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Pawn Endings: Beginner to Expert

IM Eric Tangborn, FM Thomas Wolski Avg Rating: 1278 Endgames

Pawn Endings from Beginner to Expert - IM Eric Tangborn & FM Thomas Wolski. With the 100 challenges in this module, Tangborn & Wolski cover king and pawn endings thoroughly. Basic concepts (square of the pawn, king and 1 pawn vs. king basic wins and draws, opposition, triangulation, etc.) are covered. Then the challenges get progressively harder until the final ones cause masters to scratch their heads. King and pawn endings are the basic building blocks for any players? sound endgame technique and this module is suitable for novices (USCF or Elo ratings below 1000) all the way up to those approaching expert level (USCF or Elo ratings approaching 2000).

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  • King ending: the Opposition

    Of course a position consisting of just king versus king is drawn. The aim of this position is to illustrate the concept of opposition.
  • King Ending: The Distant Opposition

    The purpose of this position is to show an example of distant opposition. This is when the kings are on the same line (rank, file, or diagonal) with an odd number of squares between them and it's Black's move. Equivalently if it's White's move, he will have the opposition if the kings are on the same line and there is an even number of squares between them.
  • King Ending: Distant Diagonal Opposition

    The purpose of this position is to show an example of the distant diagonal opposition. This occurs when the kings are on the same diagonal with an odd number of squares between them. Here there is an even number of squares between them. The side to move can gain the distant diagonal opposition.
  • The Square of the Pawn

    The goal of every passed pawn is to reach the last rank so that it may be promoted to a queen or some other piece. When there is only one pawn on the board, it can only be stopped by the opponent's king.
  • The Square of the Pawn

    White is trying to get the passed pawn to the last rank so that it can be promoted to a new queen. Black is trying to stop this pawn with the king.
  • King and Pawn versus King: The Opposition

    This is a basic, but very important ending illustrating opposition. When the kings are on the same line and the number of intervening squares between them is odd, then the player who has to move will lose the opposition.
  • King and Pawn versus King: The Opposition

    This ending demonstrates the importance of the opposition. Recall that when the kings are on the same line with an odd number of squares in between them, then the player who has to move the king first will lose the opposition.
  • The Rook Pawn

    Winning with a rook pawn is the most difficult as this example illustrates.
  • King ending: The Distant Opposition

    With only kings left on the board, the position is of course drawn. The aim of this position is not checkmate, rather to obtain the opposition. With White to move, his plan is to eventually gain the distant opposition. You will gain the distant opposition when the kings are on the same line with an odd number of squares between them, and when the opposing king (here Black's king) has to move out of the opposition.
  • King ending: Opposition and Outflanking

    King versus king is of course a draw. But this will not be a normal chess game with checkmate. This position will be used instead to learn opposition and outflanking. White to play has the opposition. His goal is to reach f8 or h8 in at most 17 moves. Black will be trying to stop him.
  • Cutting off the King

    If it were Black's move in this position, he would be able to draw. White, with the move, will be able to win this position by cutting off the opposing king from the important squares.
  • Shielding off the Opposing King

    Black hopes to draw by quickly returning to the queenside. White needs to prevent this by shielding off the opposing king.
  • The Critical Square

    When there is only a rook pawn and kings on the board, the weaker side can draw if his king can reach the critical square.
  • The Skewer

    If both sides have passed pawns that queen at the same time, the side that queens first will usually have the advantage, often being able to give a check. Sometimes this check will be a skewer, also known as an x-ray. This is a tactic by which a piece is forced to move out of the way, exposing another piece to capture.
  • The Basic Position

    White will try to queen the pawn. Your goal as Black is to stop the pawn and draw. This basic position should be thoroughly mastered by every student.
  • King and Pawn versus King: The Opposition

    To solve this problem, you need to employ the concept of opposition.
  • King and Pawn versus King: The Critical Squares

    Opposition is the key to such endings. White needs to get the king in front of the pawn and also must gain the opposition at the same time. When he does so, he must have control over one of the three critical squares, c5, d5, or e5. Otherwise Black will draw if White's Kd4 is met by Kd6, giving Black the opposition.
  • King and Pawn versus King: The King on the Sixth Rank

    An important rule to remember is that a pawn on the fifth rank wins with the king in front of it. It does not matter whether or not White has the opposition, for in either case White gains control of the queening square (except with a rook pawn).
  • King and Pawn versus King: The Rook Pawn

    White's winning chances are greatly reduced when the only pawn is a rook pawn.
  • King and pawn versus King and pawn: The Sixth Rank

    A very important rule of king and pawn versus king is that White can win if he can get his king to the 6th rank in front of the pawn.
  • King and Pawn versus King and Pawn: The Defense

