Endgames are often tricky. Every tempo is important, how the pieces are positioned is key, and it is necessary to be precise. All of that is particularly true in king and pawn endgames, as in our game-of-the-day.

Markus Ragger is a talented Austrian grandmaster on the cusp of joining the world’s super-elite: Players with ratings higher than 2700. In this game from the Bundesliga against another strong grandmaster, Ivan Saric of Croatia, Ragger demonstrates the superb technique of an elite player. 

Ragger, M. vs. Saric, Iv
Bundesliga 2015-16 | Solingen GER | Round 14.3 | 23 Apr 2016 | ECO: E97 | 1-0
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. O-O Nc6 8. dxe5 dxe5 9. Bg5 Qxd1 10. Rfxd1 Bg4 11. h3 Bxf3 12. Bxf3 Nd4 13. Nd5 Nxd5 14. cxd5 c6 15. Rac1 cxd5 16. exd5 e4 17. Be3 exf3 18. Bxd4 Bxd4 19. Rxd4 Rac8 20. Rxc8 Rxc8 21. g4 Kf8 22. d6 Rd8 23. Kh2 f6 24. Kg3 Kf7 25. Kxf3 Rd7 26. Kf4 Ke6 27. g5 f5 28. Ke3 Rxd6 29. Rxd6+ Kxd6 I hope readers will forgive me for only starting my analysis at this point. The proceeding moves were boring and uneventful, but the king and pawn (and ultimately queen!) endgame was very interesting.
30. Kd4! First things first: White takes some space in the center with his king. Black is in trouble because White has the opposition, and White also can play h4, f3, and f4 if he needs extra tempi.
30... b6! Black chooses the right squares for his pawns. By placing the pawn on b6, he controls the c5 square and can hope to shuffle with Kd6-e6-d6 without allowing White to invade.
30... b5 By comparison, this move loses directly
31. b4 and since c5 is not under control, White quickly invades and wins  )
31. b4 White prepares the decisive queenside breakthrough. He will need to loosen up the Black structure to find a way to end the game
31... Ke6 32. f3! Patience
32. Kc4? It was not too late to spoil the game. This seems to win directly because Black is not in time to save the queenside, but he can look for counterplay...
32... Ke5! 33. Kb5 Ke4 34. Ka6 Kf3 35. Kxa7 Kxf2 36. Kxb6 Kg3 And Bblack will queen his pawn as well, holding a draw easily  )
32... Kd6 33. f4! The situation is similar to what it was earlier with the exception that the e5 square is under control
33... Ke6 34. Kc4?! A step in the wrong direction
34... Kd6 35. Kd4! One of the most important qualities in a successful chess player is being able to admit mistakes. Ragger simply repeats the position with the intention of finding a strong move next time.
35. Kb5 Continuing along the same plan would squander a half point
35... Kd5 36. Ka6 Ke4  )
35... Ke6 36. a3! The final important move. White calculates the tempi accurately.
36. a4 Kd6 This may still be winning, but it is much less effective. White would much prefer this position with Black to move  )
36... Kd6 37. a4! And Black is finally zugzwang
37... a6
37... Ke6 38. Kc4! Finally this plan is fast enough to win the game
38... Kd6 39. Kb5 Ke6 40. Ka6 Kd5 41. Kxa7 Ke4 42. Kxb6 Kxf4 43. a5 Kg3 44. a6 f4 45. a7 f3 46. a8=Q White wins by one tempo, thanks to the advances a2-a3 and a3-a4 before the race began  )
37... Kc6 38. Ke5 a5 39. bxa5 bxa5 40. Kd4! Simple enough, but why calculate?
40... Kd6 41. h4! and the reserve tempo I mentioned earlier flips the reciprocal zugzwang around. Black loses the a-pawn
41... Kc6 42. Kc4 Kb6 43. Kd5  )
38. a5! The correct advance. White needed to weaken the all-important c5 square
38. b5 a5 Black can once again shuffle with Kd6-e6  )
38... bxa5
38... b5 39. h4! Once again, this reserve tempo means everything  )
39. bxa5 Kc6 Black attempts to race, but it will not be close
40. Ke5 Kb5 41. Kf6 Kxa5 42. Kg7 Kb5 43. Kxh7 a5 44. Kxg6 a4 45. Kh5 a3 46. g6 a2 47. g7 a1=Q 48. g8=Q With an extra pawn and more active king, White is winning easily. The rest requires no comment.
48... Qd1+ 49. Kh6 Qd3 50. Qb8+ Ka4 51. h4 Qg3 52. Qe8+ Kb3 53. Qe6+ Ka4 54. Qxf5 Qxh4+ 55. Kg6 Ka3 56. Qd3+ Kb2 57. Qd2+ Kb1 58. f5 Qe4 59. Qd1+ Kb2 60. Qd6 Kb1 61. Qb6+ Kc1 62. Qe6 Qg2+ 63. Kf7 Qb7+ 64. Qe7 Qd5+ 65. Kg6 Qd3 66. Qg5+ Kb1 67. Kh6 Qh3+ 68. Kg7 Qc3+ 69. f6 Qd4 70. Kh6 Qd6 71. Qg6+ Ka2 72. f7 Qf4+ 73. Kg7 Qd4+ 74. Kg8 Qc4 75. Qf5 Ka1 76. Qf6+ Ka2 77. Kh8


Samuel Shankland is a United States grandmaster ranked No. 7 in the country. He is a professional player and recipient of the Samford Fellowship in 2013, the most prestigious award in the United States for young chess players. He is at @GMShanky on Twitter and is also on Facebook.