01 February 2012

Lesson of the Week

In pawn endgames, there are many positions where a single correct move must be found. Some of these positions have a habit of appearing with some frequency. I had White in this position while training against the computer yesterday (see "Small Differences").

Black to move

Black must play 1...Ke6, and then after 2.Kxf4, Black moves in front of the enemy king, 2...Kf6.

White to move
This position is a draw if White is the player to move. If it is Black's turn, White wins. Move the pieces one square further up, and the same is true. Move the pieces to another file, and it is still true for every file except the a-file and the h-file.

Memorize this position. You will see it in your games.


  1. The first installment of the best of chess blogging Carnival is up! The Best Of! Chess Blogging, Part I: Openings

    James, if you would like to have some of your best posts in the future Parts, please leave a comment, otherwise I'll pick 'em myself :)

  2. That's a good example of how knowing one key position (the position in your 2nd diagram, where White wins if it's Black's move and only draws if it's his own move) let's you quickly find the right move in a position like diagram 1. There's almost no calculation required for position 1 if you know the key position.

    Interesting enough, there's a related key position with the white king at f6, his pawn at f5, and Black's king at f8. That one is a win for White no matter who's move it is. Which means if you took all the pieces in diagram 1 and moved them two squares up the board, Black would be unable to save himself.

    Just knowing those two key positions lets you play a considerable number of king and pawn endgames correctly. Yet I've seen them misplayed all the time, even by B and A players.