    This is a very important problem on your road to mastering chess endings. If it's White's move, he wins. If it's Black's move, then he can draw.
  • The Critical Squares

    Whoever moves has the advantage in this position. White to move wins. Black to move results in a draw. White can win if he can get the king to one of the critical squares e4, d4, or c4.
  • The Opposition

    In endings with only kings and pawns present, the opposition becomes extremely important. The key to a successful Black defense is to prevent the White king from getting in touch with the pawn's queening square.
  • Connected Pawns

    Being two pawns up in a pawn ending is usually an easy win. Here White has some problems, because if he advances the king too rashly, Black could draw by stalemate.
  • King and Disconnected Pawns

    Being two pawns up should be an easy win in a pawn ending. However, here the pawns are disconnected and the White king is completely out of play. Black can draw if he can win one pawn and then stop the other.
  • Controlling the Critical Diagonal

    Usually king and pawn versus king and pawn is drawn, but there are a couple of exceptions. For example, if White can win Black's pawn and the resulting king and pawn vs. king ending is winning. The other exception occurs when White queens first or both sides queen, but White either mates or wins the opposing queen or stops the pawn from queening. This position is an example of the latter case in which the pawn queens and controls the critical diagonal.
  • Knight Move Opposition

    The theme of this position is very important and often occurs in pawn endings.
  • The Opposition

    Black must remember the basic technique of a king and pawn vs. king ending in order to draw.
  • The Sacrifice

    Doubled pawns are pawns that are on the same file. Usually doubled pawns are weak, but here you have two pawns and your opponent has none. You want to force one of the pawns through to the queening square.
  • The Breakthrough

    White is a pawn ahead and needs to find a way to breakthrough.
  • Blocking the Critical Diagonal

    White has an outside passed pawn, the a-pawn. However, the Black king is within the square of that pawn. Nevertheless there is a way to block the critical diagonal.
  • Blocking

    A very important rule of an ending consisting of king and pawn versus king is that if the king gets to the 6th rank ahead of the pawn, it's a win. This needs to be kept in mind when the following problem is solved. Black needs to block the White king from reaching the sixth rank.
  • The Protected Passed Pawn

    A very strong pawn setup is when one side has a protected passed pawn. Then the inferior side can neither capture nor stray too far from this pawn.
  • Timing

    White's first move will be the most important. If he does not time things just right, then a draw will result.
  • Breakthrough Sacrifice

    In this position we see a breakthrough sacrifice, characteristic of backward pawns when the opposing king is far away.
  • Backward Pawn

    Whoever has the move in this position wins. White's problem is because his c-pawn is backward. Black's single pawn on the queenside holds up both of White's pawns.
  • Creation of a Passed Pawn

    You must keep your eyes open to tactical opportunities, especially in regard to passed pawns.
  • The Blockade

    Positions can arise in which a single pawn can blockade two opposing pawns.
  • Opposition

    This example is an excellent demonstration of opposition. The definition of the opposition according to Capablanca is "when the kings are on the same line and the number of intervening squares between them is even, the player who has the move has the opposition." He gives the following formula for the direct opposition: The kings are on the same color and there is only one intervening square between them. The player who has moved last, has the opposition.
  • Related Squares

    This position is an illustration of key or related squares. To win, White must capture Black's c3-pawn. He will achieve this if he can get the king to either one of the key squares e2 or b3.
  • The Sacrifice

    White has two methods to win this position.
  • Protected Passed Pawn

    With a protected passed pawn, this position will be easy to win.
  • Connected Pawns

    White can usually win when he is a pawn ahead, there are no passed pawns, and his own pawns are connected. The following instructive example is a typical case.
  • Disconnected Pawns

    White is a pawn ahead, but his pawns are disconnected. To win he must follow the important endgame rule of advancing the pawns only at the right times.
  • The outside passed pawn

    This position shows the advantage of the outside passed pawn in an endgame. Material is even, but White is winning. White intends to force the Black king over to the queenside to stop the passed pawn. Then the unopposed White king can move to the kingside and eat Black's pawns.
  • Pawn Ending

    This is a variation of the main challenge. Here we will see what happens if White takes the Black pawn on h4.
  • Doubled Pawns

    Unless one of the pawns will be immediately lost, doubled pawns as in this example win if the king is present to protect them. The key is that the rear pawn can be used for tempo moves to gain the opposition.
  • Key Squares

    This ending illustrates key squares. Key squares are the "dream squares" that the king wants to occupy in order to carry out a goal. White wins if it is his move in this position. Otherwise Black would be able to draw.
  • Overextended Pawns

    White will be unable to win this position because both pawns are too far advanced. The position would be won if one of the pawns were still on the second or third rank. If you have two disconnected pawns versus a single opposing pawn, don't advance both pawns. Just advance one pawn with the king and trade the advanced pawn at the proper moment to reach a winning king and pawn vs. king ending. This strategy does not work with both pawns so far advanced.
  • The Opposition

