Underpromotion – The Chess Improver

Some of you may be aware that underpromotions to bishops have been in the news recently.

These are popular with endgame study and problem composers but are very rare over the board. (I’m excluding positions where your opponent will capture whatever piece you choose, where your opponent will mate you at the other end of the board whatever piece you choose, or positions where everything wins and you’re annoyed with your opponent for refusing to resign.)

There are a couple of position types which might be worth knowing just in case they crop up in one of your games.

This is from Bogdanor – Goulding Brown (BCF Major Open Chester 1914).

Black won with 56.. Rg1! 57. Rxg1 fxg1B! – the only way to win. A queen or rook would be stalemate while a knight wouldn’t be able to stop the white h-pawn.

(Both players were of some interest. Harry Bogdanor ran a chemist’s shop and in 1922 was found guilty of stealing and receiving drugs from a warehouse. Later still he became the father of Vernon Bogdanor, who taught David Cameron politics. Bertram Goulding Brown was a notedchess historian.)

Here’s another example.

In Goldstern – Jasnikowsky (Switzerland 1993) Black had a number of winning moves but found the quickest way to secure the full point: 54.. Rb1 55. Rxb1 axb1B! As in the previous position, and for the same reasons, the other promotions all draw.

There’s another, rather more common, position type which is also worth remembering, in which you can choose either minor piece.

Black demonstrated the quickest way to win in Soluch – Paoli (Vienna 1952), continuing 92.. Rc1 93. Rxc1 bxc1B! and White resigned. Promoting to a knight would have been equally effective here: either minor piece will mate in 10 moves.

In this position from Grischuk – Hua (World U12 Ch Szeged 1994) the future GM found White’s only winning move: 67. Rb8! Rxb8 68. axb8B with mate in 7: promoting to a knight was mate in 8 but Black resigned, so it didn’t matter.

These ideas should be part of your endgame knowledge base. You never know when you might need them, and, deep into the ending, you may well only have a few seconds for your move.

Richard James

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Richard James

Author: Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy (www.chesskids.org.uk or www.chesskids.me.uk) and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966. Richard is a published author and his books can be found at Amazon. Richard is currently promoting minichess (games and puzzles using subsets of chess) for younger children through his website www.minichess.uk, and writing coaching materials for children (and adults) who want to start playing serious competitive chess, through www.chessheroes. uk. View all posts by Richard James

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