A Little Endgame Knowledge Goes a Long Way

One time I heard Maurice Ashley say something in a lecture that has just stuck with me ever since I heard it.

“Strong players know which endgames are won and which are drawn. This saves them from having to calculate everything.”

The point being of course, that if a strong player can calculate to a position which they know is a win or a draw then they don’t need to calculate any further.

Here is an excellent example of that. This position comes from the game Pogonina-Kashlinskaya from the recently concluded Russian Women’s Superfinal, which was won by WGM Pogonina.

I was looking at the game because it’s a KID in the most recent TWIC download.

Here is the position.

If you look at the position superficially it’s easy to see that White is up a pawn and also has a pawn on the 7th supported by a bishop and with the king quite close as well.

But if you see deeper you will see a feature of the position which shows you an easy way for Black to hold.

The move here is 53…Nd8!

Sure, White  can play 54.Ke7, but after 54…Nxf7

White had nothing better to do than 55.Bxf7 and offer a draw.

Why?  Because of the “wrong rook pawn” rule of the endgame. If one side has a bishop and a rook pawn and the bishop is the opposite color of the queening square for the pawn then as long as the weaker side can get their king into the corner they can’t be forced out and it’s a draw. Try it for yourself!

So in the position after 55.Bxf7 Black doesn’t even need to try to hold on to her h pawn. She just runs to the corner and stays there.

Here is the game in it’s entirety.

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