Saturday, October 26, 2019

Game Analysis: South Carolina Championship, Round 2

In Today's article, we are going to cover the 2nd round of the South Carolina Championship. This was the game played immediately before the game played in the endgame article published earlier this month. The game features a rare opening simply known as the Kingside Fianchetto, an opening defined based on White fianchettoing his Kingside and playing d4, but not c4. With both pawns advanced, you are in the territory of mainstream Queen pawn openings, like the Fianchetto King's Indian, Fianchetto Grunfeld, or Catalan, while advancing the c-pawn but not the d-pawn puts you in English/Reti Terrotory. Advancing the d-pawn but not the c-pawn can lead to some difficulty in White developing his pieces, particularly his Queenside pieces. The only sensible way to avoid moving the c-pawn is to fianchetto the dark-squared Bishop, as developing it classically to say, f4 or g5, playing the Knight to say, c3 (with the pawn still on c2), and then maybe advancing the Queen to d2 and the a1-Rook to d1 might get the pieces out, but White's position is severely cluttered and it becomes hard to maneuver the pieces with the lack of space. However, even after fianchettoing the dark-squared Bishop, where does everything else go? The Knight to d2? But then what about the heavy pieces which are now connected, but with nowhere to move then except across the back rank itself? For this reason, this opening can often be viewed as being very slow, and we will see a game where Black doesn't take advantage of this in the opening, allowing White to build an advantage until White errors and loses a Pawn, only to see Black counter with a blunder later on and White has a brief window of winning opportunities, but once he misses Black's trick shot, the game ends up a dead draw, so we'll have a lot cover in this game.

Without further ado, let's take a look at the featured game.

South Carolina Championship, Round 2
W: Leo Rabulan (2045)
B: Patrick McCartney (2018)
Kingside Fianchetto

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.d4 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 O-O 5.O-O d6

Now the move 6.c4 would be a direct transposition to the Fianchetto King's Indian, but White plays a different move.

So here we have the starting position of what is probably deemed the "Main Line" of the Kingside Fianchetto, if such a "Main Line" exists. To understand the best way to respond to this opening requires understanding the main difference between the diagram position and the pawn going to c4 with the move 7.Nc3 coming. With c4 and Nc3, White has greater control over the central light squares, but here, White's passive idea of fianchettoing the dark-squared Bishop leads to a lack of control of e4 and d5, and should be the driver of how Black should follow up here.


Against 6.c4, the move 6...c6, intending either 7...Qa5 or 7...Bf5, makes perfect sense. But here, it fails to take advantage of White playing an inferior 6th move. Black should be trying to take advantage of e4 lacking coverage for White. After 6...e5! 7.dxe5 (no other move makes sense here), there follows 7...dxe5 8.Bb2, and here, Black should answer with 8...e4!, when after the fairly forcing sequence 9.Qxd8 Rxd8 10.Ng5 Bf5 11.g4! Bxg4 12.Nxe4 Nxe4 13.Bxg7 Kxg7 14.Bxe4 Nc6, Black has a slight lead in development, but with accurate play, White can probably equalize, but no more.

7.Nbd2 Bf5 8.Bb2 Ne4 9.Nh4 Nxd2

This is the best move available to Black in this position, but it also shows the problem with the line Black played. In the normal fianchetto King's Indian with 6...c6 and 7...Bf5, Black will usually look to trade two sets of minor pieces off, alleviating the cramp. Here there is no cramp as White hasn't claimed territory, and his pieces are tripping over each other.

10.Qxd2 Be6 11.e4 d5 12.e5

And just like that, White has gone from a lack of space to a fairly significant space advantage after inferior play by Black. The next few moves don't change the assessment, and actually, White proceeds to even gain some space on the Queenside as well.

12...Qd7 13.Re1 Bh3 14.Bh1 e6 15.Ng2 Bxg2 16.Bxg2 a5 17.a4 Rc8 18.Bf1 Qd8 19.Rad1 Nd7 20.c4 Nb6

We are now at a critical point of the game. White has maintained his advantage thus far, but now needs to find the right move. What is the right move for White in this position?


White's idea is that he thinks he threatens the a5-pawn and is forcing Black to retreat the Knight. The correct move here is 21.c5! This forces the Black Knight back, and with the lack of space, it is very difficult for Black to maneuver and get all of his pieces to the Kingside. This gives White a local piece superiority on the Kingside, and so after 21.c5! Nd7 22.Qf4, White has a Kingside Attack.


