There is a well-known advice that when you have less space you should trade pieces. In many positions this is true, but quite often trades simply remove your source of counterplay and allow the opponent to consolidate his space advantage. In queenless positions and endgames a space advantage can be very valuable. Even if your opponent does not have enough pieces to be "cramped", the space advantage can still convey superiority in other ways - even the elementary concept that your pawns are closer to queening than your opponent's can be an important factor, meaning that your threats are more "real".
We will now see some examples of a space advantage in the endgame, and in part 2 we will be examining some positions on the opposite side of the coin - in which a player is overextended.
First, here is a beautiful ending by Ulf Andersson which illustrates the advantages of controlling more of the board in stark fashion:
Endgame virtuoso Ulf Andersson
The following ending could hardly be called a queenless middlegame, since both sides only have a rook. But each side also has seven pawns, so there is no question of a theoretical position, and exact calculation does not play such a huge part in the game - rather, planning does. White first restricts the black pieces, then using some zugzwang themes clears out the kingside, creating a passed pawn to temporarily divert the black king, and then makes a turning movement to the queenside. This shows the advantages of superior space in the endgame clearly.
Finally, the decisive game from the 2004 World Championship. Kramnik needed to win to retain his title, while Leko only needed a draw. On the verge of becoming world champion, Leko was probably nervous, made some inaccuracies, and allowed Kramnik to create a space advantage in the ending. Kramnik took this space advantage to its logical conclusion - controlling all of the space around his opponent's king.
RELATED STUDY MATERIAL
- GM Dejan Bojkov's Greatest Chess Minds Part 2 and Part 4 on space in the endgame
- GM Gregory Kaidanov's Learn to Love It: How to Study the Endgame! with a game by Ulf Andersson
- GM Josh Friedel's Endgame Technique: Zugzwang
- GM Melikset Khachiyan's Structural Thinking 4: Planning the Endgame!