10 May 2015

The Crooked Path

Most chess players are familiar with a famous pawn ending composed by Richard Reti in 1921. The Black king is in the square of White's pawn, but White's king is not in the square of Black's h-pawn. Nonetheless, White is able to draw by moving the king in a manner than both chases the enemy pawn and threatens to assist his own.

White to move

1.Kg7 h4 2.Kf6 Kb6 3.Ke5

If Black pushes the pawn, then White plays Kd6, supporting promotion of the c-pawn. If Black captures the pawn, then the White king enters the square of the pawn.

A similar idea is presented from a 1947 study by Ladislav ProkeŇ° in Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual (2003).

White to move

White's actions towards support of the a-pawn creates threats that permit the king to reach c6 before Black plays h7-h5. Both pawns are stopped. Here Black has less choice because White queens first and the queen controls Black's promotion square.

1.Kc8 Kc6 2.Kb8 Kb5 3.Kb7 Kxa5 4.Kc6

The third position comes about from play against a computer from an ending that occurred in a game played by Paul Morphy.

White to move

1.Kxf4 draws easily. However, a single careless move here produces another instance of a king able to both support its passed pawn and deal with threats on the other side of the board.

1.Kxh4?? Ke5 2.Kg4 Ke4 49.a3 f3-+

If 2.Kh3 Kd4 49.Kg2 Kc3 and White will stop the f-pawn, but Black's a-pawn will promote.

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