Chess End Game Lesson

End game between Jose Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine

Before getting into this end game between Jose Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine, let me introduce myself. I, Jonathan Whitcomb, am a chess author, recently becoming available in the Salt Lake Valley for tutoring in private chess lessons (I live in Murray, Utah). Yet I sometimes teach by example, playing informal games of chess with children.

The following end-game study is not from an informal game; it’s from the World Championship of 1927 in Argentina: the 29th game, and it’s not child’s play. For players much more advanced than beginners, however, it can be very instructive.

End game between Jose Capablanca and Alexander Alekhine

Diagram-1: White to move and win in this end game in 1927

After fifty-five moves, Capablanca was a pawn ahead in a difficult end game with the challenger Alekhine. In a wide open end game, a bishop is often superior to a knight, but some grandmasters are experts at using a knight efficiently, and Capablanca was one of the greatest endgame players of all time.

How can White win here? First notice that if Ne5, the black king cannot approach the knight and d-pawn with Kf6 because Nd7 would win the bishop for White. At first glance it would appear that Black would simply move f5. But White would have a shocking way to quickly win: d6! The black king would still be kept out and the bishop could not take the d-pawn because of a knight fork with Nf7+. Let’s look at that variation, although it did not actually occur in the Capablanca-vs-Alekhine championship match.

56) Ne5   f5

57) d6!  . . . .

If Black moves fxg4+ then White wins with Kg2(!)

Diagram-2: The d-pawn cannot be captured and the black king cannot approach it

Notice that the knight has two potential forking squares: d7 and f7. If the bishop captures the pawn at d6, a knight fork on f7 wins that bishop; if the king tries to catch the d-pawn by moving to f6, a knight fork on d7 wins the bishop.

It does not matter if Black captures both White’s d-pawn and g-pawn by sacrificing the bishop. White’s knight and f-pawn are sufficient to win.

Consider the position after these moves:

57) . . . .  fxg4+

58) Kg2  . . . .

White wins this chess endgame, even thought it's Black's turn to moveDiagram-3: Black to move cannot stop the d-pawn

So one move later, in Diagram-3, what has changed? Essentially nothing. The bishop, knight, black king, and d-pawn are on the same squares, with the same possibilities of knight forks. Black may now approach with the king, with Kf5, but White would simply advance the d-pawn, threatening to queen it. If the bishop would then move to b6 or to e7 to cover the queening square, the knight could move to c6, soon forcing Black to give up the bishop after the capture of the queen.

Here are the moves in this chess endgame lesson:

58) . . . . Kf5

59) d7   Bb6

60) Nc6 . . . .

Did not actually occur in the game

Diagram-4: Black must sacrifice the bishop after the White pawn promotes

In the actual game in this World Championship match, White (Capablanca) won another pawn and eventually won the end game, giving future generations of chess players a beautiful chess lesson in how to win this kind of end game.



Jonathan Whitcomb plays chess with a child

Utah chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb sometimes teaches by example


Utah Chess Coach Battle

Mr. Gustafsson [chess tutor or instructor] gave a simultaneous exhibition to end the chess event at the South Jordan County Library on June 22nd, and I [Jonathan Whitcomb, another chess coach or teacher] was one of about nine players who tested the skills of this expert. As far as I know, I was the only one of his competitors who did not lose. Most of the players were children. [Whitcomb vs Gustafsson was a draw.]

Salt Lake Chess Tutor

  • Chess Teacher Versus Beginner
  • Tutor Teaches by Example [playing games]
  • Chess coaches in western USA
  • Salt Lake Open – Tournament
  • Blitz Chess Tournaments in Utah

Chess Instruction in Utah

To begin, I’m Jonathan Whitcomb, a chess tutor living in Murray, Utah, so you won’t be surprised that I recommend getting private lessons from a chess instructor like me. Yet other options are available, if you would try a cheaper way to learn how to play and win. For the raw beginner, the player who knows the rules of the game but has little practical ability in winning, I recommend my book: Beat That Kid in Chess.


Chess Tournament for Kids in Utah

By Jonathan Whitcomb, author of Beat That Kid in Chess

The Utah state elementary school chess championship tournament was held on Saturday, March 14, 2016, at the University of Utah. I was delighted to photograph the event and see the hundreds of children who participated and the countless family members who supported them in this USCF-rated event.

Utah state elementary school chess championship

Parents and kids check out the pairings for the first round of the tournament

Sixth Grade Section of the Tournament (about 60 players)

Details on the final scores of the sixth-grade division of the competition are not yet available from the United States Chess Federation, but here are the pairings for the sixth-round final games (scores through the first five rounds and pre-event ratings included):

Anna Lee (5.0; 991) versus Gatlin Black (5.0; 1509)

Bhattacharyya (4.0; 398) versus Kyle Tracy (4.0; 855)

Benjamin Ludlow (4.0; 722) versus Robb Schonlau (4.0; unrated)

Phillip Liu (4.0; 639) vs Paul Carter (4.0; unr)

Sarah Day (4.0; 596) vs Jason Elzinga (4.0; unr)

Cj Padilla (4.0; 360) vs Henry Chen (3.0; 845)

Ilaisa Toa (3.0; unr) vs Angie Li (3.0; 797)

C Christensen (3.0; unr) vs Leya Joseph (3.0; 790)

Callum Dingley (3.0; 475) vs Benjamin Huber (3.0; unr)

Joseph Stay (3.0; 355) vs Jackson Sheen (3.0; unr)

