Real Endgames

Last week I paid attention to an interesting endgame in which I felt that the game was a draw. After analyzing it further, with white to move, it was white to win. Study the game board below and see if you can find the winning move.

Only one move will win for white

There are several possible moves to consider. Let’s throw out a few right away. Pawn to g3 or g4 will allow black to capture (regular or en-passant), with no way for white to stop the promotion. Forget those.

White’s king capturing the pawn on f4 leads to … stalemate!  Black has no legal moves and the game is a draw.  We will forego analyzing king to e6 or king to f6 as we’ll see those moves would lead to the same consequences as other moves. Let’s look at king to e5, king to e4, and king to g6 in that order.

If 1. Ke4, then black has two options. Let’s only look at the threatening 1 … Kg3. The white king will have to step away from the pawn on f4, as the e3 square is protected, or maintain pressure on that pawn by retreating to e5 or f5. Either of which will lead to black taking the pawn on g2. The line could continue 2. Ke5 Kxg2 3. Kxf4 Kf2 and now white has to struggle to maintain defense of the f3 pawn while dealing with the advancement of the h5 pawn. This looks like a stalemate. 

If 1. Ke5, then the same sequence of moves above can occur and stalemate is likely without further huge blunders.

How can there be any hope in moving the king to g6? Well, before we give up for a stalemate, let’s take the patience to analyze before offering that white flag up.

With 1. Kg6 black is forced to move 1 … Kg3, which seems fine with him, as he is attacking the g2 pawn. Now consider what happens after 2. Kxh5 Kxg2.  White has the very effective move 3. Kg4! attacking the black pawn and protecting the f3 pawn! With black having no way of protecting its pawn, white will capture on the next move and carefully bring it down the file for promotioon and the win.

But what if 2 … Kf2 for black?  He opts not to capture the g2 pawn to provide protection to his f4 pawn after 3. Kg4 Ke3. Now white has the weapon of advancing his g pawn.  After 4. g3 fxg3 5. Kxg3, there is no way to stop white from advancing his f pawn for promotion (unless white makes a blunder). 

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