Chess in Black and White: Endgame Lesson 2 - Pawns

Chess in Black and White: Endgame Lesson 2 - Pawns

Jan 13, 2015, 6:00 PM |

To get the most out of these lessons make sure to join the study group. The link is at the bottom of the lesson. If you missed the intro to the series you can find it here -

and lesson 1 here




Rare will be your endgame that lacks any pawns. For that reason we are going to go though some of the basics here. 

First, remember that once you reach the endgame your pawns are now more valuable, and a single pawn can make the difference.

Ultimately you will have many cases where it is pawns and king vs pawns and king. Do not forget that your king is your strongest attacking and strongest defending piece. This being said, the king is no faster than a pawn in a straight line. Be careful about how far your king gets from enemy pawns. If he falls behind he may not be able to catch up. 

Since the pawn is the only thing on the board that cannot move backwards each pawn move is essentially final, so take extra care with each pawn push since you cannot get it back. Anything other than a pawn and its usually a simple matter of wasting a turn to move the piece again, but the pawns cannot rewind.


Lets go through and talk about some quick structural points that will make evaluating your endgame a little easier.

Pawn Islands: This is the number of "groups" of pawns a side has. When you start the game all the pawns are side by side with no open files or semi open files. This means that you have one pawn island. If you take a middle pawn off the board notice how the left group and the right group of pawns cannot help guard each other, you now have two pawn islands. During the game you may have several groups of pawns, or pawn islands. The side that has more pawn islands often will have a weaker pawn structure. This is for several reasons. First, as we said you know have seperation between groups of pawns. These gaps allow easier acess for the opponent to get behind yoyur pawns and attack them. It also means more of the pawns will be weak, since more pawns wont have a pawn on either side to help defend and attack. As a result, more pawn islands means more work for your other pieces, and as you get down to fewer pieces you simply will not have enough helpers to hold together the weaknesses. In a n andgame with just kings and pawns, fewer pawn islands could be all you need to win since your king often will be more free to attack those weaknesses


Doubled pawns: Many players are overly scared of doubled pawns. The main things to know in the endgame with them are that doubled pawns often increase your number of pawn islands and the pawn that is stuck behind the other pawn is often a less effective attacker. In somecases the doubled pawns can actually be strong, for keeping pieces away and the front pawn can be sacrificed with less care than usual to open up more winning chances. Overall having doubled pawns is not idea, but don't stress is its move ten and your c pawns are doubled. There is a lot left in the game.

Passed pawns: A passed pawn is a pawn that has no enemy pawns infront of it in its own file, or the file to the left and right. This means if only pawns were left on the board it could march freely to become a queen. In the endgame this is a huge threat, and so if you have a passed pawn the opponent has to stop it or risk losing. Passed pawns are meant to be pushed because the closer they et to queening, the bigger threat they are. In a kings anpawns endgame the opponents king will be fored to stop whatever else its doing and stop your pawn. Hopefully this means your king can go win the game while your opponents king is busy. Passed pawns do have weaknesses though, expecially when multiple pieces are left on the board. Often your passed pawn will be isolated and unprotected by your pawns also. As a result you have to be careful it does not rush too far ahead where you can no longer support its advance, and your opponent can simply capture your threat and come back to the rest of the game in time. The square in front of a passed pawn is often a great place to put a knight or bishop. It can block the advance of the passed pawn and will also often be safe from other attacks in the endgame. The passed pawn is apowerful threat in the endgame, but you must procedd both with caution and haste, and effectively using a passed pawn take experience.



This week take some time to get more practice with kings and pawns. Play some games where the boards starts with only the kings and pawns set up.



Take a board and throw a few pawns and the kings onto the board. Before moving anything, write down the position, who should win, and why. Now play it out a coule times. See if you can get both sides to win with reasonable moves.

Now go back to a recent King Pawn ending from one of your games and play it out from both sides. Did the game play out that way? Why or Why not?


Advanced: For the advanced player todays lesson should have made sense, seemed pretty straight forward, and maybe a bit of a review. This week review 

a. when king vs king and pawn is a win or draw

b. make sure you look up, if you do not already know, how to easily se at the board if your kind is too far away to stop a pawn, or if their king is too far away to stop yours

c. Learn the Lucena position, you are at the level where this will likely come into play


  I want you to create a position where the sides have kings, equal pawns, but the side with the winning position has a. more pawn islands b. no passed pawns to start c. his king behind his pawns

Once you do that create a position where thre are kings and equal pawns but the winning side has a. no passed pawns to start b. his king behind his pawns to start and c. at least one set of doubled pawns

And then if you think you can...

a. equal pawns

b. at least 1 more pawn island

c. at least 1 set of doubled pawns

d. no passed pawns to start

e. king behind the pawns to start


Thank you for reading and I hope you will join again next week when we look at the POWER OF THE KING! Remember to join the study group if you have yet to do so, and post your work in the forums. Feel free to post any feedback/suggestions/comments and I would be happy to respond.

Have a great week and good luck in all your games!


-Michael Porcelli



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