Elementary Pawn Endings - King & Pawn against King Ivan David
"Pawns are the soul of the chess" - François-André Danican Philidor(1726 – 1795)
Pawn endings is very complicated arena of chess game. Despite the fact, that they do not occur so often such as rook endings but nevertheless every ambitious chess-player should make himself familiar with them. The ability to assess them quickly and correctly plays an especially important role in the case of simplifications. But don't deceive yourself, though the board may be almost empty, pawn endings are full of traps and tricks, as you will certainly have already noticed yourself.
The Elementary Rules of Pawn Endings
The Rule of Square
#1: White to move, win; Black to move, draw
As you can see in the position of our first diagram the White King is much too far to be able to support his Pawn. However, is Black King close enough to catch him? How to assess this fact quickly and correctly? First, you have to create the imaginary “square” which is created by number of squares from the pawn position to the eight rank. Second, you have to assess if the defending King is inside of this square, or, if he is able to step into it. If yes, then defending King can capture the pawn. If not then the pawn will be queened. If in the diagram position is White to move then he wins by following fashion: 1.f6! Kc5 2.f7 Kd6 3.f8Q+ and White wins. If it is the Black to move, then he is capable to capture the pawn: 1.... Kc5! 2.f6 Kd6 3.f7 Ke7 4.f8Q+ Kxf8 and Black draws.
So remember this very important rule!
The Key Squares
#2: Key Squares
"A square is considered as a "Key Square" when its occupation by the King secures the win no matter who is to move."(Karsten Müller)
The key squares are typically located two ranks in front of Pawn in starting position. It means that for instance for b2-pawn the key squares are a4-b4-c4. The same rule is valid for the pawn on the third and fourth rank.
#3: Keys Squares - Pawn on the 5th rank.
For the pawn who stepped onto 5th rank there is six key squares. In diagram position the White King has occupied the key square so it doesn't matter who is to move, White wins in any case. When White is to move then he plays 1.f6 1...Kf8 2.f7! Kg7 3.Ke7 and wins.
When Black is to move then he must allow the White King to the 7th rank1... Kf8 2.Kf6(but not 2.f6? because of 2...Ke8 3.f7+ Kf8 4.Kf6 Stalemate!) 2...Ke8 3.Kg7 Ke7 4.f6+ and White wins.
#4: The (near, basic, geometrical) opposition
There is a plethora of terminology in the chess literature you can meet. So what is so called "near", "basic" or "geometrical" opposition? When one talks about the opposition, most often this "vertical" form of opposition is meant. This basic form of opposition is defined as the position of both Kings facing to each other and they are separated by one square only Why it is so important rule to know? The rule says that in majority of pawn endings who is in "opposition" to move he has a disadvantage! He has to do certain concession in the space. You will see the importance of this rule later and remember this very important rule of thumb.
The "Diagonal" Opposition
#5: The "Diagonal" Opposition
The opposition may not be only vertical. On diagram #5 you can see the example of so called diagonal opposition. Kings are facing to each other and the are again separated by one square only. The same rule mentioned above is applied is similar positions:"Who is in the opposition to move he has a disadvantage". Remember that very well!You will need it over the board! In similar fashion, opposition can be also horizontal. To summarize what has been already said, Basic opposition describes the position of Kings who are separated by one square only and there are three forms of basic opposition: Vertical, horizontal and diagonal.
The "Distant" Opposition
#6: The "Distant" Opposition
Now we have reached very important moment in our quest for opposition. We have already said that in the opposition Kings are separated by one single square. From the mathematical point of view it means that they are separated by odd number of squares. Having said that, whenever we have the position of Kings facing to each other and they are separated by odd number of squares, then we can talk about a distant opposition. In the diagram position you can see what I mean. Both Kings are on the same diagonal a1-h8 and they are separated by five squares which means by odd number of squares. Then they are in so called "distant" opposition. And the similar rules which we mentioned above can be applied.
Opposition without a direct connection
#7: Rule of te "Rectangle"
I have borrowed this expression from an excellent book of Jeremy Silman the "Silman's Complete Endgames Course". From time to time you would like to know whether you are able to achieve an opposition when the Kings are far too away from each other. So how to manage this difficult task? Here, we can apply the so-called "Rule of Rectangle". Let's have a look at following example. In position of diagram 7 is White to move. How he can achieve opposition? From the position of opponent's King we drop the lines and we create the rectangle when all corner squares are of the same colour as is the colour of the square on which the opponent's King stands. If the White King wants to achieve an opposition he has to step on the corner square of this rectangle. 1.Ka2 Kf8 2.Kb2 Ke8 3.Kc2 Kf8 4.Kd2 Kg8 5.Ke2 Kh8 6.Kf2 Kh7 7.Kf3 Kh8 8.Kf4 Kh7 9.Kf5. If we have a look at the problem from mathematical point of view, then the product of rectangle vertical and horizontal must give the odd number of squares. a x b = odd number of squares, i.e. a2 - e2 = 5; e2 - e8 = 7; 5 x 7 = 35
What is the priority?
