How to Simplify into a Won Ending - 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 Nine

How to Simplify into a Won Ending

Simplifying has two aspects.

The player who is ahead in material wants a placid game without complications, so that he can proceed to make use of his extra material without being disturbed by side issues.

The player who has a material disadvantage naturally avoids simplifying as much as he can, and, just as naturally, seeks complications. The simpler the position, the more assured is his ultimate defeat. Complications, tricks, confusion offer him his best practical chance.

But this is not the only conflict on simplification.

The player who has a material advantage wants to simplify by exchanging pieces, particularly the queen. (The queen is the great troublemaker in such situations; its long-range potentialities can often stir up an unwelcome surprise.)

However, this same player is opposed to exchanging pawns. We noticed this in a number of earlier endings. His opposition is based on two points.

First, he needs pawns as queening candidates. (Just think of Diagram 20 in this respect.) The more pawns he retains, the better his queening chances.

Don’t interpret this point too literally. It does not call for a slavish avoidance of all pawn exchanges; it merely emphasizes the need for caution.

As for the player who is behind in material, he avoids the exchange of pieces if he can, but seeks the exchange of pawns where he can do so.

Removing the Queens

Now let’s see some illustrations of how the exchange of queens is brought about in actual play. (D)


White to move

White is a pawn ahead and is naturally eager to exchange queens. This is accomplished directly by a queen check: 1.Qe4+. Whether Black exchanges or allows White to exchange, the queens disappear.

In Diagram 69 a check again has the desired effect. (D)


Black to move

White is two pawns ahead but he must look forward to a long series of checks. Luckily, when Black tries 1…Qb5+ White has 2.Qe2+! forcing a king and pawn ending which is effortlessly won for White.

In Diagram 70 Black’s immediate resignation comes as something of a surprise. (D)


Black to move

Though White is a pawn ahead, it does not seem possible for him to maintain this advantage or turn it to use. Also, the position is so open that Black’s chances of perpetual check are very promising.

Yet Black’s resignation is quite in order, as we can see from the following play:


(or any other king move to the seventh rank.)


If Black’s king goes to the sixth rank, then 3.Qd6+! forces the exchange of queens. In that event White’s king wins the remaining black pawn and advances his own b-pawn to queen. Meanwhile Black’s king is held in a vise by the white h-pawn.


On 2…Kf8 White has 3.Qd6+! and on 2…Kh8 White wins as in the text.

3.Qc8+! Kf7

It doesn’t matter where the black king goes.


Forcing the easily won king and pawn ending described in the note to White’s second move.

This is a fine example of simplifying technique.

Of course, it isn’t always necessary to have a check available to force a simplified position. Any other kind of strong threat can do the trick. (D)


White to move

White is a pawn ahead and would therefore like to exchange queens. He doesn’t have a check at his disposal, but 1.Qd6! does equally well. As Black’s rook is threatened, he has nothing better than 1…Qxd6 2.Rxd6. Thus White has achieved his objective.

In Diagram 72, too, White does not have a check but he has an equally effective threat. (D)


Black to move

White is a pawn ahead. In addition, he has an overwhelming position, in view of the mating threat Qe7. Thus he forces Black to seek the exchange of queens even though Black is already behind in material.


Or 1…Qe8 2.Qxe8 Rxe8 3.Rd6 winning a second pawn for White.

2.Kg2 Qc4 3.Qxc4 bxc4 4.Rc7

Winning a second pawn anyway.

4…Rb8 5.Rxc4 Rb6 6.Rc7 Rb2

If Black’s rook stays on the sixth rank, White wins by advancing his kingside pawns, escorted by their king.

7.Rc6 Rxa2 8.Rxf6 Kg7 9.Rb6 Ra5 10.g4 Ra4 11.Kg3 Ra3+ 12.f3 a5 13.h4 h6 14.g5 h5 15.f5 Ra1 16.Rb7+ Black resigns.

White’s pawns advance irresistibly.

Other Simplifying Methods

In Diagram 73 we see a whole arsenal of threats used by White to force a favorable ending and then win it. (D)


Black to move

Momentarily material is even. However, White has the nasty threat of Rd8+ winning Black’s queen.


If Black tries 1…Qe4+ 2.f3 Qe3 3.Bf6!! wins. And if 1…Qe6 2.Qd3! is decisive.

Because of these variations, Black decides to give up the queen.

2.Rd8+! Kxd8 3.Qxe1

The queen is definitely stronger than the rook and bishop. The play that follows is a wonderful example of the power of the queen.

White’s immediate threat is 4.Qe5! attacking the rook. If then 4…Rg6 5.Qh8+ wins a pawn, likewise after 4…Bf8 5.Qb8+. Finally, if 4…Rg8? 5.Qb8+ wins the rook.

3…Rg6 4.Qe4!

Threatening to win the a-pawn with 5.Qa8+ or the h-pawn with 5.Qh4+.

Black must lose one pawn or the other. Which one is he to preserve? The h-pawn, for if he loses it, White gets a passed pawn at once. This passed pawn will at once advance - a candidate for queening.

4…h6 5.Qa8+ Ke7 6.Qxa7+ Kf8 7.a4!

A clever move. White threatens 8.a5 when Black’s pawn cannot capture because of the pin. The sequel would be 9.a6, with a dangerous passed pawn that would queen quickly.

7…Bb4 8.Qb8+ Kg7 9.Qe5+ Kg8 10.f4

A good move which undermines the position of Black’s rook on the sixth rank because of the possibility of f4-f5.

10…Re6 11.Qb5 Bf8

Note that 11…Bc5? is all wrong because of 12.a5! and 13.a6 with a winning passed pawn.

