23 December 2017


Several of my students have seen this position this past week. None have succeeded. It is one that I use from Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual.

White to move


  1. I don't think I have commented here before. In any event, thank you for your blog.

    I have Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual, 2nd Edition, but have only browsed through a little of chapter 1. It is still (mostly) over my head. I did NOT look up the solution.

    This problem was interesting to solve! You gave a broad hint with the title of the post: Zugzwang.

    My first observation was that White MUST stop the h2 Pawn promotion. That is only possible with 1. Bf3+. Black must keep the promotion possibility alive, so 1. ... Kg1. If White allows the Pawn to promote AND loses his Bishop, then Black can win (or draw, at worst) because White's e4-Pawn is within range before White can capture the Black Pawns. But Black can be denied the Pawn promotion AND kept in a "box" by sacrificing the Bishop with 2. Bh1! Kxh1 3. Kf1! Now it's fairly simple to "count" the moves out to the promotion of the White Pawn on d8. 3. ... d5 4. exd5 e4 5. d6 e3 6. d7 e2+ 7. Kxe2 Kg2 8. d8(Q) h1(Q) Now the question becomes: how to checkmate the Black King or win the Black Queen without stalemating Black. Fortunately, it's fairly easy: 9. Qg5+ Kh3 (9. ... Kh2 allows a similar solution) 10. Qh5+ Kg2 11. Qg4+ Kh2 12. Kf2! ZUGZWANG! Black will lose his Queen or be checkmated.

    On a different note, I suggest another blog which might prove useful for your improvement (if you are not already familiar with it). It is devoted to investigating methods for adult chess improvement. Temposchlucker was one of the original Knights Errant, a group of bloggers who tried Michael de la Mesa's Rapid Chess Improvement approach of the Seven Circles, and (essentially) proved that it does not work (in general).

    Link: Temposchlucker

    There is a considerable amount of commentary there (for which I am responsible for my fair share since 2013).

    FWIW (not much), I'm a 69-year old chess amateur, with my last USCF rating of 1810 in 1975. I still study chess but don't participate in USCF chess wars anymore.

    1. Hi Robert, welcome. Thorough answer. It's that second zugzwang that makes this problem particularly attractive. The first is clever. Calculating all the way to the second is a good exercise that I put in front of my young students from time to time to challenge and inspire them.

      I'm a couple of years younger than you and still play in USCF events. I didn't start playing in rated events until I was in my mid-30s, although I started playing chess when I was eight.

      In the right column of this blog, you can a list of other chess blogs. Temposchlucker has been among them for quite a few years.

  2. A similar position (with regard to the e4 vs. e5-d6 Pawns) occurs in Diagram 1, pg. 22, The Chess legacy of José Raoul Capablanca: Last Lectures. Capablanca describes it this way (on pg. 23):

    ". . . and here we have one of the most important fundamental principles of chess, perhaps the most important of all, to wit: Advance the Pawn which restrains two Pawns. This principle can be more broadly expressed in the following general form: apply a unit of force which restrains another force of greater strength.

    With that bit of wisdom, the rest of the solution can be figured out vis-a-vis the two Kings, the White Bishop and the h2-Pawn. The final bit of knowledge is how to win a K+Q vs. K+Q endgame where one King is very constrained in its movements using Zugzwang.

    I retired in Feb. 2017, and have started trying to regain my old level of skill. At some point, I hope to resume USCF OTB classical tournament play.

    Happy New Year!

  3. BTW, I did check down the list of links on the right, but failed to see the "Show All" link. There were only 5 links shown by default, and I didn't realize (until after you noted the link) that I had to expand that link in order to see the rest.

    Mea culpa.