King and Pawn Endings I
If you make a mistake in the opening, you have a chance to outplay your opponent in the middle game to make up for it. Mistakes in the middle game can sometimes be overcome in the endgame. But mistakes in the endgame are most often followed by a handshake. This is the practical reason that knowing the endgame is so important.
King and pawn endings are not always simple, but they are fundamental. They answer the question of whether it is safe to trade pieces. If you can recognize the winning king and pawn endings you'll know when it is a good idea or bad idea to swap the remaining pieces.
I will show some examples from my games. In the first example white has a queen and pawn for two rooks. Black's rooks are connected and black can play R3f6 where white would have a difficult road ahead trying to win. My first impression is that black can hold a draw there. Black chose Rf1+ which offers to give the two rooks back for the queen resulting in white having a pawn up king and pawn ending. Black needs to know whether this ending is winning or drawing in order to play this move. Lets have a look:
Since the underlying king and pawn endgame was winning for white, black should have kept the pieces on the board and either generate counterplay or defend all weaknesses so that white can not make progress.
The second example involves transferring a Rook and pawn ending into a King and pawn ending. We pick up the game with black attacking white's f2 pawn along the f-file. White could make a passive defense with Rb2, Re2, Rf1, or even f3, but white chooses an active counter threat, Rbb7 threatening to checkmate if black takes the f2 pawn. Let's see what happens:
In both cases the winning side was able to swap off the remaining pieces for a king and pawn endgame where he enjoyed having an extra pawn. The extra pawn made it straighforward to achieve a promotion.