This is not just useful in general, in case you end in such a position but it also gives you something to aim for! It can often be a key saving grace to steer the ending to a position which is harder to win or a known draw:
Your Turn!Find the draw for white: From this seemingly desperate position, there is a very cute Houdini-like escape: 1. Nxf4!! is devastating for black. Despite being a bishop and a sure-fire pawn ahead, he cannot convert it, due to the "wrong bishop complex".
As happened in the fictional game Booth - Hornby, Washington 1987, black soon conceded a draw after 1...Bxf4 2. Kf3 Kxh5 3. Kg2 Kh4 4. Kh1 (draw offered and agreed).
Three things you will learn today
- It is rare you are completely without hope - tactics abound!
- Knowing your endings is a great foundation in middle-game strategy!
- Steering into drawish endings is about avoiding the won ones!
Part 1 of 3 - Classic Defensive Traps!Let's start by having a look once more at the drawing mechanism above:
Your Turn!Find the draw for white: A little more imaginative this time but the simple 1. Nd4+ does the job after 1...Kb6 2. Nxf5! white will have ample time to defend against both the h and g pawn (e.g. 2...Kxa6 3. h5!) while the king is on the other side and after 2...gxf5 3. Kxf5 we know the draw already!
There are lots of similar desperado moves to get out of trouble - here are a few delicious ones:Poor white has no choice 1...Qxg7+! 2. Rxg7 (or 2...Qxa7 winning) and white is stalemated. White's material is too concentrated around the black king. 1...Qxh6+ is a horrible hammer blow!
Summary of part 1
- The drawing margin in chess with relatively even material is huge - always keep an eye out for tactics
- For attackers, always be on the lookout for horrible defensive resources, especially sacrifices and stalemates!
- For defenders, always be on the lookout for horrible defensive resources, especially sacrifices and stalemates! They will gain you many half-points!
Part 2 of 3 - Know your endings!Many of us spend considerable time learning endgames to know the technique but do we always steer for the best one?
Many players know that the Bishop and Knight ending, although won is a MONSTER to win in practice, compared to, say two bishops.
Similarly, how well do you know Queen v Rook?
Decisions, decisionsEven very top players at congresses make strange endgame decisions that cost a point. Try your hand at some of these puzzles to steer to an easier ending to draw: The bishop and knight ending is much harder than two bishops! The rook pawn is a nightmare to convert, especially with the defending king already on the queening square!
What about this?This of course isn't quite as clear-cut as the other examples but you want to go towards an ending where you're not just sitting back waiting for white to finish you off so 1...b5! looks sensible to create a passed pawn and at least keep white on his guard to stop one of the queen-side pawns!
Summary of part 2
- Make your opponent work for it! Force them into an ending you know is difficult, even if it's a theoretical win!
- Always be thinking endgame!
- Counterplay complicates the game. An attacker will be thinking about how to make their ideas work; adding your threats into the mix can confuse them and give you chances!
Part 3 of 3 - Avoid clearly won endings!
- Draws are more available than you think!
- Practice tactics to get a keen eye for "lucky escapes" - the more you practice, the luckier you get!
- Make your opponent work for it. Never resign unless there is literally no hope!