Minor piece endgames are some of the most complex and important endings in chess. It comes down to the fundamental understanding of the “knight” and “bishop”, their strengths and limitations.
Nothing shows the high class of a chess player as much as their ability to play the minor piece endings. Even Grandmasters have trouble playing some of these endgames correctly. When it comes to the club level, the situation becomes even worse. Many players don’t have a clear understanding of how to use the knights and bishops in the endgame. They often misplace their pieces, pick an incorrect plan or simply set themselves up for a failure…
Of course, no one wants to lose a drawn position or miss out on a well-deserved win simply because you don’t know how to play out an endgame… You don’t want to blow your chances of getting the trophy, title or scoring an important victory.
In this video, a preview of IM Andrey Ostrovskiy’s Minor Piece Endgame Course, Andrey talks about knight endgames, and specifically about zugswangs – the concept of when a player must make a move, and by doing so loses the game.
Unlike many other endgame books and courses, IM Ostrovskiy really takes time to explain each of the ideas in plain English, instead of giving zillions of different lines and variations. Andrey examines typical mistakes that both sides can make and gives you a clear and intuitive blueprint to follow.
Another important thing to keep in mind… If you understand the minor piece endgames, it’s not just your endgame that will improve. By learning how minor pieces work together on a higher level, you will also improve your middlegame and tactics as well.
Knight Endgames and Zugswang
Let’s jump into the first position that Andrey discusses in the video. You can see the position on the left.
White has a pawn on g7, which is very dangerous as it is only one square away from promoting. However, there is a problem, as White’s knight blockades the pawn, and the knight’s movement is limited. All the squares available for the knight are covered by Black’s pieces. But, is it really possible for Black to hold on to this position?
White has issues on the kingside too, with two connected pawns looking to get promoted. The king can not capture the b4 pawn, of course, as that would mean the a-pawn is unstoppable! The sensible move is Ka2. And now, Black has to make a move, and it appears that there are no good moves available – zugswang!
At first glance, the king has a lot of squares it could move to – d7, f5 and d5, for example. But all of these moves give White the opportunity to move the knight, and possibly with tempo as well. For example …Kd7 leads to Nf6+, the check buying time for the promotion to occur, and win the game. With …Kf5 or …Kd5, White has Ne7+.
Okay, what about if Black moves the knight? For example, …Ng5? After Nh6, Black has no chance to stop the pawn.
What about other king options such as …Ke5? That gives White the chance to move the knight to e7, to which Black can respond with …Nh6, covering the promotion square.
So, how can White promote the pawn? You’ll have to watch the video to find out! It’s full of interesting details about knight endgames that you can apply in your own games.
Minor Piece Endgame Mastery
Afraid to enter endgames, unsure whether you can convert it into a win? 🤔 With IM Ostrovsky’s course, you’ll learn how minor pieces work together so you can play endgames with confidence. Click here to get instant access with 35% off.