1.Nf4!! [1.Bc8? Kd3 2.Bb7 Ra1 3.Nf4+ Kc4=; 1.Bd7? Ra1 2.Bb5+ Kf3 3.Nh4+ Ke4=; 1.Nh4? Ra1 2.Bc8 Kd3 3.Nf5 Kc4=] 1…Rxf4 2.Bd7! [and all routes to the a-file and to the 8-th rank are closed for the rook: 2…Rf3 3.Bg4; 2…Rf1 3.Bb5+; 3…Rf6 3.a7 Ra6 4.Bb5+]
1.Qg4! 1-0 [1…Nxg4 2.Rxc7+- the knight is trapped]
1.Rf4+ Kh5 2.Rh4+! gxh4 3.g4 mate.
1.Ba7! [1.h7? e4!] 1…Ba1 2.Kb1 Bc3 3.Kc2 Ba1 4.Bd4!! Bxd4 [4…exd4 5.Kd3] 5.Kd3 Bb2 6.Ke4 and wins.
In Botvinnik’s zeitnot Tal played 31.Re1? and the opponents agreed a draw at move 72.
31…Reh4! 32.gxh4 [32.f3 Qe3+ 33.Rf2 Rxh2] Qg4+ 33.Kh1 Qf3+ 34.Kg1 gxh4 35.Rb1 h3 36.Kf1 Re6
“The continuation Reh4 was examined by me a move ago. Then it gave Black nothing as White’s king could get over to the queenside. But now Black, simply having forgotten this move, focuses his attention on another possibility,” Tal in his Tal-Botvinnik 1960 book.
1…f3! [denying the King f3, 2.gxf3 Nc2 3.Rxe2 Rd4]
1.Rf3 g2 2.Bf1 g1=Q 3.Rh3 mate.
1…Qd1! 2.Nxb6 [2.Rxd1 e2+] 2…Rc1! 0-1 [3.Kf1 e7+]
1.Rxh6 1-0 [1…Kxh6 2.Qh8+ Kg5 3.Qh5+ Kf6 4.g5+; 1…gxh6 2.Qg8+ Kf6 3.Qf8+]
Alessandro Salvio (c. 1570 – c. 1640) was an Italian chess player who is considered to be the unofficial world champion around the year 1600. He started an Italian chess academy in Naples, Italy, and wrote a book called Trattato dell’Inventione et Arte Liberale del Gioco Degli Scacchi, which was published in Naples in 1604.
1.Rh7+ Kg3 2.Re7! Rd8 3.Rd7 Ra8 4.Ra7= (with perpetual attack)
White could have won the d-pawn:
1.Ne3 d4 2.Nc2 d3 3.Nd4 Bxd4 4.Rxd3
36.Rxc7 Rxc7 37.Bxc7 exf3 38.Bxd8 Bxc3 39.Be7 Bd4+ 40.Kf1 1-0
1.Rf6! [1…Rd4+ 2.Kxe6 Rd8 3.Ke2] 1…e1Q [White was threatening Nf4, even after 1…Ke5] 2.Nf4+ Kc4 [2…Kc5 3.Nd3+; 2…Ke4(e5) 3.Re6+; 2…Kc4 3.Rc6+] 3.Rc6+ Kb4(b6) 4.Rb6+ and draws by perpetual check.
1.Be4! 1-0 [1…Qxe4+ 2.Rxe4 a1Q 3.Re6+ Kh5 4.g4+! Kxg4 5.f3+ Kh5 6.Rxh7 mate.
1…Bg2? 2.Rh8+ Kf7 3.Be8!! [driving off the knight] 3…Nxe8 4.Kg5 with mate.
1.h6 Rb6 2.Rh5 a2 3.h7 Rb8 4.Rb5+! (deflection and double attack) 4…Rxb5 5.h8Q+ draw.
1.g4! [restricting the black rook] 1…Re4 2.a5! Rxg4 3.a6! Rg1 [3…Rh5 4.Rd8!! closing the line] 4.a7 Ra1 5.Ra3!! [closing the line again] 5…bxa3 6.a8Q winning.
Incredible to find, but two more moves by White force Black’s resignation:
1.h6+! Kh8 2.Be6!! 1-0 [a study-like finale: Black’s bishop is attacked and he can neither defend it with 2…d5 3.Qe5+, nor move it away because of 3.Qd4+; finally, if 2…Qxe6 3.Qf8+]
1.Bg8! [1.Be6 f5 2.exf5 e4 3.Bg8 e3 4.f6 a2! 5.Bxa2 e2 6.Bg8 e1Q] 1…f5 2.exf5 e4 3.f6 e3 4.f7 and stalemate.
1.c5! Ne6 [1…bxc5 2.Nc+ Kb5 3.a4 mate, or 1…b5 2.a3! zugzwang] 2.Nb7+ Kb5 3.a4 mate.
There’s a tactical possibility 37… Bf5. It may continue 38. exf5 Re1+ 39. Rxe1 Rxe1+ 40. Bf1 Rxf1+ 41. Kg2 Rxf5 42. Rxf5 gxf5 43. Kf3 Kf7 44. Kf4 Kf6 45. d6 Ke6 46. d7 Kxd7 47. Kxf5 Kd6 $1 48. h3 a6 49. Ke4 b5 50. a5 Ke6 51. g4 h4 $1 52. g5 c4 53. bxc4 bxc4 54. Kd4 Kf5 55. Kxc4 Kxg5 56. Kc5 Kf4 57.Kb6 Kg3 58. Kxa6 Kxh3 59. Kb6 Kg2 60. a6 h3 61. a7 h2 62. a8=Q+ Kg1
Instead, Black played 37…Kg7 and eventually lost, 38.Rc6 Ba6 39.Rc7+ Kh6 40.d6 Be2 41.d7 Rd8
42.Bh3 Ba6 43.Rc8 Bxc8 44.dxc8=Q Rxc8 45.Bxc8 Rxe4 46.Ba6 Re3 47.Bc4 a6 48.Kg2 1-0
Obviously, White is to move the bishop. But, on 1.Bxd7, 1.Bb7, or 1.Ba6 follows Kc7 and one of White’s piece is trapped. However…
1.Bb7 Kc7 2.Ba6! Kxb8 [2…d6 3.Nc6 and the knight gets out] 3.Kd6 Ka8 4.Kc7 with mate.