Saving you time!

We do we throw away won positions?

Chess is exhausting [wife laughs] - it is!

After 3 hours of intense thinking, you have to drag yourself through an ending which isn't clear. How do the best players do it?

As we saw in the article on holding on for a draw, no opponent worth their salt is going to just give in - they are going to play for a difficult position and complex calculations.

Unfortunately, unlike Deep Blue, we cannot calculate millions of lines a second. So what do we do?

Knowing the right way can be difficult!

A puzzle to consider

OK to some people this isn't so difficult but how should we attack it. I don't think the win is obvious!

Planning our thoughts

That's right. Take a deep breath, keep still....don't calculate a thing!

What EXACTLY do we want to do here?

In Jon Hawkins' brilliant book "Amateur to IM", he talks about endgame strategy.
We have two main motives in an ending - checkmate our opponent or queen a pawn to allow us to checkmate (of course, the defender's motives are the opposite - preventing mates and the creation of mating material).

This may not be won but before we abandon all hope, let's go through any winning plans.

As white, we can't mate black unless they really walk into something (which isn't going to happen on its own), so we have to try and queen something.

With or without King?

Our plan - we are going to try and queen a pawn. We now have to decide if we want our king to help!

We have two reasons to put us off this:

  1. The black king can shoulder us away and our king is held back
  2. Any tempo used by our king allows the black king to get closer to the pawns, helping the defender
We need to "go for it" with the pawns - if any winning plan exists, it must be this!

How to beat the wall

The initial position looks a nightmare, any pawn advance encourages our opponent to capture our pawns and if they don't, surely we can't break through!

WRONG!

Idea 1 - Black captures any advancing pawns: Any capture splits the pawn structure (e.g. 1. f5 exf5 2. gxf5 (similarly 1. g5 hxg5 2. fxg5)) leave white with a 2v1 majority on one wing with more advanced pawns which will run through no problem.

Idea 2 - Black ignores any advancing pawns: This is trickier but we just need to look a little deeper: 1. f5 Kb4 2. g5!! now if black ignores both pawns, either 3. f6 or 3. g6 leaves g7 or f7 with too many jobs! Black's best chance looks to be to take one of them: 2...hxg5 but then 3. f6! is a beautiful decoy; g7 is done for - it either allows a march through with 4. fxg7 or 3...gxf6 is met with 4. h6 and an unstoppable h pawn.

Learnings

We didn't have to analyse a lot, even though there are a lot of potential lines.
  • The positions of the kings taught us white's king could not support the advance of the pawns in any winning line
  • A winning strategy involved queening a pawn (because of no other mating material) so we focused on pawn moves
This elimination of weak lines and only reviewing drawish lines when we've eliminated all potential wins can save you so much time and gain lots of points...see, told you I might be able to help!

Solution

[Event "Italian Blitz Tournament"] [Site "San Siro"] [Date "12/03/2017"] [White "Conte, Bruno"] [Black "Gentile, Claudio"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "N/A"] [Annotator "TQM"] [SetUp "1"] [PlyCount "44"] [EventDate "1990"] [FEN "8/5pp1/4p2p/4P2P/5PP1/k7/8/K7"] 1. f5 (1. g5 Kb4 2. f5! {is the same idea}) (1. Kb1?? {already throws the win away} Kb4! 2. g5 Kc5 3. Kc2 (3. f5? exf5! {and now black wins}) Kd5 4. gxh6 gxh6 5. Kd3 {=}) Kb4 (1...exf5 {idea 1 - white has e and f pawn against the lonely f7 pawn} 2. gxf5 Kb4 {what else??} 3. e6 fxe6 4. fxe6 Kc5 {not quite quick enough!} 5. e7 Kd6 6. e8=Q) (1...Kb3 {is similar to the main line and like idea 2 - black waits; however the following line is interesting:} 2. f6!? {white is still winning but must be careful} 2...gxf6 3. exf6 {with the plan of 4. g5 to move the h pawn forward but note the black e pawn is loose!} 3...e5 4. Kb1! {this is the key defence; white simply must prevent the e1Q# line so gets shuffled to safety on e1:} 4...e4 5. Kc1 Kc3 6. Kd1! {g5 follows}) 2. g5! {now any pawn move loses, as does the king advance:} 2...Kc5 (2...exf5 {now f7 gets overloaded} 3. g6! fxg6 4. e6 {just quick enough!}) (2...hxg5 3. f6! {overloading g7} gxf6 4. h6) 3. f6 (3. g6 {also works but care is needed:} 3...fxg6 4. f6 (4. fxe6?? Kc6!)) gxf6 4. gxh6