    White can win only if he can capture Black's pawn or force a favorable exchange of pawns.
  • The Opposition

    This is a very important position. The student must be completely familiar with the drawing concept.
  • The Outside Passed Pawn

    Despite the fact that White is a pawn down, he still wins! White has two large advantages in this position: 1) He has an outside passed pawn and 2) his one pawn on the kingside holds back three Black pawns.
  • Zugzwang

    This position occurred in the game Chkonia-Shivogin, USSR 1954. White has a win, but was not able to find it in the game. The theme of this ending is zugzwang. This is a German word meaning compulsion to move. If a player is in zugzwang, it is his move and any move that he makes will cause him to lose.
  • The Chase

    This is a study by I. Moravec, 1952
  • Path of Return

    White must quickly return the king to his kingside, but he must choose the correct path of return.
  • Pawn Ending

    This is a variation from the position called the Path of Return. We will see how Black takes advantage of the inaccurate move Kb8-c8.
  • Zugzwang

    Zugzwang is a German word meaning compulsion to move. If a player is in zugzwang, any move he is allowed to make loses or worsens his position.
  • Changing the Critical Square

    White appears to be in trouble, as he will soon lose his pawn. Hence a king and pawn vs. king ending will result. Black would be able to win if he can get his king in front of the pawn, on the critical square, and gain the opposition at the same time. White will hold the draw by changing this critical square, the result being that Black will not be able to gain the opposition.
  • Jettison

    At first White seems to have a good position, as he is a pawn ahead. However, a closer look shows that he is in trouble as Black has the much better placed king and White will soon lose both his pawns. Nevertheless, White has an unusual way to hold the draw.
  • Clearing the Path

    Even though both sides have four pawns, White has a way to break through and clear a path for a passed pawn.
  • Elegant Breakthrough

    Here we will see what White should do if Black answers White's 1.f5 with 1...Kd4.
  • Double Pawns

    This ending shows how to use pawn moves for tempos to gain the opposition. Doubled pawns are usually weak, but in pawn endings they can be used for tempos.
  • The Opposition

    Opposition plays a very important role in this position.
  • Schlage-Ahues, Berlin 1921

    This position occurred in the tournament game Schlage-Ahues, Berlin 1921.
  • Vulnerable Square

    This is a study by Duras from 1905. White is able to win by forcing the Black king to a vulnerable square.
  • Pawn Ending

    This is a variation from the pawn ending called Vulnerable Square.
  • Three Opposing Pawns

    When three or more pawns are opposing each other, there is always a chance that one side or the other can create a passed pawn. Everyone should know this position thoroughly, as it can easily occur in practice.
  • Prevention

    This is a study by F. Dedrle from 1921.
  • The Defense

    White will win this position if he can get his king to one of the key squares b6, c6, d6, f6, g6, or h6. Black's goal is to prevent the White king from ever reaching one of these squares.
  • The Space Advantage

    This is the conclusion of the game Brinckmann-Rubinstein, Budapest 1929. Rubinstein was one of the greatest masters of the endgame.
  • Missed Opportunity

    This position occurred in the game Chigorin-Tarrasch, Ostende 1905. White's position looks critical and he actually went on to lose. But he could have drawn! Can you find it?
  • The Breakthrough

    The theme of this ending is breaking through a pawn barrier.
  • An Endgame Study from 1885

    This is a study by Teed.
  • Pawn Sacrifices

    This is the conclusion of the game Averbakh-Bebchuk, Moscow 1967.
  • Pawn Ending

    This is a variation from the game Averbakh-Bebchuk, Moscow 1967.
  • Diversion

    This is a study by D. Goldberg, 1932.
  • The Opposition

    This is a study by A. Mandler, 1949
  • Tempo

    A tempo is a unit of time defined by one move. Often one tempo can be the difference between winning and losing, as whoever has the move in this position wins.
  • Reti Study from 1922

    This composition of the Czechoslovakian Grandmaster Richard Reti is probably the most famous example in chess literature of king and pawn on either side.
  • Triangulation

    This is from a game played long ago between Fahrni and Alapin. White is able to win by a triangulation maneuver.
  • Weaknesses

    Here we demonstrate analysis from the game Botvinnik-Smyslov, Sverdlovsk 1943. This is an instructive illustration of weak pawns and weak squares.
  • Deflection

    This position arose in the game Lasker-Tarrasch, 1914. Lasker demonstrates a clever king maneuver. His idea is to use an outside passed pawn as a deflection.
  • A Study by C.Salvioli, 1887

    The position is completely symmetrical, but having the first move allows White to set up a favorable king position.
  • Opposition and Triangulation