#8: Key squares or opposition?
What has been said in the paragraph above can create a bit confusion in the head of any diligent student. In the position of diagram 8 White is to move. If we wants to achieve the opposition he has to put his King on f2 (because the rectangle is consisted of the squares rectangle f2–h2–h8–f8). However, this would be completely wrong plan. In this position White must take control over the "key squares" an these squares are highlighted by yellow colour. So White to move wins by following manoeuvre:
1.Ke2 Kg7 2.Kd3 Kf6 3.Kc4 Ke7 4.Kc5 Kd7 5.Kd5 Ke7 6.Kc6 and White wins.
Rule: If taking the Opposition fails to accomplish the goal of getting the King in front of its pawn, then it is useless to take the Opposition in the first place.
The "Knight" opposition
In certain special situations is not very wise to attain any standard form of the opposition. The diagram position is such an example. If White attains the geometrical opposition the he cannot win! For instance 1.Kd5 Kb4! 2.f4 (Wrong would be 2.Ke5? Kc4 3.Kf6 Kd4 4.Kxg6 Ke4 with draw.) 2...Kc3 3.Ke5 Kd3 and Black King will attack the white pawn which will lead to draw.
White has to put his King in the position where he can gain decisive tempo for attack on the g-pawn. This is possible only in the situation when the Kings will be standing in the distance of Knight's move - i.e. "L". 1.Kd4! 1.f4? would also do not achieve a victory because of 1...Kc4! with draw. 1...Kc6 1...Kb4 doesn't work for Black because of 2.f4! and White wins. 2.Ke5 Kc5 3.f4 Kc4 4.Kf6 and White wins.
_This position is another example of the "Knight opposition", this time in a defence. Where should go White King who is to move? There are two legal moves - 1.Kf8 and 1.Kh8. The later move looks ugly, however, this is the only way how to make a draw. White King will chase it Black counterpart from the king's flank keep attaining the "Knight opposition". 1.Kh8! "Knight opposition"! 1...Kf5 2.Kg7 Again! 2...Ke4 3.Kf6 Again and again! 3...Kd3 4.Ke5 E.t.c. 4...Kc2 5.Kd4 Kb1 6.Kc3 Kxa2 7.Kc2 and draw.
Wrong would be 1.Kf8? met by 1...Kf6! 2.Ke8 (2.Kg8 Ke5 and Black wins.) 2...Ke5! 3.Ke7 Kd4 4.Ke6 Kc3 5.Kd5 Kb2 6.Kc4 Kxa2 7.Kc3 Kb1 and Black pawn will be promoted to Queen.
#11 Dederle - Knight opposition
_White to move. White has two possible plans. First one: Kb5-c6-d7-e8-f7 fails because Black King successfully gets on h6 winning the pawn and the game. 1.Kb5? Kf2 2.Kc6 Ke3 3.Kd7 Kf4 4.Ke8 Kg5 5.Kf7 Kh6 and Black wins.
Therefore, White King has to approach the place of engagement from the opposite site to be able, when the g6-pawn will be shed, to achieve a geometrical opposition. 1.Kb3! Kf2 2.Kc2 Ke3 If 2...Ke2 then 3.Kc1! Kd3 4.Kd1 Ke4 5.Ke2 Kf5 6.Kf3 Kxg6 7.Kg4 with theoretical draw. It looks like a Knight Opposition. 3...Kf4 4.Ke2 And again... 4...Kf5 5.Kf3 Kxg6 6.Kg4 and there is no chance to win this position.
_Bähr's Rule - White to move wins
_Bähr's Rule helps to determine quickly whether the position with blocked rook pawns is won or not. Attacking king has to stand next to his passed pawn, and the defending king in front of it. 1) If the attacker's blocked rook's pawn has crossed the middle of the board, the attacker always wins. 2) If not, then: draw the diagonal from the defender's pawn towards the eight rank. From the point of intersection of diagonal with c-file (respective f-file in case the block pawns are on the h-file), draw another diagonal (so called 'border diagonal') towards the attacker's first rank. If the pawn is ON or BELOW that border diagonal the attacker wins; if it is above, then the position is drawn. 1.Kd4 Kf5 2.Kc5 Kxf4 3.Kb5 Ke5 4.Kxa5 Kd6 5.Kb6 Kd7 6.Kb7 1-0