Endgame Strategy - Pawns as pikes in chess

Dec 8, 2014
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Hello everyone! This is IM Srinath, Narayanan and I am back here on ‘endgame strategy’. This week's theme is about the importance of Pawn structure in Endgame, highlighted by the story of the Pike man.  

The pike man, or the pike pawn is demonstrated by a very instructive endgame played in the Ukrainian Championship, 2014. The article focuses on play against knight with a pawn. As I’ve already demonstrated in my columns, set ups like a3-Na6 c3-Nc6 effectively hinders the knight as it takes two forward squares of the knight how. This is especially more useful when the Knight is in the last rank.

The second game focusses on how this knowledge can be used to mould the game in such a way from the opening itself. It is little, concrete knowledge like this that enhances a player’s understanding of chess. Okay, enough talk, let’s go to chess now!


Eljanov, P. - Ivanchuk, V.

83rd ch-UKR 2014 2014.11.12

BD_27015_257_0.pngDiagram #1


The game is still not quite in the endgame stage, but is poised to get there in a few moves. Two factors are important in this position. 1. Domination of White's bishop against Black's knight. 2.White's space advantage 3.The disparity in the pawn structure. White has a doubled pawn on the d-file. However, this works in White's favour in this position as it's possible for White to put pressure against the c7 pawn. However, it's not possible for Black to try & attack White's doubled d pawns. This is chiefly due to the first two factors in operation in this position. Because White controls such a large part of the board, Black's pieces are unable to move freely and attack White's weaknesses. Properties of space advantage:- 1.It's useful for the side having less space to exchange pieces. The opposite applies to the side having more space. Don't exchange pieces. 2.Moving pawns forward gains space. However, this is a double-edged sword. The pawns can later become weaknesses.


Black was threatening to play Re8, trying to seize the e-file. Re3 ensures that White nullifies Black's presence on the e-file after e4.

1... Rxe3 2.fxe3 Rf8

Black attempts to bring his knight and the other pieces into play.

( Re8 3.e4)

3.e4 f6

BD_27015_257_1.pngDiagram #2


BD_27015_257_2.pngDiagram #3


White seizes the opportunity. Eljanov had little time during this phase, so his play shows an excellent grasp on strategic chess.

4... fxg5 5.hxg5 Rxf4 6.Qxf4 Qf8 7.Qxf8+ Kxf8

BD_27015_257_3.pngDiagram #4


This is a common motif. Placing one's pawns 2 ranks above the knight suffocate the knight's mobility.


creating a weakness. This is very accurate as Bc8 is not possible after Ne7.

8... b6 9.Kg3 Ke8 10.Kf4

Centralisation of king is one of the key principles in endgame play.

10... Ne7 11.Ba6

White can maneouvere all he wants. Black has to be patient. The only solace for Black is his h-paser, however this isn't much of an asset as the moment Black plays h4, White's king can slowly move from wherever he is, and take the pawn.

11... Kd8 12.Bb5

Guarding against a break on c6 temporarily. Just in case.

12... a5

In the unlikely event of White managing to transfer the King to a6after playing Bf1-Bh3 a7-a5 ensures that Black won't lose a pawn.

13.a3 Ng8 14.Ke3 Ne7 15.Kd3 Ng8 16.Kc3 Ne7 17.Bf1 Nc8?

BD_27015_257_4.pngDiagram #5


Preventing an incursion via b5.

(17... c6 18.dxc6 Nxc6 19.Kc4 Ke7 was a better way to defend 20.b4 ( 20.Bh3)20... axb4 21.axb4 b5+! This could've been the finesse missed by both players during the mid-game calculations. Once again, we see the invaluable use of accurate straight line calculation in endgames. Studies are one of the best ways to train this feature. 22.Kxb5 Nxd4+ 23.Ka6 Ne6 24.b5 Nxg5 25.b6)

18.Bh3 Na7 (18... h4 19.Kd3 Ne7 This'll now allow White to enter the queenside ( Na7 20.Ke3 Nc8 21.Kf4 will just allow White to collect the h4-pawn.) 20.Kc4 Ke8 21.Kb5 Kd8 22.Bg4 Ke8 23.Ka6 Kd8 ( c6 24.dxc6 Nxc6 25.Kxb6 Nxd4 26.Kxa5 The point of Bg4. Now Nf3 isn't possible anymore.) 24.Kb7 Ng8 25.b4 axb4 26.axb4 Ne7 27.b5 Ng8 28.Bh3 Ne7 29.Be6 And Black ends up in zugzwang.)