    This ending features the important themes of opposition and triangulation. When the kings are on the same line and the number of intervening squares between them is even, the player who has the move has the opposition. Triangulation is when the king makes a triangular motion in order to lose a move. Often this is done in order to gain the opposition.
  • The Opposition

    Despite being a pawn down, White is able to draw by demonstrating the value of using the opposition as a means of defense.
  • Pawn endings: Related Squares

    This position is an illustration of key or related squares. To win, White must capture Black's c3-pawn. He will achieve this if he can get the king to e2 or b3, which are the key squares. Therefore, to save the game, Black will have to prevent White's king from getting to e2 or b3.
  • Taimanov-Cuellar

    This is the conclusion of the game Taimanov-Cuellar, Leningrad 1973.
  • Pawn ending

    This is a variation from the Taimanov-Cuellar game.
  • The Queenside Majority

    This is the conclusion of the game Tal-Djurasevic, 1958.
  • Pawn ending

    This is a variation from the game Tal-Djurasevic, 1958.
  • The Stalemate

    This is the conclusion of the game Nikolaevsky-Taimanov, 1967.
  • Alekhine-Yates

    This is the conclusion of the game Alekhine-Yates, Hamburg 1910. The struggle will center on key points in the position, which are f4 and e6.
  • Combining Two Ideas

    This is a study by I. Moravec, 1952.
  • The Maneuver

    This is a study by I. Moravec, 1941.
  • The Awkward Square

    This is a study by A. Mandler, 1938.
  • The Blockade

    White is a pawn down, but has the advantage because White has an outside passed pawn and a better placed king. The key will be to blockade the Black king and keep it out of the action.
  • Pawn Ending

    This is a variation from the position called "The Blockade."
  • The Path

    White needs to return the king to the other side of the board to prevent Black from queening the a-pawn. But he must choose the right path to get there.
  • Disconnected Passed Pawns

    This is the conclusion of the game Stoltz-Nimzovitch, 1928. It illustrates the power of disconnected passed pawns.
  • Connected Passed Pawns

    This study by J. Behting from 1900 demonstrates the power of two advanced connected passed pawns.
  • More Related Squares

    This study by G. Walker from 1841 is a good illustration of related squares.
  • Zugzwang

    This problem is from a study by N. Grigoriev, 1935 and features the important theme of zugzwang. Zugzwang occurs when a player has a position in which having the move will cause him to lose.
  • Flohr-Capablanca

    This is the conclusion of the game Flohr-Capablanca, Moscow 1936. Black has a very poor pawn structure. The only way that he can draw is by preventing the White king from advancing.
  • Pawn ending

    This is a variation from the game Flohr-Capablanca. Here we see how White would win if Black makes an incorrect king move.
  • Pachman-Ilivitsky

    This is the conclusion of the game Pachman-Ilivitsky, Match 1956. This is another example of the important endgame rule that pawns should only be advanced carefully in the endgame. Black can draw this position because both of his pawns are in the starting position. If either one of them were advanced, Black would lose.
  • Pawn ending

    This is a variation from the game Pachman-Ilivitsky, Match 1956.
  • Aronin-Smyslov

    This is the conclusion of the game Aronin-Smyslov, Moscow 1961. Smyslov, one of the great masters of the endgame, finds a very clever way to save the game.
  • Two Passed Pawns Three Files apart

    This is a variation from the game Aronin-Smyslov, Moscow 1961. Here we see how Black could have responded had White tried the active looking move Kc4 instead of playing c3 in the game.
  • The Blocking Maneuver

    This is a study by Adamson from 1915.
  • Pawn Ending

    This is a variation from a study by Adamson in 1915.
  • The Breakthrough

    This is the conclusion of the game Zubarev-Grigoriev, Leningrad 1925. The winning plan is so beautiful that it resembles a composed study.
  • Pawn Ending

    This is a variation from the game Zubarev-Grigoriev, Leningrad 1925.
  • Related Squares

    This position illustrates the important concept of related squares. Composed by J.Kling in 1848, it is an extremely beautiful study.
  • Corresponding Squares

    This is a study by Bianchetti from 1925
  • Just in Time

    This is a possible variation from the game Pachman-Ilivitsky, Match 1956. Here we see how Black draws if White tries to advance the king instead of pushing the b-pawn.
  • Drawing Resource

    This is a variation from a study by Adamson in 1915.
  • Mutual Confusion

    Grandmaster Andy Soltis wrote in his recent endgame book that one should not trade down into a king and pawn ending unless one could safely bet one's first-born on the outcome of the game. In the game Wolski-Peters, American Open 1997, White just traded rooks from a slightly better position to reach an unclear pawn ending. I, playing White, anticipated a very long line which ended in Black drawing only after most precise play. However, I had missed a minor detail in my calculations.

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