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Yu Yangyi vs Harikrishna teaches you secrets of queen vs pawn endgame

by Sagar Shah - 22/05/2019

Queen versus pawn on seventh rank endgames are pretty straight forward. You learn a few rules and you are all set to assess the result of any position. However, add one more pawn for the defending side and you will realize that the position has become extremely complicated. This is exactly what happened in the game between Yu Yangyi and Harikrishna in the fifth round of the Shenzhen Masters 2019. Harikrishna queened his pawn and Yu Yangyi pushed his pawn to the seventh rank. The endgame is extremely instructive and we analyze it in great depth for you in this article. After studying the analysis we are sure that your understanding of such endgames is bound to increase.

Queen versus pawn on seventh rank endgames are quite tricky. Mainly because a lot depends upon the file of the pawn and the position of the attacker's king. The complexity of the endgame only increases when you include a few more strategically located pawns for the defending side. Let's have a look at the endgame between Yu Yangyi and Harikrishna from the Shenzhen Masters 2019.

White has just pushed his pawn to f7. Now this position would have been drawn if there was no pawn on h3 because of the stalemating idea (White king goes to h8 and Black queen cannot take the pawn on f7 because it would result in a stalemate). But in this case there is a pawn on h3 and that changes the dynamics of the position.

Let's for a few minutes imagine that there was no pawn on h3, then can Black win the position? Well, only if his king is close enough. How close is the question. There are two scenarios - the defender's king is on the short side of the pawn and the defender's king is on the long side.


Defender's king is on the short side of the pawn

When the defender's king is on the right side of the pawn, then the key squares are g6 and e7. If Black's king is one square away from g6 and e7 then he is winning. Hence, if the Black king is on any of the yellow squares, that would mean Black is winning.

Defender's king is on the long side of the pawn

Here the white king is a bit far away from the h8 square and hence the zone in which the black king can be has increased. You can see that the yellow marked squares are two squares away from the key squares on d7 and g6.

Now this position is more relevant to the game Yu Yangyi vs Harikrishna because Black has to get his king closer to white's king and at the same time prevent the White pawn from queening. Let's have a look at the position once again.


Yu Yangyi vs Harikrishna

The h3 pawn is going to make a huge difference here! Let's see how the game continues:

68...Qg5+ 69. Kh7 Qf6 70. Kg8 Qg6+

Thanks to the h3 pawn, the white king cannot go to h8 now. It has to move in front of the white pawn which will allow the black king to come closer.

71. Kf8 Kb3 72.h4 Kc4

We come to the most critical position of the game. What would you play here as White?

Yu Yangyi pushed his pawn to 73.h5 and this turned out to be the key mistake of the game. Quite difficult to understand why. If White wants to get rid of his h-pawn then shouldn't h5 be a logical move here? Well, it's positions like these that make chess quite difficult to understand. The right move was 73.Ke7! The important point being that after 73...Qh7 White must play...

What would you play here as White?

It is important to play 74.Kf6! Yes, only this move draws because 74.Ke8? loses to Kd5! 75.f8=Q Ke6 and it is a forced mate.

This is what Black is aiming for. It's a forced mate now.

Coming back to 74.Kf6, Black should still try with Qh6+ and after 75.Ke7 Qxh4+ we reach another critical position

Where should White play his king?

The only move to draw the game is 76. Ke8! (Important to note that running towards the corner with 76.Kf8 loses to Qh7! Ke8 Kd5 f8=Q Ke6-+). Now for Black to continue playing for a win he must continue with 76...Qh5 77.Ke7 Qg5+ 78.Ke8 Qe5+

Here 79. Kf8 draws because of the neat point Qh8+ 80.Ke7 Qh7 81.Kf6! (Remember why 81.Ke8 loses? Yes, Kd5-e6) But in the above position one more interesting move is 79. Kd7 which also leads to a draw after 79...Qf6 80.Ke8 Qe6+ 81. Kf8

This is a draw because the black king cannot use the e6 square and also because the black queen cannot reach h7

After all the analysis above, I think it should become quite clear as to why 73.h5 by Yu Yangyi was a blunder. Hari continued with 73...Qh7 and after 74.Ke8 Kd5! 75. f8=Q Ke6 it is game over!

So what was the reason why Yu Yangyi lost this endgame? I think the most important point was to prevent the queen from coming to h7. By playing h5 White forced the black queen to h7. Had he not pushed h5 and instead extricated his king from e7 he would have been fine because because he would be in time to play Ke7-f6 in the most crucial lines when the black queen is on h7.


Here's the entire game along with analysis:

Harikrishna analyzes the entire game in an interview with Sagar Shah

Harikrishna's course for Chessable:

Harikrishna's course on Chessable is named as French Toast: How Harikrishna fries 1...e6

The video series revolves around Harikrishna recommending a line for White as a repertoire in the French after 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3. The most interesting part is that after 3...Bb4 Hari recommends 4.exd5. This is exactly what Hari played against Rapport at the Shenzhen Masters 2019 and won the game.

The entire course is a whopping seven hours 41 minutes long and will help you to build a complete repertoire against the French from the white side.

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