Black gives White a second chance to play 22.c5. He was correct in ignoring the threat on a5, but the correct way to proceed is 21...dxc4!, eliminating White's c5 possibility. After 22.Bxc4 Nxc4 23.bxc4 b5 24.axb5 cxb5 25.cxb5 a4 26.Rb1 Rcb8, the position is equal. Note that 22.Bxa5 is no good because of 21...cxb3 23.Re3 b2 24.Rb3 Nc4 5. Bxd8 Nxd2 26.Rxd2 Rxd8 27.Rdxb2 Rxd4 28.f4 Rdxa4 29.Rxb7 g5 with a clear advantage for Black.


Once again, 22.c5 was the answer. Now White's advantage is gone. Note that once again, 22.Bxa5 fails, this time to 22...Nxc4!! with a slight advantage to Black.

22...c5 23.dxc5 Bxc5 24.Red1 dxc4 25.Qf4?

White was forced to play a move like 25.Qe1. Now Black misses a winning idea.


Black missed it! 25...Nd5! and sudden Black is significantly better, if not winning.

26.bxc4 Qe8 27.h4 Nxa4 28.Be1 b6

It is now Black that can claim a slight advantage. White doesn't have enough for the missing pawn.

29.h5 Be7 30.Be2 Nc5 31.Kg2 Rd8 32.Bc3 Rxd1 33.Rxd1 Rd8 34.Rh1 g5 35.Qe3 h6 36.Rb1 Qc6+ 37.Kh2 Na4 38.Be1

White's position is virtually frozen, and we will see him toggle his Bishops while Black's position continues to improve.

38...Nc5 39.Bf3 Qc7 40.Be2 Rd7 41.Bc3 Qd8 42.Be1 Kg7 43.Bc3 a4 44.Qf3 Nb3 45.c5 Bxc5 46.Bb5

And now we reach the critical position for Black. He is up two pawns, and so any forced exchanges of equal material benefits Black. Can you find the move that puts White away?


This move is still winning for Black, but he makes matters far more complicated. It should be noted that at this point in time, White has 12 minutes and Black has 10 minutes for the rest of the game with a 30 second increment per move, and so time is becoming a problem for both players.

The instant win comes via 46...Nd2!, attacking not 1 major piece, but rather, two major pieces, virtually forcing trades. White has nothing better than 47.Qf6+ Kg8 48.Qxd8+ (48.Bxd2 Qxf6 49.exf6 Rxd2) Rxd8 49.Bxd2 Rxd2 50.Bxa4 Rxf2+ 51.Kh3 Re2 and Black's winning.

47.Qf6+ Kh7??

This, however, is a complete blunder and the position goes from winning to dead lost just like that! Correct was 47...Kg8! when both 48.Qxd8+ Rxd8 49.Bxa4 Ne2 50.Be1 Rd5 51.Kg2 Rxe5 and 48.Bxd7 Be7 49.Qxh6 Nf5 50.Qxe6 fxe6 51.Bxe6+ Kg7 52.Bxf5 a3 are winning for Black, despite the latter one featuring an equal material count, the problem being that the a-pawn will tie down White's pieces and Black can attack White's other weaknesses while the White pieces tend to stopping the a-pawn. Both of these lines are far more complicated than if Black had played 46...Nd2 instead of 46...Nd4, but at least Black would still be winning, unlike in the game.

48.Bxd7 Qxd7 49.Bxd4

This doesn't lose the advantage yet, but 49.Rd1 is stronger and wins on the spot. Black could resign immediately as 49...Nf3+ doesn't work because once White takes the Knight with the Queen, the Rook will be protected.

49...Bxd4 50.Rd1

This is still winning for White, but there is now room for error, and an error is exactly what White makes.

50...Bxe5 51.Qf3??

Far simpler is to go into the completely winning endgame after 51.Rxd7 Bxf6 52.Rxf7+ Bg7 53.Rb7 Kg8 (53...a3 54.Ra7!) 54.Rxb6 a3 55.Ra6 Bb2 56.Ra7 and Black's position is hopeless.

After the move played, the position is actually drawn!

51...Qc7 52.Qe4+ Kg7 53.Qxa4

Thus far, since White's blunder on move 51, Black has made all the correct moves to hold the draw. Here is the trickiest one. There are many moves that leave White with only a slight advantage, but only one move completely maintains the balance. Can you find it?


A deflection tactic! 54.Qb3 can be answered by 54...Qc5 where Black's pieces are active and the material is technically equal, and the position itself is dead equal. Otherwise, it's all about seeing the trick when the White Queen fails to protect the Rook.

