Thursday, October 27, 2016

Endgame at a School

I was at a Primary School this morning and the following position appeared in one of the games.

Even though the boys were 2 of the better players in the group I was still impressed and astounded that they had reached this position. From here on, though, the game was full of blunders, but each one was instructive for the kids. It was black to play and he started with the shocker 1..Kc5?? This immediately moves the king outside the square of the pawn and shows that kings can't catch pawns when they are behind them. In the above position, black has the undermining 1..a6! when his king is closer to the pawns and able to take both white pawns. Thus the kids are being taught about king activity and placement. The nearer their king is to the main action, the better.

After white's blunder, came a mutual shocker 2.Kd3?? allowing me to explain that passed pawns must be pushed. At this point the black player saw that he should have lost the game and he retreated his king rather than take on b5. 2..Kb6 and both kings manouvered 3.Kc4 Kc7 4.Kc5

At this point, black played the inspirational 4..Kc8! going straight back and was rewarded with a draw after 5.b6? axb6 6.Kxb6 Kb8 (with opposition) 7.c7+ Kc8 8.Kc6 stalemate.

While congratulating white on his fine defence I showed both boys how using the king actively is an important issue in endgames. Instead of 5.b6, white should have tried 5.Kd6! when the opposition move 5..Kd8 fails because after 6.c7+ Kc8 7.Kc6, it isn't stalemate as black has a pawn left.

Now black has to move their a-pawn. The best try for a kid is to play 7..a6, say loudly "oh no, can I take that back", and then mumble something about losing their last hope! But seriously, the majority of children that I teach would find it hard to resist the temptation of taking a free pawn. But the win is simply 8.b6 a5 9.b7 checkmate, while the tempting 8.bxa6 is stalemate again.

Of course this endgame isn't perfect, and is very simple, but it shows a number of endgame principles that everyone, not just kids, should know. And when kids play these positions and then receive instruction it sticks better in their mind than when they are learning endgames theoretically. By the way, all the advice I gave them came after the game, as I didn't want to interfere while the game was ongoing. Both these boys are yet to compete in events outside their school, but like most kids, the are learning fast.

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