Easy Endgames that Chess Players Must Know
Chess Endgame

Easy Endgames that Chess Players Must Know

Easy Endgames that Chess Players Must Know

There are many easy wins on endgames. You can beat all kind of chess players by just spending some minutes on learning these easy endgames!

Today, you are going to test your endgame skills with a few most critical, most foundational endgame positions that any chess player should know.

If you aren’t familiar with these easy endgames, then you definitely need to take a look and pay attention. And if you’re a more advanced player, then I’d still recommend that you watch this lesson carefully.

I’ve shown these easy endgames positions to a lot of my students, including more advanced ones, and so far, the vast majority of them played a couple of mistakes.

Capablanca wisely recommended to start learning chess from the endgame phase! Fortunately, you can learn with the full course An Endgame Expert.

Easy Endgames that Chess Players Must Know

King and Pawn Endgame

Let’s take a look at the example number one. It’s the very classical position, king with a pawn versus the king alone. It is White to move. How do you play here as White?

Obviously, White is trying to achieve a draw and Black is trying to win. First of all, before we come to the move itself, let’s talk about the position in general a little bit.

Plans on This Position

Black clearly wants to promote their pawn and win the game this way. But the problem is that the white king is blocking the way of the pawn. So, how can Black achieve this?

Black would need to move the king forward somewhere, drive the white king away and clear the way for Black’s pawn. That is Black’s plan.

White’s plan is basically the opposite. Keeping the king in front of the pawn and blockading it, so that it cannot be promoted.

That is it in general. Now what does it mean practically? How can White play here?

Only One Move Draws, Others Lose the Game

In fact, there is an only move here for White which saves the game and any other move will lose the game.

You can see how precise you got to be in an endgame position like that, even if it’s a really simple one.

The correct move here is Kf1, winning the opposition!

What is the Opposition and Winning the Opposition?

Easy Endgames, King Opposition
King Opposition

The opposition is when you put your king opposite to the opponent’s king and there is a number of squares in between them.

In this case, we’ve got three squares in between them. Usually, it is one, but it can also be three and, in rare cases, even five squares. And we’ll see in a moment why it is so important.

Now, when Black tries to realize their plan, they go forward with the king and White goes in opposition: …Kf4 Kf2.

We can see a similar position with just one square in between of the kings. It’s kind of a Zugzwang because Black cannot kick White’s king away.

If Black tries Kg4, White moves Kg2. We maintain the opposition and the thing is regardless of what Black tries, we just maintain the opposition.

Black’s king cannot go forward, so Black would eventually have to push the pawn forward. After that, the king cannot support the pawn enough, and we just stand in front of the pawn.

Easy Endgames, King Opposition Draw
King Opposition – Draw

We stand in front of the pawn, and the best that Black can achieve is this position. But it’s not enough to win. After …g2 Kg1, the only move Black can play is Kg3, which leads to stalemate, and it’s a draw.

In a chess game, you should always be awake to find the mistakes on your opponent’s play. Look at How to Punish Beginner Mistakes in the Opening

A More Natural Move Loses the Game

We just analyzed that the correct move for White, the only one which saves the game, is Kf1, winning the opposition.

Easy Endgames, King Opposition Win
King Opposition – Black Wins

What if White plays a more natural move instead?

Kf1 is certainly not the most intuitive move. The most intuitive move is something like Kg2, trying to bring the king forward, closer to the pawn. This is a losing mistake!

In this case, Black goes Kg4, and now it is White to play; it is a Zugzwang position for White. Wherever the king goes away, the black king can advance.

For example, if Kh2, it allows Black to go forward with Kf3, thus gaining a critical space advantage. After that, if let’s say, White tries to go left, Black would go right. And after that, the pawn is clearly going forward; there’s nothing White can do to stop it!

Quiz for You – Find the Best Move

Here’s another little quiz for you. So far, we were talking about this position when it is White to move. But what if it’s Black to move and your opponent plays Ke4, how do you play here as White?

…Ke4 is a tricky move!

Diagonal Opposition

Many endgames can be solved in this easy way…

White also has an only move which saves the game, which is Kg2!

In this case, we’re still taking advantage of the same rule of the opposition but, in this case, it’s a little twisted. It’s the diagonal opposition and this still helps White to gradually bring it to the direct opposition. And we already know from the previous example that Black cannot make any progress here.

