Lessons

Pawn Endings: Beginner to Expert

Pawn Endings: Beginner to Expert

Learn how to play pawn endings like a pro!

Do you want to improve your king and pawn endings? Then this is the course for you! IM Eric Tangborn & FM Thomas Wolski will walk you through everything you need with many challenges to make you an endgame expert. Start winning your king and pawn endgames today!

Here is what you will learn:

  • Learn how to use the opposition to win!
  • Learn about tricky pawn breakthroughs!
  • Learn how to tell which endgames are winning and which are drawn!
King ending: the Opposition

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.
1 Challenge
King Ending: The Distant 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.
1 Challenge
King Ending: Distant Diagonal Opposition

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.
1 Challenge
The Square of the Pawn

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.
5 Challenges
King and Pawn versus King: The Opposition

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.
13 Challenges
The Rook Pawn

The Rook Pawn

Winning with a rook pawn is the most difficult as this example illustrates.
3 Challenges
King ending: Opposition and Outflanking

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.
17 Challenges
Cutting off the King

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.
4 Challenges
Shielding off the Opposing King

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.
5 Challenges
The Critical Square

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.
3 Challenges
The Skewer

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.
3 Challenges
The Basic Position

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.
9 Challenges
King and Pawn versus King: The Critical Squares

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.
10 Challenges
King and Pawn versus King: The King on the Sixth Rank

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).
4 Challenges
King and Pawn versus King: The 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.
10 Challenges
King and pawn versus King and pawn: The Sixth Rank

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.
14 Challenges
King and Pawn versus King and Pawn: The Defense

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.
10 Challenges
The Critical Squares

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.
9 Challenges
The Opposition

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.
8 Challenges
Connected Pawns

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.
5 Challenges
King and Disconnected Pawns

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.
5 Challenges
Controlling the Critical Diagonal

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.
5 Challenges
Knight Move Opposition

Knight Move Opposition

The theme of this position is very important and often occurs in pawn endings.
6 Challenges
The Sacrifice

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.
5 Challenges
The Breakthrough

The Breakthrough

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

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.
4 Challenges
Blocking

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.
4 Challenges
The Protected Passed Pawn

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.
12 Challenges
Timing

Timing

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

Breakthrough Sacrifice

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

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.
11 Challenges
Creation of a Passed Pawn

Creation of a Passed Pawn

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

The Blockade

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

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.
20 Challenges
Related Squares

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.
4 Challenges
Protected Passed Pawn

Protected Passed Pawn

With a protected passed pawn, this position will be easy to win.
12 Challenges
Disconnected Pawns

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.
9 Challenges
The outside passed pawn

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.
10 Challenges
Pawn Ending

Pawn Ending

This is a variation of the previous challenge. Here we will see what might happen if White takes the Black pawn on h4.
11 Challenges
Doubled Pawns

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.
9 Challenges
Key Squares

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.
5 Challenges
Overextended Pawns

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.
8 Challenges
Zugzwang

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.
9 Challenges
The Chase

The Chase

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

Path of Return

White must quickly return the king to his kingside, but he must choose the correct path of return.
9 Challenges
Changing the Critical Square

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.
7 Challenges
Jettison

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.
5 Challenges
Clearing the Path

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.
4 Challenges
Elegant Breakthrough

Elegant Breakthrough

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

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.
18 Challenges
Schlage-Ahues, Berlin 1921

Schlage-Ahues, Berlin 1921

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

Vulnerable Square

This is a study by Duras from 1905. White is able to win by forcing the Black king to a vulnerable square.
9 Challenges
Three Opposing Pawns

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.
3 Challenges
Prevention

Prevention

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

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.
7 Challenges
The Space Advantage

The Space Advantage

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

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?
3 Challenges
An Endgame Study from 1885

An Endgame Study from 1885

This is a study by Teed.
7 Challenges
Pawn Sacrifices

Pawn Sacrifices

This is the conclusion of the game Averbakh-Bebchuk, Moscow 1967.
6 Challenges
Diversion

Diversion

This is a study by D. Goldberg, 1932.
8 Challenges
Tempo

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.
9 Challenges
Reti Study from 1922

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.
6 Challenges
Triangulation

Triangulation

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

Weaknesses

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

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.
8 Challenges
A Study by C.Salvioli, 1887

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.
8 Challenges
Opposition and Triangulation

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.
11 Challenges
Pawn endings: Related Squares

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.
7 Challenges
Taimanov-Cuellar

Taimanov-Cuellar

This is the conclusion of the game Taimanov-Cuellar, Leningrad 1973.
13 Challenges
The Queenside Majority

The Queenside Majority

This is the conclusion of the game Tal-Djurasevic, 1958.
11 Challenges
The Stalemate

The Stalemate

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

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.
5 Challenges
Combining Two Ideas

Combining Two Ideas

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

The Maneuver

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

The Awkward Square

This is a study by A. Mandler, 1938.
11 Challenges
The Path

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.
8 Challenges
Disconnected Passed Pawns

Disconnected Passed Pawns

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

Connected Passed Pawns

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

More Related Squares

This study by G. Walker from 1841 is a good illustration of related squares.
10 Challenges
Flohr-Capablanca

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.
6 Challenges
Pachman-Ilivitsky

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.
12 Challenges
Aronin-Smyslov

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.
6 Challenges
Two Passed Pawns Three Files apart

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.
8 Challenges
The Blocking Maneuver

The Blocking Maneuver

This is a study by Adamson from 1915.
14 Challenges
Corresponding Squares

Corresponding Squares

This is a study by Bianchetti from 1925
7 Challenges
Just in Time

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.
7 Challenges
Drawing Resource

Drawing Resource

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

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.
13 Challenges

Pawn Endings: Beginner to Expert

Endgames
88 Lessons
No Videos
693 Challenges
Released December 8, 2007
47,318 Students