54.Qxb5 Bxg3+!!

The Bishop is poisoned!


55.fxg3?? Qc2+ 56.Kh3 Qxd1 57.Qe5+ and Black avoids perpetual check by going 57...Kg8!, winning. Note that 58.Qb8+ would be answered by 58...Kh7 and White has no legitimate checks.

55...Qc2 56.Rf1

Once again, 56.Kxg3 loses to 56...Qxd1.

56...Qe4+ 57.f3

Or 57.Kxg3 Qf4+ 58.Kh3 Qh4+ 59.Kg2 Qg4+ with a draw by perpetual check.

57...Qf4 58.Qb2+ e5 59.Qe2

Or 59.Qc1 Kf6 with an equal position.

59...Bh4 60.Rg1 Qg3+ 61.Kf1

61.Kh1? loses to 61...Qh3+ 62.Qh2 Qxf3+ 63.Qg2 Qxh5 -+

61...Qh3+ 62.Qg2

This is forced as 62.Rg2?? allows 62...Bg3! and once the Bishop relocates from h4 to f4, Black's winning. Notice that after something like 63.Kg1 Bf4, White has no way to avoid dropping the h-pawn, and the Queen has absolutely no way to harass the Black King. Find a square to safely check the Black King from? It doesn't exist!


And this move forces the draw! There may be other solutions for Black as well, such as 62...Qf5, but this was the one I saw. If White play 63.Ke2??, he loses after 63...Qb5+ and White has no way to avoid a series of checks leading to the Black Queen on c3 and White King on e2. Once that is achieved, Black can advance the pawns. For example, 64.Ke3 Qc5+ 65.Ke2 Qc2+ 66.Ke3 Qc3+ 67.Ke2 f5 is one way that this could happen.

Therefore, White is forced to stop Black's immediate mate threat by moving his Queen, and regardless of whether that is to e2 or c2 or b2 or any safe square on the second rank, Black will repeat with 63...Qh3+ and then go back to d7 if White blocks with the Queen. One final note is that 63.Qh2 loses to 63...Qd1+ 64.Kg2 Qe2+ 65.Kh1 Qxf3+ and we are back to the same losing position for White that results from 61.Kh1 above.

So given the threats and forced reactions to each of them, there is no way for White to avoid the perpetual check, and that is exactly how the game ends.

63.Qe2 Qh3+ 64.Qg2 Qd7 65.Qe2 Qh3+ 1/2-1/2

Wow! That was a hand full. Three things to note from this game:
  • Understanding (NOT MEMORIZING) the opening is critical. Black failed to realize the weakness on e4, played inferior moves in the opening, and gave White what he wanted, and even allowed White to convert his space issue, which is the typical problem with the Kingside Fianchetto opening, into a space advantage!
  • White's positional mistake at moves 21 and 22 should be noted. The Queenside would be completely shut down, and Black lacks the space to get all of his pieces into the defense on the Kingside, which leads to a local piece superiority for White on the Kingside since his space advantage makes it easy for White to get all of his pieces into play over there whereas Black will have trouble untangling. In all likelihood, Black will be unable to get one of the two Rooks into action quick enough, and White's attack on the Black King is going to be extremely difficult to defend.
  • Black's tactical mistakes on moves 46 and 47 illustrate two critical concepts. First, when you see possibly a good move that attacks an opponent's piece of greater value, such as 46...Nd4 attacking the White Queen, look for a better move that attacks multiple pieces of greater value, even if the square is covered as long as you are looking to force trades. 46...Nd2 attacks the Rook as well as the Queen and forces a trade of pieces, which benefits Black in that case as he was up two pawns at that time. Black's 47th move is also critical as not all safe squares for the King are the same. White should have won after Black's placement of the King on h7 instead of g8 on move 47. Fortunate for Black, White blundered away the advantage four moves later, and Black was able to find the tricky draw after that.

This concludes the coverage of the second round of the South Carolina Championship. Next time, we will look at the fourth round. Till then, good luck in your games.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Game Analysis: Know Your Endgames!

