Important endgame rule

One of the most important endgame rules is ‘do not rush’! See the diagram. 

I found this position with Chess Club Live. It says ‘white to move’. I don’t know why, but I had a funny feeling and checked the position in Megabase. 

This position was reached in a game from Anand against Comp Genius in de PCA/Intel GP London Rapid 1994. And my hunch was correct. There is something strange with this puzzle. It was not white to move in this position, but black! Does it make a difference?

Is black lost?

Let’s first investigate the position a bit more. Black has indeed a problem. He has to stay in the vicinity of his queenside. The moment he stepts for instance to f7, he loses because of the pawn move c6. See for yourself: 1. – Kf7 2. c6 bxc6 b6! and wins. If 2. – Ke7 then of course cxb7. The threat on his queenside is a problem for black. It almost gives white a free hand on the kingside.

But things are not so bad as they seem. Black can play a waiting game. As long as he keeps his king near to the queenside and prevents white from entering his kingside he is save.

Just give it a try and walk with the white king to for instance c4. But at some moment black can use his kingside majority to force a draw.

Black simply follows an important endgame rule: do not rush. As we al know: pawns can only move forward. So we should be very careful in doing so.

In the game black made a big mistake and played 1. – h5?? White responded with 2. h4! and won because now the white king has a route into the black position and black is unable to defend because of the threat c6. Here you can play through the rest of the game…

Back to the puzzle (with white to move in the same position). You might think that 1. Ke3 or Kf3 followed by h4 will do the trick. But that is not the case. Black doesn’t move his g-pawn afer h4, but simply defends it with h6. How can white make progress? I do not see it. Nor does the computer. But that’s not always reliable. Although white is better, with correct play the game should end in a draw.

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