Hidden Resource

Cyril’s pawn endgame of last Sunday has got a few of you (ok, one) thinking. Here is the PGN, with the important variations added for playthrough.

The critical position arose after White played a4 and we replied … h4, missing a fleeting chance. At this point the White king can no longer catch the Black pawns, for we can arrange to promote on h1 if necessary. The Black king is within spitting distance of a8, though.

Key Position

This means Black has a hidden winning option: … Ke5 headed for c7 / b7 stopping the pawns. We can afford to do this because White can’t do likewise.

But you may say “White can block our king”. He can, but how? Moving to c5 steps into the firing line of g1 and we promote first with check. Moving to b5 allows … Kd6 and again White is in a quandary. He must go to b6 if he wants to promote, and we switch to running the pawns scoring a promotion at g1 with check.

Would we have spotted this? Skip: no. He was distracted by being mildly annoyed our king was on f4, meaning h2xg3 was check and we couldn’t then go h4-h3 as we would like.