19.Kc4 Ke7 (19... c6 wouldn't work so well here anymore 20.dxc6 Nxc6 21.Kd5 Kc7 22.Ke6 +- )

20.Kd3 Ke8 21.e5 Kd8 22.Ke4 Ke7

White just dances around for a while to gain time. The eventual plan is to transfer the Bishop to e4 and king to c4. Keeping king on c4 will tie down the Black knight to a7 as Black cannot allow Kb5. With the Bishop on e4 and pawn on e6, Black will eventually get into a zugzwang.

23.Kf4 Ke8 24.Ke3 Ke7 25.Kd3 Ke8 26.Kc4 Ke7 27.Bg2 Kf8 28.Be4 Kg7 29.b4

This move creates one more square for the king near b5, to prepare e6.

( The direct 29.e6 is met by29... b5+ 30.Kd3 Nc8 offering Black chances to defend.)

29... axb4 (29... a4 Computer's initially show 0. 00 here. But the a4 pawn simply falls and White plays a4-a5. For example (29... b5+ 30.Kc3 a4 31.Kd2 Nc8 32.Bd3 Na7 33.e6 Another case of zugzwang.) 30.b5 Nc8 31.Kb4 Ne7 32.exd6 ( 32.Kxa4?

BD_27015_257_5.pngDiagram #6

32... Nf5)32... cxd6 33.Kxa4 Nf5 34.Kb4 Nxd4 35.a4 +- The b-pawn will be unstoppable.)

30.Kxb4 h4

forcing the Bishop to go back. However, now White break throughs on the kingside.

( Kf7 31.e6+ Kg7 32.e7 Kf7 33.Bxg6+ Kxe7 34.Bxh5 +- )

31.Bg2 Kf8 32.a4 Kg7 33.Bh3 Kf7 34.a5 Ke7 35.a6 Kf7

Knight can't move. King can't move. White's king just has to transfer the king to the kingside and capture h4. When Black resists with b5, the White bishop cuts it off in two moves. Black's knight can never move because of the a-paser. This is one of the fallacies of passive defence. However, Black had only one opportunity for clear cut improvement during the game.

36.Kc3 ( 36.Kc3 Ke7 37.Kd3 Kf7 38.Ke3 b5 39.Bg2 Ke7 40.Kf4 b4 41.Kg4 b3 42.Kxh4 b2 43.Be4 +- ) 1-0

Lessons learned from the game:-

1. Brute calculation is always useful.  It is especially useful more so in the endgames.  It's always very useful to familiarise ourselves with typical and similar positions, because it is when evaluating positions that while calculating in our head that we make mistakes.

2. It's very instructive to note how the White bishop constantly dominated the knight.  After 12.Bc8! the e7 knight lost the possibilty to come out via c8-b6 as well.


Kasparov, Garry - Short, Nigel D

Zuerich Kortschnoj KO 2001.04.29

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 Nf6 5.e5 Nfd7 6.c3 b6

Black intends to play Ba6 and exchange the bad bishop. So What does what do?


BD_27015_257_6.pngDiagram #7

7... Be7 (7... Ba6 8.a4 Bxb5 9.axb5 See the similarities in pawn structure?)

8.O-O O-O 9.Re1 a5 10.Nf1 Ba6 11.a4 Bxb5 12.axb5

BD_27015_257_7.pngDiagram #8

12... Re8 13.Ng3 Nf8 14.Nh5 Nbd7 15.g3 Ng6 16.h4 Ndf8 17.Kg2 Qd7 18.Bh6 gxh6 19.Qd2 f5 20.exf6 Bd8 21.Qxh6 Ra7 22.Ng5 Qxb5 23.f7+ Rxf7 24.Nxf7 1-0

Lessons learned:-

1.It's always useful to have an eye on the 'pawn structure' from the start of the game.  This helps improve our strategic play.

That’s it for this week folks! I hope you enjoyed as well as learnt useful information. As always, I invite you to leave comments and feedback below!

Here a picture of how pikemen looked like in the midieval times. Let's use this weapon on the chess board next time!


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combinatie 22:35 - 20 Jan 2015

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