King and pawn versus king endgame


King and pawn versus king endgame

The chess endgame with a king and a pawn versus a king is one of the most important and fundamental endgames, other than the basic checkmates harvcol|Lasker|1915. It is important to master this endgame, since most other endgames have the potential of reducing to this type of endgame via exchanges of pieces. It is important to be able to tell quickly whether a given position is a win or a draw, and to know the technique for playing it. The crux of this endgame is whether or not the pawn can be promoted (or queened), so checkmate can be forced.

In the positions in which the pawn wins, at most nineteen moves are required to promote the pawn (with perfect play) and at most nine more moves to checkmate, assuming that the pawn was promoted to a queen harvcol|Levy|Newborn|1991|p=144.

Except for the section on defending and some actual games, it will be assumed that White has a king and pawn and Black has a lone king. In general, Black should place his king in the path of the pawn to try to prevent its promotion.


Rule of the square

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Rule of the square.
The first thing to realize is that the pawn may be able to queen unassisted by his king, simply by advancing to the queening square before the opposing king can capture or block the pawn. The "rule of the square" is useful in determining whether the pawn can queen unassisted, or whether the king can stop the pawn. In this position, the pawn is on the fifth square from the queening square (counting the queening square itself). A square of five by five squares with the queening square in one corner and the pawn in the other corner can be imagined. (Often, the easiest method of constructing the square is to draw a diagonal mentally from the pawn to the queening square; this is the diagonal of the square). If the black king can move into this square, he can stop the pawn, otherwise the pawn wins the race. In this position, if it is Black's move, he can move to "b4" and enter the square, therefore he can stop the pawn. If it is White's move, the pawn advances, the square shrinks to four by four, and the king cannot move into the square, so the pawn queens harvcol|Müller|Lamprecht|2000|p=15. See for further discussion on the rule of the square.

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Black to move. Black can move inside the square of the pawn, but the white king can block it. From Fishbein.
Even if the defending king can move inside the square of the pawn, the attacking king may be able to block it, as in the diagram from Fishbein.: 1... Ke4 (moving into the square): 2. Kb4! Kd5: 3. Kb5! Kd6: 4. Kb6! Kd7: 5. Kb7! Kd6: 6. a5 Kc5: 7. a6 Kb5: 8. a7 and the pawn promotes harvcol|Fishbein|1993|p=2.

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Study by Richard Réti, 1921. White to move draws.
Note that in some cases, the king can catch a pawn when he is outside the square by creating threats that must be parried, and gain a tempo. In this study by Richard Réti, the white king is outside two tempi short of catching the black pawn. However, White can draw by "going after two birds at once". (Also see endgame study.)

: 1. Kg7 h4: 2. Kf6 Kb6If Black moves 2. ... h3 then 3. Ke7 and White supports his own pawn, and they queen together, resulting in a draw.: 3. Ke5 Kxc6If 3. ... h3 4. Kd6 h2 5. c7, draw.: 4. Kf4, and the white king can stop the black pawn harvcol|Dvoretsky|2006|p=26.

Key squares

If the defending king is within the "square", then the pawn cannot queen without the help of its own king. The first concept that needs to be introduced is that of the key square. A "key square" is a square such that if White's king occupies it, White can force the pawn to promotion, regardless of where the black king is and regardless of which side is to move, and against any defense. The key squares are relative to the position of the pawn. Whether or not the white king can reach a key square depends on the position of the pieces. Of course, even if the white king occupies a key square, accurate play is still required in order to promote the pawn harvcol|Müller|Lamprecht|2000|pp=20-22|.

Note that the key square is in front of the pawn. Endgame expert Yuri Averbakh said, just as a father leads his child across the road rather than pushing the child in front, the king should also lead the pawn to the queening square.


