The Square of the Pawn, Part 1
When an enemy pawn is trying to outrace your King down the board, it’s always nice to be able to see with a glance if you (or your opponent) can draw. Sadly, most players feel that they must do the old “he goes there and I go there” routine for an endless series of moves to see if their King can make it back in time to stop an unescorted enemy pawn. Fortunately, there is an easier way!
This position, in which white’s King is far from the action, poses a simple question: Can black’s King stop (or even win) the enemy pawn? The game hangs in the balance-if the black King can stop the pawn, then the game is drawn, while the game is lost if the King can’t. The answer lies in a technique called the Square of the Pawn.
The normally invisible Square of the Pawn is drawn and clear for all to see. How does one create such a square? Here’s the trick (in the direction of the stalking King):
- Draw a diagonal extension from the pawn to the end of the board.
- Draw a rank extension from the side of the pawn to the file where the diagonal extension ended. In this case that would be the e-file since the diagonal extension ended at e8.
- Connect all the lines and you’ll get the square in the diagram.
Black to move steps into the Square. Now we can see at a glance that black’s King can indeed step into this square and thus stop the pawn.
RULE: If black’s King can step into this square, it will stop the pawn. If it can’t, the pawn will run for a touchdown.
However, if it was White to move, 1.a5 is a winner because a new square would be created.
Black can’t step into this new square and thus can’t stop the pawn. If all this seems confusing, think about it, try to move the King towards the pawn on your own board, and imagine the square shrinking each time the pawn moves. After a bit of time the whole Square of the Pawn idea will be an easy and natural part of your chess arsenal.
In this next example:
Black to move gets inside the square and draws (1...Kg4 or 1...Kg3).
If it’s White’s move, then after 1 b4 the side of the new square becomes the f-file, which Black’s king cannot reach in time.
If the pawn stood on b2, then because the pawn can move two squares,
the square should still be constructed from the b3-square.
If it was Black's move, then he can catch the pawn.
If it was White's move, Black cannot catch the pawn.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Obstacles in the Path of the King.
Silman, Jeremy. Silman's Complete Endgame Course: From Beginner to Master (Kindle Locations 1757-1759). Siles Press. Kindle Edition.
Dvoretsky, Mark. Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual (Kindle Locations 628-629). SCB Distributors. Kindle Edition.