Hello everyone. Here I'm going to be covering the first of three articles on games from the South Carolina Championship. They won't be covered in order as I felt this game from the third round perfectly illustrates how critical it is to understand and know your endgames. Usually, if I'm not in severe time trouble, I can normally execute drawn positions to a draw and won positions to a win if I have gotten the game down to an endgame. However, what we are going to see here is a game where there really isn't much to say about it prior to the endgame, but we will be seeing a number of errors made by both sides once the endgame is reached. Various endgame topics can be seen in this game alone, including things such as the King being inside versus outside the box of an opposing passed pawn, the importance of King activity and how the King can be used as an active piece in the endgame, the importance of counting moves and finding the quickest way to execute what you are trying to achieve, how to handle pawn majorities and the fact that smaller majorities are better (i.e. a 2-on-1 majority is better than a 3-on-2 majority which in turn is better than a 4-on-3 majority), and the importance of calculating to the end, unlike in middle games where multiple sources will tell you not to try to count all the way to the very end of the line as you will land in severe time trouble more often than not that way, but in an endgame, calculating to a conclusive point, where you can definitively say that the position is winning for one side or the position is drawn, can often be critical.

So without further ado, let's take a look at the feature game.

South Carolina Championship, Round 3
W: Patrick McCartney (2018)
B: Gene Nix (1855)
Italian Game

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d3

One advantage to the Slow Italian as opposed to the old traditional Italian where White's pawn goes to d4 instead of d3 is that while it normally arises via 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3, it can also be reached if Black plays a Two Knights Defense because after 3...Nf6 4.d3, while Black does have other options, there really is nothing better than 4...Bc5, leading back to the traditional Italian Game and pretty much avoiding all of that Two Knights Defense theory. Just something to keep in mind if you are an e4 player.

4...Bc5 5.c3 O-O 6.O-O d6 7.b4 Bb6 8.a4 a6 9.a5 Ba7 10.Na3 h6 11.Re1 Re8 12.Ra2 Be6 13.h3 d5 14.exd5 Bxd5 15.Qb3 Bxc4 16.Qxc4 Qd5 17.Rae2 Rad8 18.Qxd5 Nxd5 19.Bd2 Nf6 20.Nc4 Rxd3 21.Nfxe5 Nxe5 22.Rxe5 Rxe5 23.Rxe5 Kf8 24.Kf1 Rd5 25.Re1 Rf5 26.Be3 Bxe3 27.Nxe3 Re5 28.Rd1 Ke7 29.Rd4 c5 30.Rc4 Kd6

So here we have our first real position of interest. Right now, the position is dead equal, but it is important to note all the features of the position, and which ones favor White and which ones favor Black as that is usually what will determine needs to be done here. You should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who has the better placed pieces?
  • Who has the better pawns?
  • Who has the better King?

Now in some ways, that can be a loaded question. For example, what makes one side's pawns better or worse? That said, let's look at the answers one by one.

First the pieces. This goes to White. His Knight is better placed than Black's and keeps the Rook from getting active. The Rook has no useful lateral or vertical move. Until he rearranges his pieces, he constantly has to look out for Nf5, forking the King and g-pawn, and Rxc5, if he retreats the Rook backwards in order to get it onto the d-file. Advancing the g-pawn for Black weakens the Knight and the pawn on f7. White, on the other hand, can easily play g4 as the Knight remains protected, it covers the f5 square that the White Knight wants to go to, and f2 is covered by his own King. White's biggest weakness is the pawns on the Queenside, which for now the Rook covers, and so White has the better placed pieces for now.

Now the pawns. This goes to Black. There is nothing special about the Kingside pawns other than the fact that Black has to keep a closer monitoring of the f-pawn and g-pawn as his King is not there to protect them, unlike White. However, White's Queenside pawns are farther advanced, and when there is no majority and no passed pawn, advanced pawns can be more of a liability in an endgame than an asset because they are easier to access and the Black King can get at the White pawns a lot easier than the White King can get at the Black pawns that are much farther back into Black's territory.

As for the Kings, that should be fairly obvious. While Black's King may not be covering his Kingside pawns, this is by no means the most important factor. The most important factor is that the King is active and centralized and is acting more like a normal piece and not hiding back behind his own pawns as the material is reduced and mate is highly unlikely at this point. It's all about getting a passed pawn and promoting it.

So now that we considered all of this, what should be White's next move?


This move is terrible. He has moved his Rook away from the c-pawn that it was guarding. It removed all pressure off the c5-pawn. It is doing nothing special on f4 as Black is under no obligation to move the Knight. And the threat of the Knight going to c4 is a cheap, one-move threat. The main reason I played this was not for the cheapo threat, but I was looking to relocate the Knight and get the Knight closer to Black's pawns, but it allows Black to be active, and with the better placed King, this favors Black. The only moves White should be considering at all are 31.g4 and 31.Ke2, and the latter is what White should have done here. He needs to get his King into the game. After 31.Ke2 cxb4 32.cxb4 Nd5 33.Rd4 (otherwise Black can force an isolated pawn in a King and pawn endgame) Kc6 34.Rxd5 Rxd5 35.Nxd5 Kxd5 36.Kd3 and despite Black being on his fourth rank, it isn't enough and the position is a dead draw with correct play.

