12 Ranks of Pawns: Strong Turnout at Junior High Champs
By Todd Andrews   
April 27, 2014
Atlantalead.jpgThe 2014 Junior High Championship is now full on in Atlanta, Georgia. The final numbers broke 1,300 which is an excellent turn out. While much of it can be attributed to the increasing popularity of scholastic chess in the schools, I have to think that this location has a lot to do with it as well.

As a native “Nashvillan” I do have a bias to the home town comforts of the Opryland Hotel, but this spot in downtown Atlanta is primo. There are dozens and dozens of great food options just a sky bridge away. There are easily accessible parks and numerous site seeing ventures to take up your free time even if you are a foot soldier. This location is the most well rounded of any Nationals location I have seen.

But who cares what is around town? This is about the chess. This is about crowning champions. As a teenager, I only knew the drive that comes with individual accolades. But now as a coach, I see the real fun lies in the fight for the team, in the fight for your school and your class mates. The camaraderie these kids show towards each other’s results, and their selflessness in their own games, instills values that I wish I had the benefit of experiencing as a teen.   There is a lot more in the world than “just you” and that is a powerful lesson these kids, coaches and parents in the chess community get better at every year. That holds true despite the level of “ego” in chess.

Huge praise should also be given to the US Chess Federation for the staff they have put together to run these national events. The tournament staff tosses lots of smiles your way and they have even been frequenting the skittles rooms to say hello and check on you. Their kindness has given us a real sense that they have a lot of care for these kids and the families that make this event great. That goes a long way in the land of southern hospitality.

But I know, so far this is all my own subjective opinion. Chess is a great game because of the amount of objectiveness verses subjectivity. Openings come and go, this defense might be better than that. Your style may be more suited for closed positions, or you make like the special conflicts of open games. However, as the pieces come off the board and the end game draws near, the subjectivity lessens. The “truth” we all search for becomes more about precise calculations and less about what we like. Here are some of my favorite endgame ideas from the event so far.


Let us start with a famous endgame concept. I call it "12 ranks worth of pawns." If you can get two, connected passed pawn to the 6th rank, then you can beat a lone rook. 1.d7 Rd4 2.e7 Rxd7 3.e8=Q ...and white has the advantage necessary to win. 1–0


Here we can also win with a pawn on the 7th rank and a pawn on the 5th rank vs. a lone rook. In the previous example it was 6th rank plus 6th rank to get the needed "12 ranks." This idea has been well known for many years. 1...Re4 2.d6 Re6 3.d7 Rxe7 4.d8=Q ...and again white has all that they need. But wait, what if you are black and your pawns are on the 3rd rank? Remember that chess should be thought of as a game of perspective. Black's "6th rank" is the one with the "3" beside it if you are looking from black's point of view. 1–0

Jacob- Puja
2014 JR HIGH CH. , 2014
Now lets see how understanding this important idea in a rook endgame is seen in this game.
This is really a great endgame to study. There are enough imbalances to make it very instructive. White has his connected passed c-pawn and d-pawn that he hopes to push down the board, but his rook is passively placed in front of black's outside passer on the a-file. Also, the black king is slightly closer to the center making his role more prevelant. Black also has their rook correctly placed "behind the passed pawn" to help push it down the board. A great study!
2.Ra5 g6 3.f4?!
I do not see how this move improves white's endgame effort. Pushing the passed pawns or improving the placement of white's King makes more sense.
3...Ke6 4.d4 Kd6 5.c4 Kc6 6.d5+ Kb6 7.Ra4 a5 8.Kg3 Kc5 9.Kh4 Kd4?
It was imperative to keep white's king out of black's position with the move h7-h6. White almost seems to be in a slight zugzwang with very few moves to improve his position after this. [9...h6 is absolutely needed. While it does not seem that white can improve her position, black does not have a lot of ways to get in either. It should be fairly even, but not in the dog fight that is known as the national championship! 10.Kg3 Kb6 10...g5? does make another passed pawn for black, but it looks like white has a useful plan now to tear down the kingside. 11.fxg5 hxg5 12.h4 g4 13.Kf4 advantage to white.)
10.Kg5 Kc3 11.c5

...and now we see our main idea behind this endgame coming to life. White is on the cusp of being able to even sack the rook for the a-pawn, because he will soon has the magic "12 ranks" worth of pawns.
11...Kb3 12.Rd4 a4 13.d6 a3 14.d7

...and here white has the formula.
14...a2 15.Rd1 a1Q 16.Rxa1
15.c6 a2 16. Rd1 Kb2 17.Rd2+ Kb3 18.Rxa2 Kxa2 19.c7

An excellent illustration of this idea. Where did black go wrong? She needed to keep her king passively back to hold the connected passed pawns at bay. Passive though? Yes, in the endgame, you often have to play passively to create the best chances for yourself.
19...Rxd7 20.c8Q

...and white went on to win. 1–0

That was a nice illustration of this famous endgame concept.

After five rounds, there are seven tied at the top with 4.5/5 and four perfect scores in the K-8. The larger K-8 tournament also has a very large range between the leaders- 2200 Advait Patel and 1400 Luis Leal (who beat three 1900s in a row in the past three rounds)!

In the K-9 team battle, The Blake School of Minnesota (leading after five rounds by half a point), the River Trail Middle local boys from Georgia, Masterman of Philadelphia (the alma-matter of Jen and Greg Shahade)and my squad Montgomery Bell Academy from Nashville round out the top four.
In the K-8, The Canyon Vista Middle School from Texas (half a point ahead after five rounds), Brooklyn’s famed I.S. 318, Lincoln Middle from Florida and Dalton from New York are weighing in as the top four. The final day of this event promises to be a killer finish!

Check back Monday for the final report. I leave you with this “remove the defender” tactical exercise.


In this example, you see the more common idea of removing the defender of a piece. White to move!

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