Today I was solving a puzzle from Dvoretsky's endgame Manual. A book which is considered to be one of the finest books written on Endgame. I think the book is excellent but only if we work on the material given in it. And by working I mean solving it. Because just reading the analysis would never help you remember the stuff. So as always I invite you to solve this position which I solved today.
White to play.
How should we go about solving this one. Let us start with logical analysis. Black threatens Kg1, so we have to move the bishop. But where must we move it. Our Primary aim in this position is to prevent the black king from reaching h8. So the farther we move the bishop, the better it is so that the black king will not gain a tempo on the way when going back to h8.
So we play 1.Bc8 Ke3! (an important endgame principle of Shouldering. white king is not allowed to join the battle. 1...Kf3? would be a mistake as after 2.Kd4! Kf4 3.h4! black finds himself in zugzwang.)
2.h4 Ke4! 3.h5 Ke5 4.h6 Kf6 and black made an easy draw. Once we have made this preliminary analysis what is to be done? I suggest we search for patterns in our mind regarding what we know of such endgame. When i started to solve this position, I knew only 1 pattern in which white wins such an endgame. Lets have a look at it.
White to play, wins this!
At all costs white must stop the black king from reaching the g8 square and hence we play 1.Bh7! Kf6 black threatens Kg5 to pick up the pawn White prevents it with 2.Kg4!
All the entry squares g5, g6,g7 and g8 are covered and White wins!
White king will slowly push the black king away and queen his h pawn.
Now lets use this pattern in our initial position. Lets play the first move 1.Bf5 Ke3 2.h4 Kf4 wins a crucuial tempo and we dont even need to analyse further. its a draw.
We can be trickier with 1.Be6 Ke3 2.h4 Ke4 3.h5 Ke5 4.h6 of course the bishop cannot be taken now so black plays 4...Kf6 5.Bf5!? (stopping Kg6.) 5....Kf7 (black threatens Kg8) 6.Bh7 Kf6! (threatening Kg5) 7.Bc2 Kf7.
We have the same pattern as before with the only problem that the white king needs to be on g4 but instead is on c3!! Without the king's help its just a draw.
Initial calculations have been done and previously remembered patterns were recollected. From all this we couldnt find the answer, but what we could conclude was one very important thing:
As the black king is shouldering the white king, the job of keeping the black king away from the g7-h8 squares falls on the shoulders of the pawn and the bishop.
Thus we try to imagine setups by which we keep the black king away with just the bishop and pawn. Now this requires some imagination and also some belief that such a setup does exist! When you try your hardest I am sure you can find the following setup:
What a position! The bishop and the pawn alone cover all the important squares and keep the black king at bay!
White king is not even required for queening the pawn. Black is in zugzwang and the h pawn promotes.
Once you have envisaged this position, the answer becomes very easy.
1.Bd7!! Ke3 2.h4 Ke4 3.h5 Ke5 4.h6 Kf6 5.Be8! +-
WHEN THE INITIAL POSITION IS GIVEN TO A GRANDMASTER, I THINK HE CAN SOLVE THIS PROBLEM WITHIN 2 MINUTES. WHEN WE SEE THIS, WE OFTEN WRONGLY CONCLUDE THAT HE CALCULATES AT THE SPEED OF LIGHTNING!
IN FACT THE GM, ALREADY HAD THE ABOVE PATTERN IN HIS MIND. ALL THAT HE HAD TO DO WAS TO RECOLLECT THE PATTERN AND THEN BASE HIS CALCULATIONS ON IT.
Thus I would recommend all the players, Whenever you solve a combination or a study, take a minute to remember the pattern after you have finished solving it. Once you start doing that you will enlarge your arsenal with so many patterns and ideas that you will be able to solve problems at scintillating speeds!
As for now, I would recommend you to start this journey of pattern memorization with the above diagram, so that whenever you have a bishop and a wrong colour pawn, you know what to aim for and not just settle for a draw!