07 March 2017

Lesson Plan: Pawn Endings

Some children have a tendency to push passed pawns too soon. In most pawn endings, the king must lead the pawn. This week, I plan to work with my young students to develop their understanding of opposition and outflanking, the means by which a king assists a lone pawn in its road to promotion.

Lessons on elementary pawn endings are frequently repeated in my teaching. Some students need multiple such sessions before they start using their king correctly. These lessons are also a regular part of my annual summer camp.

This week, the lesson will focus on a position that I created and then played against the computer while drinking my morning coffee. Several previous posts offer positions that I might use as well, if time and necessity dictate. See "Pawn Endings: The Key Position", "Rule of the Square", and "Six Pawn Endings".

White to move

Stripes,J -- Stockfish
iPad, 07.03.2017


1.Ke3 is the only other winning move, but it wins in more moves.


White to move


The only winning move. It is in positions like this one that some young students want to push the pawn. The crafty ones try pushing the pawn only one square. A pawn move in this position will always draw if Black understands the basic drawing plan:

1) keep the king in front of the pawn as near as possible
2) step in front of the king to seize the opposition if it is not possible to move one or two squares in front of the pawn.


a) 2.d3 Ke6 3.Kd4 Kd6 =
b) 2.d4 Ke6 3.d5+ Kd6 =

2...Kc6 3.Ke5

White executes an outflanking maneuver.

Here again, moving the pawn leads to a position that Black easily holds to a draw.

3.d3 Kd6 =


White to move


4.d3 is also possible. With White's king two squares in advance of the pawn, it is permissible to move the pawn one square. Play might continue 4...Ke7 5.Ke5 Ke7 Black grabs the opposition, but 6.d4 leaves the kings in their standoff, but transfers the move to Black. White thus seizes the opposition and will perform another outflanking maneuver on the next move.

Throughout this exercise, only one of my moves was not the best possible in the position. However, in many of the positions, there were one or more other moves that were equally good. In this case 4.d3 leads to checkmate in the same number of moves as 4.Kd5.

4...Kc7 5.Ke6 Kc6

White to move


Now, moving the pawn is best. Two other moves also keep the win in hand, but checkmate in three moves further away. 6.d3 and 6.Ke5. Every other possibility leads to a draw.

6...Kc7 7.d5 Kd8

White to move


This was the second time when White had only one move that secures the win. Stepping in front of a pawn that must advance may seem counter-intuitive, but it is precisely how the stronger side assures that the pawn will advance all the way to the queening square.

It is essential to alternate seizing the opposition and then giving it up until the king is able to control the promotion square.

8... Ke8

White to move

The three squares highlighted in red are called "key squares" because occupation of any one of them by White's king assures that the promotion square will be controlled.


The White king occupies a key square.

9...Ke7 10.d6+

Black to move

Only now, with White's king contesting the rest of the pawn's march, is is possible to let the pawn move beside and then in front of the king without throwing away the win.

10...Ke6 11.d7 Kd5 12.d8Q+ Ke4

White to move

With a queen and king, White can now force checkmate in eight moves. It took me nine because of one small error. The process of learning how to checkmate with queen and king against a lone king often follows lessons on elementary pawn endings (see "Teaching Elementary Checkmates").

13.Qd2 Ke5 14.Qd3 Ke6 15.Qb5 Kf7 16.Kd7 Kf6

White to move


17.Qh5 is faster.

17...Kg6 18.Ke7 Kh7 19.Kf7 Kh6 20.Qd5 Kh7 21.Qh1# 1–0

1 comment:

  1. If I am not mistaken this is also called the principle of the keysquares.