Rook pawn

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Dots are key squares for a rook pawn. In addition, Black stops the pawn if the black king gets to any of the squares marked with "X".
A rook pawn (on the "a"-file or "h"-file) has much less chance of promoting than other pawns. The reason is that if the opposing king can get to any square in front of the pawn, it can not be driven away from the file, and the pawn can not queen. Black can always draw if he can reach the "c8" square for an "a"-pawn (pawn on the "a" file) or the equivalent "f8" for an "h"-pawn, except for the position in the next diagram, with White to move. Therefore, an advanced rook pawn generally has two key squares: "b7" and "b8" for an "a"-pawn, and "g7" and "g8" for an "h"-pawn. The key squares are indicated by the black dots in the position in the diagram on the right:


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White to move wins because the pawn promotes after 1. h7
If White's king can reach either of the two key squares, he can keep Black's king away and the pawn will promote. If the Black king can reach any of the squares marked with a dot or an "X", it stops the pawn Harvcol|Silman|2007|pp=105-6.

The pawn can also promote in the position on the right (if White is to move), after :1. h7

However, in practice most of the time the black king can stop a rook pawn because it is usually close enough that the white king can not prevent it from getting in front of the pawn (or capturing it).


Other pawns

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Dots indicate key squares for a pawns on the third and fourth ranks
Pawns other than rook pawns have a much better chance of promoting. If the pawn is on the second, third, or fourth rank, there are three key squares – the square two squares in front of the pawn and the squares to the left and right of that square. The key squares are indicated by the black dots, for example see the diagram on the right:


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Dots indicate key squares for a pawn on the fifth and sixth ranks.
If the pawn is on the fifth or sixth rank, there are six key squares: the square in front of the pawn and the squares to the left and right, as well as the square two squares in front of the pawn, and the squares to the left and right of it, see the diagram on the right, for example:


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Dots indicate key squares for a pawn on the seventh rank.
When the pawn is on the seventh rank, the key squares are the squares on the seventh and eighth rank that touch the pawn's square (see the diagram on the right):

Once White's king occupies a key square he can keep the opposing king from blocking the advance of the pawn, as will be shown below.


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Exception to key squares - stalemate with Black to move if the white king the square indicated or the square marked with an "x"
There is an exception to the key squares rule with a knight pawn, the black king in the corner, and Black to move. In the diagram on the right, with the white king on either the square indicated or the square marked by "x", the position is stalemate if Black is to move.


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White gets to a winning position by getting to the key square at "b5".

It is important to emphasize that White wins if he gets his king to "any" key square, and the path to a key square is not always direct. For instance, in the diagram on the right, the key squares for White are "b5", "c5", and "d5". However, Black can prevent the white king from reaching a key square directly, e.g.::1. Kd2 Ke7 :"'2. Kd3 Kd7 :3. Kc4 Kc6 (taking the opposition, see below).

However the white king can reach a key square ("b5") by going on the other side of the pawn::1. Kc2! Ke7:2. Kb3 Kd6:"'3. Kb4 Kc6 :4. Kc4 (opposition, and Black is in zugzwang) Kd6:5. Kb5 or :4... Kb6:5. Kd5and the white king has occupied a key square and has a winning position.

Opposition

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White wins by simply marching to a key square via "c5". Taking the opposition only draws.

The second concept needed is opposition — when two kings face each other with only one square in between, the side with the move may have to move the king away and allow the opposing king to advance. The other king has the "opposition".

However, Averbakh pointed out that the opposition is a "means" to an end; the end is "penetration" to a key square. If you can penetrate without the opposition, then do so. In this diagram, White should seize a key square by playing:

:1. Kc5

and moving to a key square on the next move (e.g. 1... Kd7 2. Kb6). Taking the opposition by 1. Ke4 draws (as do any other moves).


Rules

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Exception to rule 1, White to move wins.

Here are some rules that apply:

Rule 1: With one exception, if the black king can get to the square in front of the pawn or the square in front of that (which are key squares), he draws. The reason is that if the black king alternates between those two squares, he can keep the white king from getting to a key square. The exception is the position in the diagram, and only if White is to move because of : 1. d7 Ke7 (Black was in zugzwang):2. Kc7, followed by :3. d8Q.Otherwise, if the black king stays on one of those two squares, he keeps the white king from occupying a key square.

