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Knight Vs. Passed Pawns

  • #1

    Here's an interesting endgame I got in one of my bullet games: 








    What do you think white should do to secure the draw? If Black goes to the queenside, what are you supposed to do? Do you take his kingside pawns and then sacrifice the knight to draw, or is this strategy not feasible? 


    Thanks for any help. 

  • #2

    I would play Kf3 with the idea of playing Kg3 and securing the kingside. The king in the middle can stop 3 pawns. Then I would play a4 and a5, and then start creating weaknesses with your knight threatening the kingside pawns.

    I mean, you talk about securing a draw - at first sight it seems to me that White can win this endgame.


  • #3

    Yeah, I did play Kf3, but only after Ng6 because I thought that the kingside pawns were too powerful. But I don't get how the king can stop three pawns? Can't they just advance?

    Since White can't really go over to the queenside, can't Black just ignore the kingside and advance on the queenside? I guess that's where the draw comes from (Black isn't fast enough on the queenside). 

    By the way, I let my engine run for quite some time and it says it's a draw...I just want to know how to play this like a human and if the engine truly is correct in its assessment. 

  • #4

    Well the way the black king can stop 3 pawns is the following: let's imagine the ideal situation where three pawns are aligned in the same rank and our king stands in front of the central pawn (i.e. pawns on f5-g5-h5, king on g3). If g4 is played then you cannot advance the side pawns without losing them; if f4+ or h4+ you move in front of that pawn that gave check, i.e. 1...f4+ 2.Kf3. Now you cannot advance your central pawn and if you advance the other side pawn, then the king just sneaks into the hole created, i.e. 2...h4 Kg4! OK you cannot take the central pawn but the rival cannot make any further progress either. After that your knight will do the rest.

    The only tricky thing is that after 1.Kf3 Black may play 1...h4 preventing Kg3, and the ideal move now would be Nf3! and either the G or H pawn will fall. That is why I think that 1.Kf2 would be better.

    You mentioned that we could ignore the kingside pawns and advance the queenside - well, you cannot really ignore the kingside pawns threat. The knight alone cannot stop those three pawns. On the other hand we cannot create a passed pawn on the queenside yet.

    I think the main idea remains to stop the kingside pawns, pick them all with the help of the knight, try to take the central pawn, and create a central passed pawn. I think that should be our plan.

    If the engine says it is a draw, I do not know - I cannot see that further ahead, but in this position I would try to play for a win for sure.


  • #5

    Hello again, 

    g4: One should be careful of not playing Kf4, as that will be met by h4, correct? I believe that this will be an important point to remember as this endgame reaches completion. 

    f4+ and h4+: Yeah, this clarifies your point: the king isn't just stopping the pawns in the sense that he can move around and pick them off (if he does, you can sacrifice one of the pawns and get the others rolling, like playing 2. ...h4 after 1. ...g4 2. Kf4). He's stopping the pawns in the sense that he's a complete blockader that paralyzes their march.

    Nice point on Kf2. These subtle points are what make great endgame masters have such a smooth playing style. 

    Queenside pawns: I said that Black can ignore his kingside pawns while White deals with them, and then Black can create threats on the queenside. I apologize if the point I was trying to make wasn't clear. However, I think that this plan is neutralized by White's central pawn - so that's why this position is drawn. 

    Anyway, thanks for all the clarifications. Of course, this was a bullet match, but I felt as if Black and only Black could be better. Now, it seems to me that any inaccuracy by Black could cost him the game. 

  • #6


    Just one clarification to the g4: yes, you are right not to play Kf4 because then h4 is coming. Actually after g4 the king must remain in f3 stopping the march of the side pawns.

    If Black ignores the kingside pawns and tries to make progress on the queenside then yes, I think that sooner or later we will have to sacrifice the knight or in the best case we will remain with no pawns so... a draw, yes.

    Even for a bullet, this endgame arising was very interesting!


  • #7

    Yes, you do indeed get some wonderful positions in bullet games - I just wish I had enough training in this game to know what to do in some of them! I'm always fascinated by these imbalanced positions, especially in the endgame, and I'd love to learn a lot about them.

    Anyway, thanks for your help. It's a pleasure to see people analyzing and discussing such fascinating chess positions. 


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