15 April 2024

Elementary Technique

Josef Kling and Bernhard Horwitz, Chess Studies, or Endings of Games (London, 1851) was one of the earliest books to emphasize chess endings. It was written in English descriptive notation, so even the presence of a free digital version does not make it particularly accessible to today’s chess players. Happily, Carsten Hansen has brought out a new edition containing the text of the 1851 edition, an expanded edition Horwitz was preparing when he died, and thorough analysis of their work. Hansen’s edition is published as part of his Alexander Game Books Classics series, available through Amazon.

A position in the original 1851 edition will serve as part of my lessons with young chess players this week, as it offers some elementary instruction in techniques that every chess player needs.
Kling and Horwitz note the beginner’s tendency to prematurely push a pawn—something I’ve observed in many hundreds of youth games over the past couple of decades. They note that rooks can be forced off the board, leading to an easily won pawn ending. When I played it against Stockfish, I reached a position that is also reached when playing the first and most elementary position in the book.

After the moves given by Kling and Horwitz, 1.Re3+ Rxe3 2.fxe3, Black is in zugzwang. Black loses because required to move. Were it White’s move, the game would be drawn.

Black to move

This move is marginally more testing than 2…Kxg3. In both cases, White will employ the same technique to bring the remaining pawn close to promotion. But, with the g-pawn, there will be stalemate dangers that do not surface while trying to promote the e-pawn.

Here, again, the beginner must learn not to hastily push the pawn. Rather, White’s king must work its way in front of the pawn to control the key squares.

3.Kg2 Ke4 4.Kh3 Kf5 5.Kh4 Kg6

White to move
The beginner’s game begins to improve when they learn to move the king in front of the passed pawn. Such placement is as vital for the defender as for the stronger side. 

6.Kg4 Kf7 7.Kg5 Kg7

Black, seizing the opposition, puts up the most stubborn defense. Now, and only now, White may advance the pawn. In this case, that takes the opposition from Black.

8.g4 Kh7

White to move
Once beginners have learned to curb the tendency to push the pawn too soon, and have learned the concept of gaining the opposition, the next step is to understand that opposition is only a means to an end. Here, taking the opposition fails to make progress. White must perform an outflanking maneuver to gain control of one of the key squares—f7, g7, h7.

9.Kf6 Kh6 10.g4+ Kh7

This is the first position in Kling and Horwitz, Chess Studies.

11.Kf7 Kh8

White to move
Now, White must be wary of the stalemate danger.


12.g6 would leave Black no legal moves, ending the game with a draw.


White to move

13.Kf6 does not spoil the win, but the game must return to the same position for another opportunity to play the correct move.


The engine opts for the longest distance to mate. While testing students, I choose 13…Kh8 so they must show that they understand that pushing the pawn works here. 14.g6 Kg8 15.g7 Kf7 16.Kh7.

For my beginning students, we are likely to continue all the way to checkmate.

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