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Extra Pawnsss in the Endgame - How to Win?

  • WIM energia
  • | Apr 20, 2012

I wanted to dedicate this article to winning endgames while being several pawns up but it happened that most of the endgame positions that I looked at resulted in transpositions to the endgames we looked at last week when one side is down a piece. In most cases the side with extra pawns had to consolidate first before pushing the pawns forward. Premature passed pawn advances can result in either the loss of the pawn or it can provide too many counterchances for the opponent as the third position we consider today shows. The knights and the bishops are perfect pieces to create forks and double attacks. Most of the examples considered today have either bishop or knight tactics. To avoid them place the king and the rook on the opposite colored squares. To summarize, having three extra pawns might not be enough for a win if one is not experienced in proper conversion of extra material. These are the tips to help you successfully win pawns-up endgames:

- make sure that you place your pieces on defended squares;

- exchange pieces if given a chance;

- watch out for knight and bishop forks and avoid them by placing the king and the rook on opposite-colored squares;

- push passed pawns only when all the other pieces are located well (close to the center and defended);

- watch out for the opponent's resources, especially passed pawns (generally, first stop the opponent's pawn and only then advance you own).

We will look at four examples today where some of the above tips were followed, while some were not. The blunders that occurred in the following positions were mostly due to placing the pieces on undefended squares and forgetting about bishop/knight forks.

White is better in the next example due to two extra pawns. The rook on b7 is cutting off the king on the 8th rank and attacking the g7 and the a7-pawns. The knight on a4 is out of play for now but can get to c3 or c5 in the future. Black has a concentration of pieces around the white king that can result in an attack. Black uses the opportunity of attack and sacrifices a piece there. In the resulting complications white placed the pieces poorly resulting in loss of a piece and a draw. Once again, you always want to keep the pieces on  defended squares!!

Black has two extra pawns in the next endgame, but the presence of opposite-colored bishops gives white some drawing chances. Besides his material advantage black has a very strong knight in the center. The white knight on the edge of the board is less active than the Nd5. Black's king is well-shielded by the a- and b-pawns, while the king on b3 is active but with many pieces still present on the board might come under attack. Also with the king on b3 there are several tactical motifs in the position one of which-- the fork-- black successfully utilizes. If you want to avoid knight forks don't place the king and the rook on the same color squares. As you go through the example let us keep in mind that most of the exchanges benefit black.

White is three pawns up. This should be more than enough to win the game. The rook on c7 is very active, while the black rook on a8 is defending the a7-pawn and is passive. The king on a3 will get to the white pawns on the queenside but will be unable to help with the pawns on the kingside. And the kingside pawns are the dangerous ones because with the help of the rook, the bishop and the knight they will try to promote. The defensive strategy for black would be to not lose right away-- to make moves that do not worsen the position much. The active-defensive strategy would be to give up the a7-pawn but to activate the rook. I prefer the second strategy because at least white would need to look after black threats, while in the first strategy black would just push the g-pawn forward and win.

The next example I really like because it is rich in both excellent ideas and mistakes. For now black is up three pawns, his knight is ideally located on c4, the rook is in control of the e-file, where the second rook stands behind the passed a-pawn. Since the pieces are located well and white has no threats, black can proceed with the advancement of the passed a-pawn. However, in the game black found a very interesting combination, which allowed the exchange of the bishop for the knight and activation of the d7-bishop. After white's only reply black did not play the best move and ended up with two pieces for a rook, maintaining the advantage of three pawns. Then black blundered the rook. The rook blunder was typical in my opinion. He did not see the bishop at the other end of the board protecting the square, on which he put the rook. You have to always look at the whole board and especially pay attention to long-ranged pieces such as rooks and bishops.

Today we analyzed examples where one side had a few extra pawns in the endgame. The ideas that the positions covered ranged across both tactical and strategic realms. The strategic mistakes were not as serious as the tactical mistakes, therefore one has to pay extreme attention to the board's geometric motifs. Next week we will continue the topic of how to win endgames being up in material.


  • 24 months ago


    I like the article, thanks very much.

  • 2 years ago


    Practical , understandable, and very helpful. Thank you for this article.

  • 2 years ago


  • 2 years ago


    (to: Player1-VERY_EASY) 16. Nc3 is a strong move.. I missed it because I was short on time. After I captured the pawn on f7, I quickly planned to push the pawns on b and h files in order to overwork my opponent's King and knight.

  • 2 years ago


    Really "awful"?.. :'( This was my first match here. 

    But nerv you're right. Honestly, I hadn't seen that.

    Later, in the computer analysis i saw that if the game had gone like this:  35... e236. R4xh5+ Kg4 37. Nd5 e1=Q 38.Nf6#

    white could also had won, not just draw.Surprised And, in my opinion, THAT would be really awful..  So, you may hadn't seen our ratings, uh? Tongue out

  • 2 years ago


    Epinephelus, you should have take that rook! Your move 35. e2?? allows white to draw by repeating checks R4h5+, R5h4+, R4h5+... That game is awful.

  • 2 years ago


  • 2 years ago


    Love this article. Too often, GM's and IM's write articles that are waaaaay beyond the club or amateur player, but this is very 'actionable' and I love the tip about the rook and king on different colored squares...will read more of you ASAP!

  • 2 years ago


    Hello! I'm happy to read this article because I had one game that almost fit this issue. This is a 5-min blitz game.

    There are positions that having extra pawns are hard to convert for a win. But I think that trying to create two weaknesses in the opponent's camp will help. I like the advice: " watch out for knight and bishop forks and avoid them by placing the king and the rook on opposite-colored squares." Thanx WIM!

  • 2 years ago


    Yeah, I agree that seeing others' mistakes is helpful because they prevent you from doing them. Thank you for the focused hints.


    Take a look at this match, it has an appropriate endgame for this topic Wink

  • 2 years ago


    I love the tip about putting your king on an opposite color from your rook to protect against forks and skewers.  What a time saver that is.  How did I not know that?

  • 2 years ago


    I_say_hello, perhaps my comments weren't clear. The comment about pushing the a pawn was a separate scenario.

    As for playing to win? Just want to know what I'm aiming for. Black to play and draw from there seems simple.

  • 2 years ago


    But Scottrf, the knight was captured on move 49 in your variation.I think there is a small mistake where white's 49th and 50th moves should be swapped.I think it is not mentioned in the third example that black wil win.If you feel I am wrong please tell me. Thanks.

  • 2 years ago


    Lots of mistakes in these games, but you learn from mistakes so these games are perhaps better to study than games from grandmasters!

  • 2 years ago



  • 2 years ago


    Some good tips and tatics there thanks :D

  • 2 years ago


    Last example, move 48 for black.

    48…b5 49 Nxb5 cxb5 50 cxb5 and white gets a queen 1 move before. Pushing the a pawn gets taken by the knight. White has opposition so don’t see how you can bring your king into it.

    How does black win? Or is the objective to draw?

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