Game#41 – A chess ending from the Queen’s Gambit

A chess ending in the queen's gambit

Chess endings are often the bane of an amateur players’ existence. Rarely studied and often dismissed, chess endings are considered “too boring” which is why they are often misplayed or neglected. A simple win can turn into an unwelcome draw simple because the player will not take the time to learn the fundamentals of chess endings.

To be fair, the game I am about to share with you was played under blitz time controls. Chess endings usually happen when players have used most of their clock time – so, it is hard to be critical of inferior moves when playing under such time pressure. This case is different though. The mistakes I made would have been easily corrected had I spent more time analyzing and understanding the endgame.

Everyone needs to work on their chess endings

jreadey– Paul H.
Queen’s Gambit Declined w/o Nc3 [D30]
Lichess.org
3 minutes 2 seconds

Post-game analysis

Titled players need to work on their endgames too. This game saw a series of blunders by both players in the ending, one of them being a FIDE master. Like me, he did not recognize his advantage and that by playing Kc3 (arguably a tough move to find) he would have gained the opposition and produced a passed pawn for himself. It wasn’t just this move though. White played 49…f4?? which was instantly losing. When playing chess it’s important to remember that just because you believe in an idea doesn’t mean it will work.

Active diagonals. Bishops should always be placed on open diagonals. But what if there are multiple ones to choose from? There is never an exact answer to this question, but generally, you should place your bishops where the participate in control for the center. My move 9..Ne4?! was overanxious. Instead, I should have played Bb6, keeping an eye on d4 and preparing normal developing moves like Nc6 and so on.

Understanding your opponents plans. Whichever opening you play, you need to understand the plans of your opponent. For me, I regularly play the Tarrasch Defense against d4. This is the recommended approach in Jacob Aagard’s book, Meeting d4. He explains that part of white’s plan is to control c5 by placing either his knight or bishop on that square. Knowing this makes Bb6 a much more natural move.

Playing an opening by rote. Knowing opening theory is helpful. It helps to put structure around how you develop your pieces and where you place them on the board. It can get confusing though. I am not a Tarrasch expert but I should have played 7…Nc6 instead of castling. Stockfish prefers castling but that is not a reason to play that move. Nc6 is more flexible and consistent with supporting d4. My bizarre Ne4 move (threatening to take on f2) was overanxious and unnecessary. It was part of an opening idea after both sides have castled and Black’s bishop is on b2. Only then would the f2-pawn be under legitimate attack.

Deal with your hallucinations. My fear of my opponent playing a4 and getting a passed pawn was not real. Later on it might have been, if he played Kc3 and supported it. King and pawn endings are the simplest but most important endings to learn. The book 100 Endings You Must Know does an amazing job of breaking down chess endings into a single text that is about 250 pages long. I have read through this book but it’s time to re-read the section on King and pawn endings!

Some of you are probably thinking that time trouble contributes to a lot of blunders we make so how seriously can one criticize their play under those conditions. Let’s keep in mind that chess endings don’t change over time. The approach to managing a king and pawn ending is the same today as it was a hundred years ago. Further, I feel that players rated ELO 1800 or higher should be able to quickly convert an ending like this.

Conclusion

Endings are the key to better chess. Poor judgment in trading rooks and shuttling my king were the reasons I almost lost this game. Make chess endings a part of your normal study routine. If you do, you will avoid the silly mistakes you saw the two of us make in this game.