Monday, October 26, 2009

The First Rule of Endgames: Straight Back Draws

Here is the first thing every player should know about endgames: in an ending with king and pawn v. king, Straight Back Draws. Consider the following position:

POS. 1

With White to move, he draws if he drops his king straight back to e1 but loses if he drops the king back to f1 or d1. After either 1.Ke1 Kd3 2. Kd1 e2+ 3.Ke1 and 1. Kd1 Kd3 2. Ke1 e2, the following position is reached:

POS 2.

So why does it matter whether White drops straight back or not in POS 1? BECAUSE IT DETERMINES WHOSE MOVE IT IS IN POS 2! If White dropped straight back, it is Black's move and he must abandon his pawn or play 3...Ke3, which is STALEMATE. If White dropped back at an angle than it is his move and he must play 3.Kf2 to which Black responds 3...Kd2 with 4...e1=Q coming next move and checkmate soon thereafter.

While it is only that last drop back that determines whether White draws or not, I recommend that all the drop backs are handled that way. Consider the following position:
POS 3.
It does not matter whether White plays 1.Kd3, 1.Ke3, or 1.Kf3. It only matters that he drops straight back from e2 to e1 at the appointed time. However, I always feel much better when I see one of my players move 1.Ke3 because it gives me confidence that he understands STRAIGHT BACK DRAWS.
Their is an entire body of endgame theory regarding the principle of "opposition" which applies to most endings where only kings and pawns are left and the player who understands it will be able to figure out this position at the board. However, even if a player does not remember the opposition or is too low on time to figure it out, STRAIGHT BACK DRAWS will enable him to save the half point. It will also tell him whether he want to trade off rooks in a position where he has a rook and king against his opponent's pawn, rook and

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