How to Play a Proper Endgame in Blitz #1: Pawn Endgames

How to Play a Proper Endgame in Blitz #1: Pawn Endgames

CM Chessdemon2019

When playing an endgame during blitz, sometimes it is very easy to make a mistake, especially when there is no increment. Pawn endgames are by far the simplest endgame, and even they are extremely hard to play due to their low drawing-tendency.

Pawns move extremely simply so it is quite easy to calculate in pawn endgames. It is the sheer number of pawns in pawn endgames that causes players to think during a blitz game when they know their clock is ticking. Pawn endgames usually are easy to determine if decisive or not, but blunders are extremely common. I have a few tips for anyone that is playing a blitz game and needs to make good moves quickly. Note: This article is best for players U2200 in FIDE rating.

I am going to start with this position and then talk about guidelines and how you should apply them in blitz. This position is quite ordinary, symmetrical positions with 8 pawns each. From here on we will start modifying the position, we can start to see what is important and what is not.

1. Centralize Your King
This is important if you are defending or attacking the opponent. In blitz, having a centralized king means that your opponent needs calculate more about him losing ground. Take a look at these moves.
Black is playing random pawn moves while white brings his king up. In the final position, white is winning. Obviously, your opponents would not play like this, but it shows the point, when your opponent is low on time and starts premoving, you can get him into this type of position.
If you were white, your king would be so much better placed than his that you would probably be able to convert you advantage. You should always try and centralize your king, even if you lose time on your clock.

2. Win the Opposition
An opposition between the kings happens when one king blocks the other king from advancing. This is useful in restricting your opponents movement and bringing your king closer to your opponent's pawns. In order to "win" the opposition, one side has to put the other side in a position such that the defending side has to let the attacking side's king through, thus winning the game. One example of this is
No matter what white plays, black is going to be able to win the g3 pawn by infiltrating on d3 or f3. Most people viewing this will know this already, but when time ticks down on the clock, winning the opposition can win you the game easily.
This is how black wins the pawn, and the game.
As you can see black wins no matter what. If you play naturally and advance your king closer to your opponents weak pawns, and winning the opposition, you will win your games.
Opposition does not apply to just face-to-face opposition. For any position, if you can counter your opponent's advance with opposition, the previous position also counts. Take this position for example.
It seems like Black can try and play Kc5 to try and win the pawn, but white counters with an opposition, Ke5, and thus black cannot win white's pawn.
These first two guidelines are very important, they will help you exercise your mind and be able to do simple pawn endgame puzzles. Nevertheless, calculation is key, these guidelines will only help you save time when playing a game of blitz. Here are a few pawn endgame puzzles to test yourself. Remember to use these guidelines and get into a blitz mindset!
White to move and win.
White to move and draw
White to move and draw

3. Passed Pawns
Passed pawns are one of the most important things to notice in a pawn endgame. Usually, the first person to get a passed pawn wins the pawn endgame. There are multiple types of passed pawns and I will take you through a glimpse of them.
Runaway Passed Pawns
Firstly, it is an immediate win if your opponent's king cannot catch up to your passed pawn. In that case, you can easily promote and win the game. A runaway passed pawn is something like this.
Notice that there is an easy way to see if your passed pawn will promote or not. Just simply count how many moves it takes for your pawn to promote and then count how many moves it takes for your opponent's king to reach the queening square. If you need less moves, then you promote first.
These types of passed pawns are easy to work with and in blitz you can premove extremely quickly and win with the queen. They are also one of the most uncommon types of passed pawns you will encounter as your opponents will most likely prevent such passed pawns from existing.
Unprotected Passed Pawns
Unprotected Passed Pawns, normally referred as a passed pawn, are pawns that are not protected and can be stopped and captured by the opponent's king. This type of passed pawn is also the most common type, with many games deciding victory with these pawns. However, in blitz, these positions become a lot more complicated. Take a look at position below.
As you can see, black is able to use his passed pawn and overload white; white's king can't protect h4 and win black's d-pawn at the same time. This is just one example of how passed pawns can be sacrificed to win.
There are also ways to win using an outside passed pawn. An outside passed pawn is a pawn that can be stopped, but is extremely far away from the area of action. Take a look at this.
White wins because he is able to use his passed a-pawn to distract black's king and able to get to the action faster, in this case, the g-pawns. Then white is ahead in the pawn race and promotes his pawn, winning the game.
Whoever is able to get an outside passed pawn first, or even a normal passed pawn can win almost immediately. However, there is a type of passed pawn that wins immediately in blitz games and is easy to play for the attacker.
Protected Passed Pawns
A protected passed pawn is a passed pawn that is protected (hence the name). Whichever side gets a protected passed pawn first, wins automatically. A protected passed pawn is so powerful it becomes extremely rare to get one, especially in blitz. Just look at how white is completely winning here
White's protected passed pawn decides the game immediately. Protected passed pawns are dangerous because they cannot be won, and they are able to threaten promotion, thus limiting the opponent's king's moves. 
In blitz, getting the passed pawn is key to playing a proper endgame. In any time of endgame, passed pawns are extremely important. When both sides are low on time and you have the passed pawn, you will have (most likely) an easy win later on!

4. Always Take a Risk (More Time) or Stay Passive (Less Time)
This was always a controversial strategy in blitz, but I realized if I morphed it into a safer option, winning games becomes a lot easier. Here are the tips I figured out.
Risk If You Have a Passed Pawn and More Time
This is quite standard. Like I said above, having a passed pawn is extremely important. When you have as passed pawn, you should risk it, even if your opponent also has a passed pawn or has more pawns. Time is the crucial factor in blitz, if your opponent can easily go wrong, then complicate things as much as possible. Take this position.
White has a passed f-pawn. He can use it as a decoy and allow white to take the risk. However, in blitz, you might not be able to calculate and start to premove Kd3-c3-d3, in that case, you will lose, as the position shows.
Stay Passive for Everything Else
Passed pawns mean everything when you are playing a pawn endgame. If you do not have a passed pawn and are on the defensive side, play passive. Premove. Do everything you can to save time. In blitz, you will most likely get a draw, though you will lose sometimes (sufficiently large increment).

This will make sure that you are safe and maximizes your odds of winning some points!

5. Stay Calm
Most important thing of all is to stay calm. If you are panicking in a pawn endgame, no outside force will help you win. If you stay calm and play your best, you will win your games happy.png.

I hope you found this helpful!
Thanks for reading!
CM Chessdemon2019
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