Reports | October 31, 2012 11:14

Returning to the Nijboer-l'Ami endgame - what would you play?

What would you play?

In our final report on the Univé tournament we included the game Friso Nijboer vs Erwin l'Ami, which turned out to be decisive for the open tournament's final standings. In what was his first win against Nijboer in a decade, l'Ami won a knight ending at move 78. But could he have won quicker?

Here's the game again as we posted it last Saturday, with the light annotations included. (We've corrected it slightly, so that the remark about the way for white to defend better is now mentioned at move 60 and not move 57.)

PGN string

After he had looked at the game a bit, Nijboer met with l'Ami again on Saturday at the venue, and mentioned the move 47...Nb6 to him, which traps the white knight. l'Ami told us about it so we duly included it in our notes, but things are not so clear:

PGN string

On Monday, l'Ami dropped us an email in which he shared his doubts:

It's nice to mention that 47...Nb6 wins the knight, but perhaps not the game. I haven't been able to find a win for Black yet after 48.Kf3 Kd7 49.Na6! bxa6 50.bxa6 Ke6 51.a7! Kxe5 52.h4!. If the black king walks to a7 then White will always get dangerous counterplay on the kingside. So 47...Nxc3 might be fine after all!

Here's l'Ami's line:

PGN string

But then, on Tuesday morning, we received another email from Erwin. The Dutch grandmaster had come to a new conclusion!

I checked it again this morning, and trapping the knight does win. The line continues, more or less forced, like this: 52...Kd6 53.Kf4 Kc6 54.Ke5 Kb7 55.Ke6 Kxa7 56.h5 g6! 57.h6 Nc4 58.Kf6 Ne3 59.g5 Nf5! and Nxh6 on the next move.

Here's l'Ami's line, which we've extended with a few moves:

PGN string

The moral of the story? In knight endings always beware of your knight getting trapped! And: do analyze your endings, with a chess set first and only then with an engine. It's fun and instructive!

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Mark De Smedt's picture

Great to read this article devoted to a remarkable ending. Erwin L'Ami is such a fine artist !

choufleur's picture

a remarkable ending ? It is just interesting to me, but remarkable ?

Alexander's picture

What's remarkable is the fact that even after winning a Knight, Black only has a very narrow path to the victory. Especially striking is the last series of moves.

PeterV's picture

Nice! Thank you.

litmus's picture

Interesting! Also worth mentioning is that on move 51 of the analysis, White can try 51. Kf4 (instead of 51. a7). However, this also loses instructively:

51. Kf4 Nc8! the only move to win. (51. ... g5? 52. Kxg5 and Black even loses.) 52. c4 dxc4 53. Ke4 c3 54. Kd3 Kxe5 55. Kxc3 g5! This move stops kingside play. 56. Kc4 Kd6 57. Kd4 h6 58. Ke4 Kc6 59. Kf5 Ne7+! It looks dangerous but the idea is to bring the knight to h3 when White's counterplay is over. 60. Kf6 Nd5 61. Kg6 Nf4+ 62. Kxh6 Nxh3. This motif with the knight on h3 defending g5 is a useful one. Now Black has all the time in the world.

jan van der marel's picture

I thought Nijboer quit playing?

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