12.f5 Rd6 13.Kf3!

White brings his king to the queenside. He intends to win the b-pawn.

13…Rd4 14.Ke3!

To exchange pawns by 14.Qxb6 Rxa4 would run counter to the great principle of avoiding pawn exchanges. The capture would make White’s victory extremely difficult.


If instead 14…Bc5 15.Qe8+ Kg7 16.Qe5+ and 17.Qxd4! with an easy win in the king and pawn ending.

15.Qe8 Kg7 16.Kd3 Kg8 17.Kc3

Threatening to force a won king and pawn ending with 18.Qxf8+! Kxf8 19.Kxb4 etc.


He tries to keep White’s king from crossing the fourth rank. Thus, if 17…Rb1 18.Kc4 Rb4+ 19.Kd5 Rb2 20.Kc6 when White keeps the b-pawn under attack and advances his kingside pawns against Black’s weakened forces.

18.Qb5 Bc5

The game is reaching the decisive point.


Now Black is lost.

Thus if 19…Rb4+ 20.Qxb4 Bxb4 21.Kxb4 with a won king and pawn ending.

And if 19…Bd4 20.f6! (threatening 21.Qe8+ and 22.Qxf7+). After 20…Bxf6 White wins easily because of the passed a-pawn he gets by 21.Qxb6.

So Black has nothing better than 20…Kh7. But then 21.Qf5+ Rg6 22.Qd7! Bxf6 23.Qxf7+ Bg7 24.Qf5! is decisive.

19…Kg7 20.a5! Black resigns.

For if 20…Rb4+ 21.Qxb4 Bxb4 and now 22.a6! forces the queening of the a-pawn!

A very fine ending, played in masterly style by White.

In Diagram 74 an extremely subtle maneuver wins for White. (D)


White to move

The most obvious continuation, since White is a pawn up, is to exchange the queens and rooks. But in that case White cannot win!

If White plays 1.Qxe7+ Kxe7 2.Rxf7+ Kxf7 the simplification turns out to be faulty because White’s king is tied down by Black’s passed a-pawn. The white kingside pawns cannot win by themselves, and thus White is held to a draw.

Yet White can win with a subtle waiting move:


Now Black cannot play 1…Kf8?? because of 2.Rg8#. Nor can he play 1…Qd7?? because of 2.Rg8+ Ke7 3.Qg5+ and mate next move.

Nor can Black play his queen further afield because of the reply Qxe6+.

Therefore Black can only move a pawn.

If he plays 1…a4 then 2.Kc1!. If now 2…a3 White exchanges all the pieces and then plays Kb1-a2, capturing the a-pawn and then winning easily by playing Kb4-c5-d6 etc.

And if Black plays 2…Qa3+ White wins with 3.Kb1! Qe7 4.Ka2 a3 (forced) 5.Qxf7+ etc., again winning the a-pawn.

1…b4 2.cxb4 axb4

Or 2…Qxb4+ 3.Ke2! Qe7 4.Qxf7+ Qxf7 5.Rxf7 Kxf7 6.Kd2 Kg6 7.Kc3, followed by Kb2-a3-a4xa5 winning easily.

3.Kd1! Black resigns.

Black gives up because if 3…b3 4.cxb3 cxb3 and now White exchanges pieces followed by Kc1-b2xb3.

Or if 3…c3 4.Qxf7+ Qxf7 5.Rxf7 Kxf7 6.Kc1 followed by Kb1-a2-b3xb4. As already shown, White can then liquidate the queenside pawns and bring his king to the kingside to aid the queening of his pawns there.

In Diagram 75 White wins by a series of delightful finesses. (D)


White to move

White is a pawn up but he cannot make any headway in the rook and pawn ending. He therefore decides on the maneuver Re6 followed by Re5 forcing a won king and pawn ending.

1.Re6! Kd7 2.Re5! Rxe5 3.fxe5

If now 3…Ke6 4.Kd4 Ke7 5.Kd5 Kd7 6.e6+ Ke7 7.Ke5 followed by 8.Kxf5 and White wins as he pleases.


Setting a sly trap. If now 4.Kd4 Ke6! and White cannot win.

For example 5.e4? f4! and Black wins the advanced pawn.

Or if 5.Kc5 Kxe5 6.Kxb5 Ke4 7.Kxa4 Kxe3 8.b4 f4. Both players get new queens and the ending is drawn.

4.Kd3!! Kd7

Now if 4…Ke6 5.Kd4 wins as shown in the note to White’s third move.


So that if 5…fxe4+ 6.Kxe4 Ke6 7.Kd4 Ke7 8.Kc5 and White gives up his e-pawn to win both black pawns with an easy victory in sight.

5…f4! 6.Ke2!! Ke6

Black’s last hope. After the natural reply 7.Kf3?? Kxe5 White loses!

7.Kf2!! Kxe5 8.Kf3 Black resigns.

For he must move his king, allowing 8.Kxf4 with an easy win for White.

An exciting and beautiful ending.

Diagram 76 shows a skillful transition to a won king and pawn ending. (D)


Black to move

Material is even, but Black can force a won king and pawn ending.

Black’s first move is the key to the win:

1…Rf1+!! 2.Rxf1 Rxd1+ 3.Kxd1 Kxf1 4.Kd2 Kg2

Black now continues, no matter how White plays, with …Kg3, and …Kxg4. This gives him a won king and pawn ending, along the lines of the play from Diagram 28.

So far we have been making use of valuable rules that help us to win when we’re ahead in material.

But these rules are not infallible laws: they are only rules of thumb, and they have occasional exceptions.

In the next chapter we shall study the most important of these exceptions.