Rule 2: White wins if at least any two of the following conditions are met:
* (a) his king is in front of the pawn
* (b) he has the opposition
* (c) his king is on the sixth rank. harvcol|Müller|Lamprecht|2000|p=21

In positions in which at least two of the conditions are not met, it may or may not be possible to get to a position meeting at least two of the conditions, depending on the position of the pieces and who is to move. Recall that rule 1 above gives a condition which draws for Black.

There are three cases to be considered. In any of these three cases, the white king is able to force his way onto a key square and thus reach a winning position. Accurate play from that position is still needed to win the game.

Case 1, conditions (b) and (c) are met

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White wins if Black is to move.

Conditions (b) and (c) are met in this diagram, if it is Black's move.

:1... Kd8:2.d7 Kc7 (Black was in zugzwang):3. Ke7 (a key square) followed by :4. d8Q, and White wins. This position illustrates an important rule of thumb: "If the White king is on its sixth rank, the pawn must be advanced to the seventh rank without giving check." (If White's king is on the sixth rank and the pawn checks the Black king when it advances to the seventh rank, the black king can move in front of the pawn, resulting in a draw. In that case White has to either give up the pawn or move the king behind the pawn into stalemate.)


Case 2, conditions (a) and (c) are met

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White wins with either side to move.

Conditions (a) and (c) are met in this diagram, with either side to move.

If it is Black's move in this diagram, the game could go:1... Kd8:2. Ke6 Ke8 (Black was in zugzwang):3. d6 Kd8:4.d7 and White wins because the pawn advanced to the seventh rank without giving check, as in the position in the diagram in the previous section.

If it is White's move in this diagram, :1. Kc7 (a key square)and Black cannot prevent the pawn from queening.


Case 3, conditions (a) and (b) are met

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White wins if Black is to move.

Conditions (a) and (b) are met in this diagram, with Black to move

The game could continue:1... Ke6:2. Kc5 Kd7:3. Kd5 (a key square)taking the opposition:3. ... Ke8:4. Ke6 Kd8White takes the opposition. White's king has reached the sixth rank before the pawn, now the pawn can advance. :5. d4 Ke8:6. d5 Kd8:7. Kd6and White wins as above. There are several other variations, depending on Black's moves.

Example from Maroczy versus Marshall

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Maroczy versus Marshall, 1903. Black to move wins.
In this example from Géza Maróczy versus Frank Marshall, Black to move gets his king in front of the pawn with the opposition:: 1... Kg4!: 2. Kh2 Kf3: 3. Kh3 g4+: 4. Kh2 Kf2!: 5. Kh1 Kg3: 6. Kg1 Kh3!and the game could continue:: 7. Kh1 g3: 8. Kg1 g2 0-1 harvcol|Matanovic|1982|pp=19, 21

Defending

Now let's look at defending this position when only one of the conditions of Rule 2 is met.

The king is in front of the pawn

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King in front of pawn, white to move draws.

If the king is in front of the pawn and neither of the other two conditions is met, the defense is easy.

In this diagram, with White to move, Black's king is in front of the pawn, but it is not on its sixth rank and it does not have the opposition. White draws by : 1. Kd2 taking the opposition and preventing the black king from getting the opposition or advancing to its sixth rank. (Indeed, this is the only move that draws. Sometimes this position is reached after Black has captured a pawn. To draw, White must be in a position to move his king to take this direct opposition.) Then if the black king steps to the side, White simply maintains the opposition::1. ... Ke4:2. Ke2.If the pawn now advances, White gets to a drawn position by moving in front of the pawn. (Recall that if the opposing king is on the square in front of the pawn or the square in front of that, the position is a draw, with one exception.): 2. ... d4:3. Kd2, see the next diagram.

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Black to move, draw.

Note that 3. Kd1 would lose to 3. ... Kd3 because Black now has satisfied all three conditions of rule 2.

Black to move cannot make any progress from this position, the white king simply stays on "d2" or "d3".

The king has the opposition

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Draw with white to move.

In this diagram, with White to move Black's king has the opposition, but neither of the other conditions. White to move simply moves :1. Kd2and black cannot promote the pawn, for example::1. .. d3:2. Kd1 (Note, the defending king must drop back vertically) Ke3:3. Ke1 d2+:4. Kd1and now either the king must move away from the pawn and allow it to be captured or move 4. ...Kd3 resulting in a draw by stalemate.