That is why it was so critical for White to play Kg2 and to win the diagonal opposition!

If instead of Kg2, the correct move which saves the game, White will play Kf2 for example; in this case, Black’s king goes to f4. Black wins the opposition and wins the game afterwards.

In chess, you need to learn many things to be a good player. Among all of them, there are some that you cannot miss, such as 10 Opening Traps Every Chess Player Should Know!

Rule of the Critical Square

Apart from the rule of opposition, there is another rule which is also very critical to know. It is the rule of the critical square.

The critical square is the g3-square in this example. Or if the pawn is on any other line, it is anyway the square on the third rank.

Easy Endgames, Critical Square
Critical Square – g3

There is an exception with the edge pawns. They cannot win. But if Black’s king can get control over this g3-square, two squares away from the promotional square; then it is a win for Black. Regardless of the move order, whether it is White to move or Black to move, Black wins. And it is also a very good guideline to keep in mind while playing positions like that.

If it is White to move, then Black wins normally like it always happens when Black wins the opposition. For example: After Kh1, Black goes the other way, Kf3. After that, the pawn is easily promoting.

If it is Black to play, then it looks like White wins the opposition and he should hold a draw. But in this case, it does not really happen because Black got control over this critical square, and Black wins anyway.

After …Kh3 Kh1 g3 Kg1 g2, White is forced to move the king away. After that, Black will promote the pawn on the next move.

Therefore, this just shows you how Black can win this position, if they can only bring their king to the key square!

Chess is a game full of tricks, and the endgame is no the exception. But if you like to see something special, watch A Tricky Pawn and a Smart King! Chess Tango ?

A Nasty Trick You Should Know!

But there’s one really, really nasty trick here, which I want to share with you. Imagine you’re playing this position as Black, and it is your turn.

Easy Endgames, Critical Square Trick
Critical Square Trick – Draw

At first, it looks like you got the critical square. You should win, and now you just need to move your king somewhere, either to h3 or to f3, and you’re winning the game. Is this correct?

Not really. You’ve really got to move your king to h3!

If you play Kf3, there is one little unknown trick which I’ve never seen actually in chess books. Well, perhaps it is covered somewhere, but it is still not very known…

In this case, instead of going Kf1, which would just lose the game, you have a really really tricky move on Kh2!

Now Black continues with g3, that after Kh1, all of a sudden, it is a draw!

This is a big surprise for Black! The thing is if Black goes Kf2, then you can see the problem. It’s a stalemate!

It would win actually if we move the position together with the pawn somewhere to the left. White’s king would have some extra space on the right to go to. But in this case, it is just a draw!

There is another similar line if Black plays the incorrect move Kf3. After Kh2, the tricky g3 would lead to a draw, so what if Black goes Kf2? In this case, after Kh1 g3, it is, once again, a stalemate! I have actually saved myself a couple of blitz games using this trick because it’s not very known. It looks like Black already won the game; so, naturally, they are relaxed thinking that just need to move the pawn forward, but all of a sudden, it’s a draw!

Test Your Skills on Easy Endgames

Endgame Puzzle #1

Now let’s test your skills, so that we can check whether you really got everything or not. I’m going to show you two puzzles.

Here’s the puzzle number one, and your task is to think about it and to write down in the comments below whether White can win this or not.

It is White to move. Can White win or is it a draw?

Endgame Puzzle #2

And here’s the puzzle number two. The task is the same. It is White to move. Can White win or is it a draw?

Please write it down on the comments below.

Easy Endgames that People MESS UP – Video Lesson

You can download the PGN file here to train in all the positions that we have studied in this lesson about easy endgames.

On the other hand, if you have any doubts about this fascinating subject, then you may also wish to check out my other video lesson 3 Chess Endgame Principles Every Chess Player Should Know, where I analyze this idea as well as a few other additional ideas that you’ve got to be aware of.

Free Masterclass

Finally, let me invite you to my free masterclass The Best Way to Improve at Chess INSTANTLY!, where you can learn not only how to advance your endgame skills but how to improve your middlegame skills or your general chess skills.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want GM Igor Smirnov to help you get better at chess, watch this Masterclass.

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