31...Kc6 32.Nc4?

One bad move is followed by another. Relatively best was 32.g4, trying to make something out of the Kingside while Black still has trouble getting to the weak c3 pawn and a trade on b4 moves the weakness to b4 where the Rook on f4 continues to guard.


Now Black is winning.

33.Rxe4 Nxe4 34.Ne5+ Kb5 35.Nxf7

Black to Move and Win


Clearly, with the location of the King's, Knights, and pawns, this is a foot race. Black should be figuring out the fastest way to get all of White's Queenside pawns and maintain having his King and Knight in ideal spots.

The correct way to do this is via 35...cxb4!, which White is then forced to recapture with 36.cxb4, and then 36...Kxd4 and the next time that Black has time to make a free move, he will take the a5-pawn with his King. That is three moves for Black. All other ways of doing it takes four or more moves, and in some cases, the Knight ends up on c3 instead of the more idea e4. From a timing perspective, this is vital.

After 35...cxb4 36.cxb4 Kxb4 37.f4 (37.Nd8 Nc5!, stopping both Nxb7 and Ne6) 37...Kxa5 38.Ke2 b5 39.Kd3 Nc5+ 40.Kc2 b4 41.Nd6 Ka4 42.Nc4 Ne4 43.g4 a5 44.Kb2 Kb5 45.Ne3 a4 46.Nd5 Nd2 47.g5 hxg5 48.fxg5 Kc5 49.Nc7 Nc4+ 50.Kb1 b3 51.Na6+ Kd4 and Black wins. Aside from reacting to threats, like 37.Nd8, it took only three moves to scoop up the three Pawn. With the game move, it will take a minimum of four moves, and the Knight needs time to relocate to a more centralized post.


The correct move, elongating Black's process to scoop up the Pawns.


Black should have taken on c5 via the King with 36...Kxc5 and a clean victory. Now, with the White pawn on c5 and a tactic, White is able to stir up trouble.


The only move that gives White a chance, but he is reliant on one more blunder by Black. Despite being a pawn up for the moment, all other moves lose more easily as they are too slow. White must go into the King and pawn endgame and hope for one more error by Black.

37...Nxd6 38.cxd6 Kc6 39.f4

By computer standards, this is not the best move for White, but no matter what, White has to be reliant on an error by Black, and so therefore, sometimes the best computer move is the worst move over the board because it does not open the room for error. By playing 39.f4, White is hoping that Black makes what would normally look like a very natural move, but turns out is a horrible mistake.

Now Black has to find the correct move. After failing to play the best move and taking the cleanest approach to victory on move 36, one and only one more wins for Black. Can you find it?

Black to Move and Win


This natural looking move outright loses! There is one move the wins, one move that draws, and all other moves win the game for White.

The drawing line is 39...b5, to which White should not take en passant. Instead, 40.d7 Kxd7 41.Ke2 Ke6 42.Ke3 Kd5 43.Kd3 b4 44.g4 g6 45.f5 gxf5 46.gxf5 b3 47.Kc3 Ke5 48.Kxb3 Kxf5 49.Kc4 Kf4 50.Kc5 Ke5 (Trying to go running to grab the h-pawn loses for Black as White gets his pawn to a8 long before Black gets his to h1.) 51.h4 h5 and White cannot win this as the Black King will get to f8 just in time, which is the drawing square against a Rook pawn. 52.Kb6 Kd6 53.Kxa6 Kc6 54.Ka7 Kc7 55.a6 Kc8 56.Kb6 Kb8 57.Kc6 Ka7 58.Kd6 Kxa6 59.Ke6 Kb6 60.Kf6 Kc6 61.Kg5 Kd6 62.Kxh5 Ke7 63.Kg6 Kf8 and the Black King gets there just in time to draw.