The king is on the sixth rank

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Draw with Black to move.

In this diagram the black king is on its sixth rank, but with Black to move it does not have the opposition. If the Black king moves, the white king simply goes to "d2" (best) or "d1". If the pawn advances, a draw results as above.

A player should be familiar with both the attacking and defending roles, since a wrong move by the defender may allow the attacker to get to a winning position and a wrong move by the attacker may give up one of the conditions of rule 2, resulting in a draw.

Example from Gligorić versus Fischer

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Black to move, draw. (The position is also a draw with White to move.)

In the game between Svetozar Gligorić and Bobby Fischer, White can get his king in front of the pawn, but he does not have the opposition and is not on the sixth rank. Black must make sure that White does not get the opposition or get to the sixth rank:: 1... Kb8!Any move by Black to the seventh rank loses because White can take the opposition and reach a key square. (The move 1... Kd8 allows the white king to reach the key square a6.) After 1... Kb8, Black draws by taking the opposition if the white king advances, e.g. 2. Kc5 Kc7! draws or 2. Kb5 Kb7! draws harvcol|Matanovic|1982|pp=19, 21.

ee also

* Chess endgame
* Zugzwang
* Opposition (chess)
* Triangulation (chess)
* Corresponding squares
* Chess endgame literature

References

* Citation
surname1 = Dvoretsky | given1 = Mark | authorlink1 = Mark Dvoretsky
year = 2006
title = Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual
edition = second
publisher = Russell Enterprises
ID=ISBN 1-888690-28-3

* Citation
surname1=Fishbein|given1=Alex|authorlink1=Alex Fishbein
title=King and Pawn Endings
year=1993
publisher=American Chess Promotions
ID=ISBN 0-939298-39-2

* Citation
last=Lasker|first=Edward|authorlink=Edward Lasker
title=Chess Strategy
year=1915
edition=second
publisher=

*Citation
surname1=Levy|given1=David|authorlink1=David Levy (chess player)
surname2=Newborn|given2=Monty
year=1991
title=How Computers Play Chess
publisher=Computer Science Press
ID=ISBN 0-7167-8121-2

*Citation
surname1=Matanovic|given1=Aleksandar|authorlink1=Aleksandar Matanovic
year=1982
title=Encyclopedia of Chess Endings (pawn endings)
publisher=Chess Informant

*Citation
surname1=Müller|given1=Karsten|authorlink1=Karsten Müller
surname2=Lamprecht|given2=Frank|authorlink2=Frank Lamprecht
year=2000
title=Secrets of Pawn Endings
publisher=Everyman Chess
ID=ISBN 1-85744-255-5

*Citation
surname1=Silman|given1=Jeremy|authorlink1=Jeremy Silman
year=2007
title=Silman's Complete Endgame Course: From Beginner to Master
publisher=Siles Press
ID=ISBN 1-890085-10-3

Further reading

* cite book
author = Yuri Averbakh
year = 1966, 1993
title = Chess Endings: Essential Knowledge
publisher = Everyman Chess
id=ISBN 1-85744-022-6

* cite book
author = Reuben Fine and Pal Benko
title = Basic Chess Endings
publisher = McKay
year = 1941, 2003
id = ISBN 0-8129-3493-8

* cite book
author= Glenn Flear
year=2004
title=Starting Out: Pawn Endings
publisher=Everyman Chess
id=ISBN 1-85744-362-4

* cite book
author = Karsten Müller and Frank Lamprecht
title = Fundamental Chess Endings
publisher = Gambit Publications
year = 2001
id = ISBN 1-901983-53-6


= External links =
* [http://www.chessvideos.tv/king-and-pawn-checkmate.php Interactive king and pawn versus king practice]
* [http://mywebpages.comcast.net/danheisman/Articles/zzkingandpawn.htm King and pawn versus king]
* [http://chess.about.com/library/weekly/aa03f07.htm About chess]
* [http://www.chessvideos.tv/forum/about144.html Video explaining how to win with king and pawn versus king]


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