Charles II (1630-1685) was King of Scotland in 1651, when he was ousted from power by Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarian Army at the Battle of Worcester. Charles II escaped by first hiding in a tree. Enemy soldiers walked by the tree without seeing him. With the help of supporters Charles II remained hidden and escaped to France. He returned to England and was crowned King of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1660. After that, he never needed a tree again.
In this week’s position, black has a tree to hide in. With this hint in mind, how does black draw?
White owns an extra pawn. One of those extra pawns moves, however, along the edge of the board on the “a” file. “A” and “h” pawns are of less value in an endgame because they have less mobility than the pawns “b” thru “g.” This is because “a” and “h” cannot move one direction, whereas the other pawns can capture and move diagonally both directions. This means center pawns have in theory three promotion squares (the front square and the two diagonal capture squares), edge pawn, two (one front square, one diagonal capture square).
Thus, black finds a tree to hide in by jumping onto the A5 square. If the white king protects its b5 pawn by moving c5, black is stalemated.
Any other move by white and the black king captures white’s b5 pawn. Once that happens, black draws in all lines by moving its king to the corner a8 square. Its a4 pawn is irrelevant. White can have the pawn, which white can force.
The black king rushes toward and then bounces back and forth between a7 and a8. White cannot force a win. If white pushes too hard, white stalemates black. Otherwise, white loses its “a” pawn. Either way, the game is drawn (see next diagram).
The lesson this week is if the battle is lost, find a tree to hide in.