The winning move, however, is pushing the b-pawn half as far. After 39...b6!, Black wins via 40.d7 (40.axb6 Kxb6 41.Ke2 Kc6 42.Kd3 Kxd6 43.g4 Kd5 44.g5 hxg5 45.fxg5 Ke5 46.Kc4 g6 47.Kb4 Kf5 48.Ka5 Kxg5 is also winning for Black) 40...Kxd7 41.axb6 Kc6 42.b7 Kxb7 43.Ke2 Kc6 44.Kd3 Kd5 45.g4 a5 46.h4 a4 47.h5 a3 48.Kc2 Ke4 49.g5 Kxf4 50.gxh6 gxh6 51.Kb3 Kg5 52.Kxa3 Kxh5 53.Kb3 Kg4 and Black wins as the White King can't get to the drawing square, namely f1.

40.g4 Kc5

Now it's White's turn to find the win. Which pawn should White push? The f-pawn, g-pawn, or h-pawn? Be careful, only one of them actually wins!


This is only good enough for a draw with correct play.

The winning move is 41.g5!!. After 41...Kc6, (41...hxg5 42.fxg5 g6 43.h4 Kd6 44.Kf2 Ke6 45.Kg3 Kf7 46.Kg4 Kg7 47.h5 gxh5+ 48.Kxh5 Kh7 49.g6+ Kg7 50.Kg5 Kg8 51.Kf6 Kf8 52.g7+ Kg8 53.Kg6 b6 54.axb6 also wins for White) White wins via 42.Ke2 hxg5 43.fxg5 g6 44.h4 Kd5 45.Kf3 Ke6 46.Ke4 Kf7 47.Kf4 Ke6 48.Kf3 Kf7 49.Kg4 Kf8 50.h5 Kg7 51.h6+ Kg8 52.Kf4 Kf8 53.Ke4 Kg8 54.Kd5 Kf8 55.Ke6 Kg8 56.Kf6 Kh7 57.Kf7.

41.h4 fails for the same reason as 41.f5, simply inverting moves 41 and 43.

41...b5 42.axb6 Kxb6 43.h4

Last chance for Black. Do you advance the pawn? Or do you move the King towards the Kingside? One draws. The other loses. What's your move?


The wrong move! Black must advance the pawn in order to draw. After 43...a5!, White has nothing better than mutual promotion. After 44.g5 hxg5 45.hxg5 a4 46.f6 gxf6 47.gxf6 a3 48.f7 a2 49.f8=Q a1=Q+, it's an obvious draw. If White tries to use the trick used in the game, matters are worse. After 44.g5 hxg5, if White plays 45.f6??, then 45...gxf6 46.h5 a4 47.h6 a3 48.h7 a2 49.h8=Q a1=Q+, Black is winning with the extra two pawns. Therefore, the only other option is 44.Ke2, getting out of the check at the time of promotion. Here, Black promotes with check and one pawn rather than two via 44...a4 45.Kd2 a3 46.Kc2 Kc5 47.g5 hxg5 48.f6 gxf6 49.h5 a2 50.Kb2 a1=Q+ (This move is important in order to invoke the check when Black promotes the g-pawn.) 51.Kxa1 g4 52.h6 g3 53.h7 g2 54.h8=Q g1=Q+ and while this is not a blatant win like the case with two pawns, it is Black that has the only shot at winning.

By not advancing the pawn first, White gets to make the one necessary pawn advance to win by one move, and advancement of the passed a-pawn can be ignored as it will only get to a2.

44.g5 hxg5 45.f6!

45.hxg5?? would be a blunder as Black can then draw with 45...Kd5 and the King is inside the box. After 46.f6 gxf6 47.gxf6 and the Black King is in the box, and even if White tries to advance with 47.g6, which actually loses, the Black King is still in reach with 47...Ke6.

The move played in the game creates a passed h-pawn that is out of the reach of the Black King.

45...gxf6 46.h5! a5 47.h6 1-0

Black resigned as after 47...a4 48.h7 a3 49.h8=Q a2 50.Qxf6 and the pawn is stopped.

A lot can be learned from this endgame. Everything from how critical an active King is in an endgame, to the fact that advanced pawns that are not passed and not part of a majority can actually be viewed as a weakness, particularly if they are on the opposite side of that player's King, to the idea of sacrificing multiple pawns in order to create a passer on the outside, away from the reach of the opposing King, to the importance of piece placement when very few pieces remain. This is why studying endgames is one of the most important aspects of chess. And even when you think you know your endgames, which generally speaking, the endgame tends to be a strength of mine in most cases, you still probably haven't mastered it as you see duds like this one. Yes, White won, but it sure wasn't pretty!

That concludes this article on "Know Your Endgames". In the next couple of articles, we will be looking at two other games from the South Carolina Championships. Until then, good luck in your tournament games.