Chess End Game Lesson

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.

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Jonathan Whitcomb plays chess with a child

Utah chess tutor Jonathan Whitcomb sometimes teaches by example

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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.

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