We can learn a lot from endgame studies. Studies show a concept in it’s purest form.
The idea is that all the pieces on the board have a certain function. There is no unnecessary clutter which disturbs the concept.
What I like about endgame studies is that the positions might have arisen from real games in contrast to some compositions where you have to mate in a couple of moves. These compositions often look a bit artificial and couldn’t have evolved from a real game. Therefore I am not very fond of them. Of course this is a matter of taste.
I do like positions that pose a tricky ‘clean problem’. See the diagram. It is white to move. Can he win? If so, how?
Solution endgame study
Obviously the white rook would be much better placed behind the h-pawn, not in front of it. Now the rook cannot support the progress of the pawn to h8. In case of a white rook on for instance h1 instead of h8, the win is a piece of cake. But it isn’t. Of course white has another trick up his sleeve. If he moves the pawn to h7 then he might have at some moment a check and in that case he can queen his pawn.
But this seems to be impossible, at least for the moment. White’s first move is forced. He has to secure his pawn. He starts with 1. h7 and black’s answer is equally forced: 1… Rh6.
Any checks with the black rook from the side are useless. The white king hides behind the g-pawn or moves towards the rook until the rook runs out of checks. The rook has to move away and white gains time to check the black king somewhere from the back rank and promote his pawn.
So what to do after 1. h7 Rh6?
White can set a nice mechanism in motion, he plays 2. Kb5. After this move the black king has to seek shelter behind the white king to prevent a check from the back rank. This play of duck and cover goes on for a while. 2… Kb3 3. Kc5 Kc3 4. Kd5 Kd3 5. Ke5 Ke3 6. Kf5 Kf3.
So far so good. Now there is a problem. White can’t make any progress with 7. Kg5 Kg3. It seems he reached a dead end. Or is it? What follows is a neat move:
Suddenly black is lost. White threatens to promote the pawn and if black plays 7… Rxh7 he falls prey to a discovered check and loses the rook with 8. Kg6+.
I found this endgame study (Rossolimo 1927) on the DVD ‘First steps in endgames’ by Andrew Martin. This DVD is highly instructive. I like Andrew’s style of presenting the material. He is clear, knows his material very well and above all: he is a great instructor!
Want to solve another neat problem? Go to ‘Forget about the opening, study endgames!’