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ACTIVE LEARNING is any strategy that involves students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing (*)


You could study the following material either by skipping the test and going directly to the lecture. Or start by attempting to figure out on your own what is going on in each of the positions I will be talking about and then proceed to the lecture. If you chose the latter, spend time on each diagram and record your evaluation and move / plan for the side whose turn it is and sample variations. Then compare your ideas with mine. Let me know how you like the test and the lecture


Test yourself:


Level - beginner through advanced.


1. Check whose move it is / Read the question.

2. Evaluate position (i.e. White is Better, or Black is Winning, or Equal...) 

3. Find the Best move and, if necessary, support it with variations. <<CALCULATE thoroughly!!>>

4. White goes from bottom to top, a1 is the lower left corner.

#1. White to Move.

#2.White to Move. #3. White to Move.

#4. White to Move.

#5. Black to Move. #6. White to Move.



STOP - Lecture begins below.




"If you can't stop the P, ... prepare to battle against the Q!" .


The following situation isn't that rare - a lonely P is slowly but surely advancing towards promotion while the opponent's pieces unable to do anything to stop it. This is great when you are the one who has the P. On the other hand, the feeling must terrible when you are on the other side, helplessly watching the P advance.
Well, in this article, I'd like to show you a couple of ideas that can be summarized under one headline - "If you can't stop the P, prepare to deal with the Q."


When you have a counter-play, one of the key ideas is trying to limit mobility of the newly minted Q. Here are some examples:





#1. White to Move - Training Example


The Black P is closer to promotion, but, because of the skewer, it is White who gets the Q first and can play for a win. After 1.d7 Kd3 [1...d1Q?? 2.d8Q+ Ke3  3.Qxd1] 2.d8Q+, White has a theoretically won setup - Q vs. K+P on 7th, when the P isn't on the B-file or R-file. This rule is covered in every basic endgame book and is beyond the scope of this article. I do show a sample play in the attached PGN file. Example 1. So, the rule says White wins, however, there are exceptions - and this is one of them. After 2...Ke2, White doesn't have a single check, thus can't prevent ...d1Q with a draw. So, Black escaped by taking advantage of the White's unfortunate setup.

After 2...Ke2


A P endgame can often result in a K+Q vs. K+P setup, similar to the examples below. Sometimes, you can't stop the P, but there are other winning ideas. Something as simple as K+Q vs. K+Q endgame can be won. However, the K of the stronger side must be nearby for these ideas to materialize.


#2. White to Move - Training Example


In this example, White can make a bunch of checks and even force the Black K to h1 (by eventually arriving to g3 with check), but, because of the stalemate, White must let the K out on the very next move, instead of improving his K. Hence, White must employ a different plan - instead, he allows the Black Q to arrive and traps the Black pieces in the corner - 1.Qc2+ Kg1 [1...Kg3 2.Qd1 Kg2 3.Qe2+..., doesn't change anything] 2.Kg4 h1Q 3.Kg3. Black to move, but he can't avoid checkmate.

After 3.Kg3


#3. White to Move - Training Example


This example is similar to #2, but with a couple of little twists.

Firstly, the future Q won't be in the corner and, secondly, it doesn't even have to be the Q! 

White must be careful, as the direct 1.Kg3?? is met by 1...f1N+ with a draw. Hence, White should play 1.Kf3(h3)! After 1...f1Q+ 2.Kg3, Black is done!


After 2.Kg3


#4. White to Move - Troitsky


In the following example, White can't stop the h-P, while his own P is secured by the Black B. However, after 1.Bg6! h1Q 2.Bxf5, the Black Q can't show its strength due to a poor placement.

On the other hand, White is threatening promotion with check, severely limiting Black's options. After 2...Qh4+ 3.Kd7, the checks are over and Black is no longer ahead. In fact, Black will need to play the accurate 3...Qh8 to secure a draw.


After 3.Kd7


#5. White to Move - Jansa,Vlastimil - Alatortsev,Vladimir (1965)
In this example, Black decided to allow the promotion, instead of launching a series of checks, which likely would not offer a different winning plan.

After 1....Qxe5 2.c8Q, the White Q has several checks available. Hence, Black played 2...Qd5+!!, centralizing the Q, and taking away a number of checks, and defending h1. After the White K moved, Black played 3...h2. Next, 4.Qc1+ Kh5! and the checks were over. White couldn't stop h1Q and had no counterplay, or stalemate. Black won!

After 4...Kh5


Obviously, if you don't have any counterplay, then there is almost nothing you can do when your opponent gets a new Q. Perhaps only the following idea comes to mind - self-stalemate:


#6. White to Move - Training Example


The White K can't stop the b-P. Still, White can escape by building a nice fortress for the K.

1.Kg3 [1.Ke3?? b2-+] b2 2.Kh4! b1Q(R) 3.g3= as Black can't make progress.

After 3.g3




I hope you enjoyed these examples and even learned something new. Indeed, success in chess is based on knowledge of standard ideas and accurate calculation. The more ideas you know, the less you need to calculate. The examples I show here can all be easily memorized. Knowing them should enable you to quickly and accurately assess similar positions by doing only a fraction of required calculations.




PGN with games


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(*Bonwell, C., & Eison, J. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom (ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1). Washington, DC: George Washington University, p. 2)



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