Endgames with a Piece Ahead - How to Win When You’re Ahead - The Complete Chess Course From Beginning To Winning Chess! (2016)

The Complete Chess Course From Beginning To Winning Chess! (2016)

Book Five

How to Win When You’re Ahead

Chapter Four

Endgames with a Piece Ahead

Endings in which you are a piece to the good are generally won for you if you have one or more pawns.

If you have a rook and bishop (or rook and knight) against a rook, the position usually winds up as a draw. Once in a great while a position turns up where the player with superior forces wins because of some chance finesse. But the general rule is that such positions are drawn.

With pawns on the board the situation changes radically. When you have at least one pawn left, you have a chance of queening it. At that point your extra piece goes to work for you, and makes your victory possible.

The following endgames will show you how to win the game.

A Masterpiece of Technique (D)


White to move

Black has three pawns for a piece. In some situations this would be good enough to draw. Not here, however, as White demonstrates, with powerful and economical handling of his forces.

Positions like this one occur fairly often in over-the-board play. Here are the outstanding features of White’s winning method:

(1) White must make the weight of his extra piece tell. He must place his pieces to the best advantage, menace the hostile pawns; provoke their advance (which will make them more susceptible to attack); force them into a position where any change will be for the worse.

(2) White must play his king to a centralized position (say the square e5 - or d5 or c4 - where it can put added pressure on Black’s game.

(3) White must avoid exchanging pawns. These pawns may seem insignificant at the present time but they are potential queening candidates. Without these pawns White cannot win.

(4) Another reason White must avoid pawn exchanges is that he means to win the black pawns; exchanging pawn for pawn would ruin this plan.


Taking an open file, where the rook will have maximum mobility.

1…a5 2.Kg2!

Another good move. The king heads for the center.

2…Kg7 3.Kf3 Kf6

Black follows suit with his king. He tries to hold as much ground as possible.


In order to penetrate further by Kf4 without being driven back by …g5.

Once White gets that far, he can contemplate further penetration - in due time - with Rd6+ and Ke5.To learn the most from this ending, you must study White’s gradual encroachment of more and more terrain.


To guard the sixth rank from eventual invasion. 4…g5 may look good here, but it would weaken Black’s f-pawn. The why and wherefore of this will soon become clear to you.


White dallies with the idea of a frontal attack on the c-pawn by Rc3. But Black is alert and immediately scotches this plan.


Now Black threatens 6…c4 7.Rc3 Kd4. So White tries a different way.

6.Bb3 Kf6 7.Bc4

Now the bishop is self-supporting and White’s rook can become active.

7…h6 8.Ke3!

Not 8.Kf4? g5+!, exchanging pawns. White’s h-pawn is to play and active role.


Inevitable. Thus, if 8…Rc6 9.Rd7 with unpleasant threats, such as …Ra7. (D)


White to move

White’s next move is the key to the ending. It “fixes” Black’s h-pawn as a decisive weakness. White also establishes all the remaining black pawns as targets.

9.h5!! Rc6 10.Rd7 Rb6 11.Rh7 Ke5 12.Re7+ Kd6

Or 12…Kf6 13.Rc7 and White wins.

13.Re6+ Kc7 14.Re5!

Note that 14.Rg6 also wins. But the text is more in accord with White’s plan: he creates an entering wedge for his king.

14…f4+ 15.Ke4 Rc6

If 15…Kc6 16.Re6+ Kc7 17.Rg6! followed by Kd5 and White wins.

16.Re7+ Kd8

The alternative 16…Kb6 allows 17.Rg7 followed by Rg6 and Kd5.

17.Rg7 Rd6 18.Ke5 Rd4 19.Bd5 f3 20.Kd6 Kc8 21.Rg8#

White’s penetration plan worked out beautifully.

A Difficult Ending (D)


Black to move

Though Black’s play in this ending is highly systematic, the process is extremely interesting. The ending takes a great deal of patience, but Black’s logical procedure makes it seem easy!

Black begins with the basic idea that White can never allow the exchange of rooks.

Once such an exchange takes place, White will be helpless against the advance of Black’s king and bishop to a point where the white pawns will be defenseless. Then, eventually, Black will queen his remaining pawn.

(If you are not certain of this, remove the rooks and play about ten moves for either side.)

The fact that White cannot exchange rooks gives Black’s forces great power. It means that Black can consistently strengthen his position by offering the exchange of rooks.

White will always have to withdraw from the exchange, giving ground each time. This gives Black the basis for a policy of gradual penetration. (But remember this: Black must never allow the exchange of his lone pawn.)

Now what is to be the object of Black’s pressure? Clearly, White’s c-pawn.

The best way for Black to menace it will be to place his rook on the seventh rank and his bishop at e4 or f5.

This will reduce White’s rook to complete passivity on the c-file. Black can then advance his king with decisive effect.

1…Re4 2.Rh8 Kc5 3.Rc8 Re8! 4.Rc7 Kd6 5.Rh7 Bb5 6.Kc3 Ba4

Black threatens 7…Rc8+ winning the c-pawn. This forces White’s rook to the second rank.

7.Rh2 Re4 8.Rg2 Kc5 9.Rh2 Re3+ 10.Kb2 Bb5!

In order to take the second rank with …Re2. Black’s constriction plan is making progress.

11.Rh8 Re2 12.Rc8+ Kd4 13.Kb3 Bc4+ 14.Kb2 Bd3!

Now Black is attacking the vulnerable pawn twice; and by bringing his bishop to f5 he can hound White’s rook as well.

15.Kb3 Bf5 16.Rc7 Re8!! (D)


White to move

Black’s masterly retreat with his rook threatens to force the exchange of rooks by …Rc8. This explains the purpose behind Black’s last two moves.

White is embarrassed for a good move. If he plays 17.Rb7 then 17…Rc8 wins the wretched c-pawn. On other moves of White’s rook along the seventh rank …Rb8+ wins that pawn.

17.c3+ Kd3 18.Rc5 Rb8+

Driving off White’s king. The c-pawn is definitely lost now.

19.Ka4 Be4 20.Rc7 Kc2 21.Rc6 Bd3 22.Rc5 Bc4 23.Ka5 Kxc3 24.a4 Ra8+

White resigns. Black’s accurate play was a triumph of logic.

Victory for the Passed Pawns

Three pawns, as we know, are about equal in value to a minor piece. Toward the beginning of the game we generally rate the piece higher, as its chances of being useful are much greater. Toward the end of the game, the pawns (especially if they have queening possibilities and the position is simplified) may weigh more heavily in the scale.

In the following ending the pawns are definitely preferable. (D)


White to move

Black’s winning plan is based on the fact that White’s king has to lose time removing Black’s remote passed a-pawn. The upshot is that Black’s kingside pawns prove too much for the unaided bishop.

1.Kb5 f4!

Black loses no time. Passed pawns must be pushed!

2.Kxa5 f3!

A menacing-looking pawn.

3.Kb4 Kf4 4.Kc4 Ke3!

Very good. He keeps White’s king away from the queening square.

5.Kd5 h5 6.Bd7

On other moves Black simply advances his pawns and ultimately queens one of them.

6…f2 7.Bb5 Kf3 8.Ke5 Kg2 9.Kf4 Kxh2!

Preparing the advance of the g-pawn.

10.Ke3 g3

White resigns, as Black is about to continue victoriously with …g2 and …g1Q. An instructive ending.