13 January 2017

Teaching Endgames

My advanced group and a few from the beginning group met together this week becuase of a schedule change for another after school activity. They struggled to find the moves in a game played by Alexander Alekhine when he was a young man. A few recognized the zugzwang theme, but could not put all the elements together correctly.

White to move
From Alekhine -- Yates, Hamburg 1910


Alekhine's move is the only one that wins.

My students went for the pawn race, queening first.

43.Kc3 Ke7

It seems that a few recognized why 43...Ke6 loses due to 44.Kd4.

44.Kb4 Ke6 45.Kxb5 Kxe5 46.Kxa4 Ke4 47.b4 Kxe3 48.b5 f4 49.b6 f3 50.b7 f2 51.b8Q f1Q

White to move
Analysis diagram after 51...f1Q
As long as Black avoids trading queens unless his king is in front of the a-pawn, this position should be drawn.

We spent a lot of time with this variation, finding a few cases where even Black could win after a blunder that allows a skewer. With careful play, however, neither side can make progress.

Before going into this pawn race, a student found Alekhine's first few moves.


Most of the students knew how to win after 43...Ke6 44.exf5+ Kxf5 45.Kd4. One of them event named the idea, "fox in the chicken coop" (see "Fox in the Chicken Coop").

44.Ke2 Ke6

White to move

After making it this far, the young player blundered with 45.Kf3, and after 45...Kxe5 went on to lose. We came back to this position after exhausting every one's ideas to try to extract a win for White from the pawn race described above.


Alekhine played the correct move.

45...Kxe5 46.Kf3

Black is in zugzwang.

Once we had seen how Alekhine won, we examined this elementary position.

Black to move

Black is also in zugzwang here, and must lose the pawn. However, in this case, the loss of the pawn does not mean loss of the game. For most of the students, defending the Black side here was simple.

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