Colton Hunter (3.0; 170) vs Cody Roberts (2.5; unr)

Kimball Snapp (3.0; unr) vs Mark Pilzer (3.0; unr)

Camero Voorhees (3.0; unr) vs Rachel Arlen (3.0; unr)

Ben Bramwell (3.0; unr) vs Angela Zhou (3.0; unr)

Finn Pead (3.0; unr) vs Lou McCracken (3.0; unr)

Josh McMurray (2.5; unr) vs Logan Tanner (2.5; unr)

Jared Jameson (1.5; unr) vs Allison Cao (2.0; 555)

Natha [Nathan?] Hartley (2.0; unr) vs Thoma [Thomas?] Matthew (2.0; unr)

Tedd Ekstrand (2.0; unr) vs Austin Snarr (2.0; unr)

Mi Drollinger (2.0; unr) vs Logan Luker (2.0; unr)

Doruk Toydemir (2.0; unr) vs Eli McDonough (2.0; unr)

Ashi Peterson (2.0; unr) vs Dalli Bingham (2.0; unr)

Kaylana Price (2.0; unr) vs Saxon Mendoza (2.0; unr)

Thush Reppale (2.0; unr) vs Elaine Nielson (2.0; unr)

Grant Hardy (1.5; unr) vs Georg [George?] Wintriss (1.5; 420)

Evan Ikeda (1.5; unr) vs London Pettit (1.0; unr)

Jack Taylor (1.0; unr) vs Emily Carroll (1.0; unr)

Leif Swenson (1.0; unr) vs Abigail Strong (1.0; unr)

Alex Carroll (1.0; unrated) versus Makenna Worley (1.0; unrated)

Eddie Slobodow (1.0; unr) vs Spence Crawford (0.0; unr)

The above pairings are for the final (sixth) round of the tournament, for sixth graders, with White on the left and Black on the right.

The following photos are from the sixth-grade division:

One of the last games completed (6th graders)


one of the last children's chess games



Speed chess tournament in Utah in 2016

Fourteen wins in as many games—that gave 17-year-old Kayden Troff a clear victory at the University of Utah, on Saturday, February 27, 2016, in the open section of the Utah Speed Championship.

Chess book best for beginners

For the novice chess players who know the rules but little else about chess

Chess for Kids in the United States

Chess Life for Kids is the official publication of the United States Chess Federation (US Chess) for age 12 and under. A subscription to this leading chess magazine is one of the benefits of Scholastic membership in US Chess.


Tactical Puzzles From Chess Books

very simple pawn end game of chess

We’ll look at three chess puzzles now, one from each of the following books. Solutions to these problems are found at the bottom of this post.

  1. 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations, by Fred Reinfeld
  2. Beat That Kid in Chess, by Jonathan Whitcomb
  3. Chess Endgame Training, by Bernd Rosen

When used wisely, chess problems can develop a player’s tactical abilities, including the ability to calculate in looking ahead. But aside from gaining a greater ability to imagine future variation moves, chess puzzles can help us to see basic patterns in tactics.

1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations

The following is one of the simpler of the many hundreds of puzzles found in this chess book. Most of the problems are much more difficult.

double attack

Puzzle-1: White to move (problem #181 in the book by Reinfeld)

The book 1001 Winning Chess Sacrifices and Combinations has 20 chapters of tactical themes, not all of which would be considered as tactics in the strictest sense.


Beat That Kid in Chess

very simple pawn end game of chess

Puzzle-2:  White to move (page 185 in the book by Whitcomb)

Many experienced players would find the above problem too easy, yet many beginners would have no idea how important it is for White to make the right move here. This is from the book Beat That Kid in Chess, which is for the “raw” beginner who knows the rules of the game but not much more. It’s “Advanced Exercise 17.”


Chess Endgame Training

White to move: avoid the draw and win

Puzzle-3:  White to move and win (problem 6.3 in the book by Rosen)

This book can be an excellent help for intermediate-level players and even for those with more-advanced tournament experience. Chess Endgame Training, however, is not for the average beginner, for the puzzles are too challenging.

Solutions to the Three Tactical Puzzles

Solution to Puzzle-1:

WQ threatens mate and the BN at a7

The queen moved up to the center of the board. It now threatens two things, and Black cannot defend against both of them:

  • Checkmate by moving the queen next to the black king
  • The queen threatens to capture the knight that’s on a dark square at the upper-left

The tactic shown above is called the double attack.

Solution to Puzzle-2:

Black to move will lose

The white king moves straight up to gain the opposition in this end game. This move wins. If the white king had instead moved up to the right, to the light-colored square next to the pawn, it would have allowed Black to get a draw.

Solution to Puzzle-3:

White wisely avoided the blunder b6+??

White wins by moving the king up the board, forcing the black king into the corner. White will then move to the dark-colored square in front of the pawn and then to the square that is shown by the red star. After the white king gets to the starred-square, the pawn can be advanced to become a queen.

Be aware of whose turn it is to move in this kind of pawn endgame, however. If it were White’s move, in the above diagramed position, the pawn could simply be advanced forward until it becomes a queen.



Best Chess Book for Beginners

My new paperback book Beat That Kid in Chess is for the early beginner, the player who knows the rules of chess but almost nothing else about the royal game.

Tournament Chess – an Average Game

I’d been away from official chess competition for over 20 years, when I walked into the Chess Palace, in Lakewood, California, in the spring of 1993, to play in a three-round one-day tournament. There’s no consulting a chess book when you’re over the board . . .