Changing of the Seasons

  • GM BryanSmith
  • | Feb 25, 2014

When I was new to chess, I had several fantasy scenarios of dramatic brilliancies in tournament games. Of course there was the standard "sacrifice everything for checkmate;" but also I had an unusual one - a long combination leading to all the pieces cleared off the board, leaving only a minimal - but decisive - advantage in the king and pawn ending.

In this article, I will be discussing the transition to the king and pawn ending. This is the final transition in a chess game (besides the possibility of the players each queening pawns and returning to a queen and pawn ending), and requires the utmost attention. You cannot casually go into a king and pawn ending! Ironically, as a game of chess simplifies, the necessity to "get it right" increases. King and pawn endings can, more often than not, be assessed with 100% certainty and played perfectly even by weak players.

This is one of the ironies of chess - the "easier" things are, the harder they become. The simpler the position, the higher the requirement for correct evaluation and perfect play.

In transitioning to a king and pawn ending, assumptions are the enemy:

Here is another example of why transitioning to a king and pawn ending requires more precise calculation than usual.

That fantasy scenario - an intricate tactical sequence leading to a winning king and pawn ending - was played out in a study-like ending. According to Nikolay Grigoriev, this beautiful ending took place in a simul which he played:

Nikolay Grigoriev | Image Wikipedia
The 1920 All-Russian championship was retroactively declared the first Soviet chess championship, and was the only one in which Alexander Alekhine competed. He won the tournament with 12/15, but in the following game he had to find a study-like way to draw by forcing - and correctly evaluating - the king and pawn ending. Counting the "spare tempi" correctly is a common theme of evaluating king and pawn endings.

The trebuchet is a kind of catapult used in medieval sieges. The term is used in chess to describe a scenario like the following:

Diagram of a counterweight trebuchet | Image Wikipedia

In one of my own games, I managed to transfer an ending with rooks and bishops straight into a trebuchet scenario, and the fancifully-named pawn ending made its appearance on the board after a tempo-battle.



  • 21 months ago


    Thank you GM. Bryan for another great article. I appreciate the game of Zhenevshy- Alekhine, Alekhine calculation was very accuate, he is truly amaze. Your game with Castaneda, I enjoy it very much, a pawn move is so important; move the wrong pawn move you would lost, you play so well to earn your point.

  • 21 months ago


    I liked the Grigoryev game. It reminds me of my father's failed sacrificial attempts towards me.

  • 21 months ago


    Thank you for this, very instructive indeed.

  • 21 months ago


    As always, simple and effective. :)

  • 21 months ago


    Thanks this is a realy instructive article

  • 21 months ago


    Nice and instructive article - explains the power of pawns in the endgame and the need to calculate till the very end.

  • 21 months ago


    From the best articles (in my opinion) at the the King and  Pawn endings....

  • 21 months ago


    Beautiful finish in the last game!

  • 21 months ago


    very easy to reada nd very instructive  if it's from GM Smith. kudos!

  • 21 months ago


    So this is how kings fight! Very nice article! Thanks :D

  • 21 months ago


    I wish someone would teach me shortcuts and rules of thumb for counting reserve tempi.  There must be a pattern or two to memorize to save on calculation.

  • 21 months ago

    IM DanielRensch

    Great article Bryan. 

  • 21 months ago


    Thx it is a great article.

  • 21 months ago


    very nice article,i agree, king and pawn endgames can be very simple, and even weak players can use trick to draw. other ones are very complex, and if reached, can be won with accurate calculations.

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