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King and Pawn vs King

The knowledge of this basic king and pawn vs. king ending will help you save games.
It's easy to apply. Once you've mastered it, you'll never forget it.

In this ending white has the extra pawn.

White would like to promote his pawn to a queen and win the game.
If you're black, and you know what to do, you'll be able to prevent this and drawn the
Now what do you have to do if you have to retreat?
I'll tell you: when you have to go back one step, stay in front of the pawn.
If you follow this advice, you'll draw the game.
Why is this important? Well, for one, it's easy to remember. But it has some real
importance when you have to retreat for the last time, to the eighth rank.
If you follow my advice, you can't go wrong. But if you don't know this or created a
wrong habit, you might retreat diagonally (as this isn't a problem on the other ranks).
We'll look at this "wrong" move now.

Black had to retreat for the last time. And now he thought it didn't make a difference
which square to retreat to. So he went to c8.
Now white can play
1. Kc6,

And here black to move has a problem. He wants to stay in front of the pawn, because
1... kb8; simply loses (after 2. d7 the pawn will promote).
So he plays 1... Kd8;
But now after 2.d7, the king can't stay in front of the pawn. So it moves away with

And now, after 3.Kc7, the square for promotion is available for white only, so he will
promote his pawn and win the game.
How did this happen? The black player didn't know the rule in this ending to "always
retreat in front of the pawn".

The right way to play

Now you know how things can go wrong, let's look at the right way to play this king and
rook vs king ending.
As I mentioned before, black has to stay in front of the pawn, especially when moving to
the eigtht rank.
So he has to play 1....Kd8!

White will try to make progress. So he plays 2. Kc6 (or ke6).

Now is the time to play the right (and only) move again. If the black king moves away to
e8, white can play Kc7, taking control over the d8-square so the pawn will promote.
To prevent this, it's necessary to stay in front of the king. Therefore the only move that
draws is 2...Kc8!

Now, if white wants to make progress again, he has to play 3. d7+, after which black
can stay in front of the pawn without any problems with 3....Kd8.
In the next diagram you can see the result.

If the white king moves away, black can capture the pawn.
So, the white king has to protect the pawn, but has access to only one square where
this can be achieved.
4. Ke6,

Now it's black's move, but black can't move!

It's a stalemate and a draw. Can you imagine how happy black will be?! He saved a
game while he was a pawn down.
And so can you!
I advice you to practice this endgame of king and pawn vs king. You can try to win with
a pawn up. And you can try to defend with a pawn down. If you practice this with your
chess-friends, you may be able to teach them something and have fun at the same time.
And you'll soon be able to draw this endgame on autopilot.

The Rule of the Square

You want to know if your king and pawn endgame will win? Use the rule of the square to
calculate quickly.
Instead of the tedious process of counting all the moves, the rule of the square will
provide a fast answer to the question.
Look at the following position.

You've probably noticed that the white king can't help its pawn?
The challenge now is to calculate if the white pawn can promote.
Can you do this?
If you didn't know the rule of the square, how did you do it?
Did you do it the hard way, by counting moves?
Let's do this together. White needs two moves to reach the seventh rank. If white is to
move first, the black king will then stand on e6. (1. g5, Kd5; 2. g6, Ke6;) The white pawn
will promote next move and there's nothing black can do to prevent this.
If you're like me, you'll find this process of counting the moves not very easy. Maybe it
works well in a simple position like the above. But how about a more complicated
Ok, let's make this task very simple now.

Rule of the square

If you're not yet familiar with the rule of the square, this may simplify your chess life.

Draw a diagonal from the pawn to the eighth rank. Now imagine a square that encloses
the pawn, the queening square and the diagonal like below.

And here comes the Rule of the square: if the king can enter this square of the passed
pawn, then it can capture the pawn before (or as soon as) it promotes.
Now, let's repeat our task. Find out if the pawn can promote safely.
If it's white's turn, the king will not be able to enter the square.
After 1. g6 we have to draw a new square.

Do you see? The king can't enter the square, so he can't capture the pawn. After
1...Kd5; 2.g7, Ke6; 3. g8Q, the king is too late.
Back to the original position.
If black is to move first, he can enter the square (1...Kd5).

This tells us, the king will capture the pawn. (2.g6, Ke6; 3. g7, Kf7; 4. g8Q+, Kxg8;)
You may check this using your chessboard.

Watch Out For Surprises

The rule of the square is very useful in practice, but I want to warn you for some
Black to move, can he stop the white pawn from promoting?

Before scrolling down, try to solve this position.

The answer is.....
If you have drawn the square as before, you were tricked.
The pawn may take a double step on its first move. Therefore we need to draw a square
as if the pawn was already one step further.

If you have done this, you can clearly see that the black king can't enter the square.
Now solve the next position. It's white's turn, can he promote the pawn?

This should be very easy for you now.

It's an exception because of the pawn's first move. It will ofcourse move forward two

Before the pawn move, our square has to be properly constructed as if the pawn had
already advanced one step.
We can see white to move wins (and black to move steps in the square and draws).

You can check the drawing of the square after white's first move. Black can't reach the
And here is another exception. White to move, will the pawn promote?

The shortest path to the queening square is blocked. The black king will have to take a
detour to get there.

If white is to move first, black will be too late.

Although the black king is already in the square, he can't stay in the declining square
after 1.f5, Kc5; 2. f6. The black king needs an extra move to walk around the pawn, and
therfore white wins.

Do you see that after 2... Kc6; 3. f7 the king is too late?

I hope you now understand the rule of the square. It's most helpful in positions where
the king isn't able to support his pawn. If the king can support the pawn things are very

Do You Know About Key Squares?

Will you be able to occupy one of the key squares and win the endgame? Find out how...
Look at the following position.

How are you going to calculate whether white can win or not? Are you going to calculate
variations? Do you have to count all the moves until the end?
If you haven't heard about the key squares, it may take a while before you find the
So let me tell you about the key squares and you'll always find the right way of play in
these positions.

Key Squares
The most important thing to know about key squares is this:
If your king can occupy one of the key squares, this will secure the victory, no matter
where your opponent's king is.
Now where are those key squares in your pawn ending?

The squares with an X are key squares. A pawn on its own half of the board has three
key squares.

And as soon as the pawn is on the other half of the board, there are some more key

Do you notice the differences?

The key squares are always relative to your pawns position.

Now, let's look at the first position again.

If you"ve mastered the theory about the key squares, you'll be able to solve this position
First, determine where the key squares are. The pawn is on the other half of the board,

White has the move, can he win? You know now,white will win if he reaches a key
square. Can he achieve this?
Actually it's very easy for white. 1.Kb6, and after 1....Kc8; 2.Kc6, Kd8; he already
achieves the goal by 3. Kd6.

And now white has a winning position. Black can't defend the queening square 3...Ke8;
4.Ke6, Kf8; 5.Kd7, and the white pawn will promote.

The Rook Pawn's Key Squares

The rook's pawn is a totally different story. It has only two key squares, and reaching
them with a king does secure a win (as long as the pawn is safe).

Here are the key squares. They don't change with the marching of the pawn.
Now it's easy again.
Take a look at the following diagram.

Now answer the following question. If white is to play, will he win?

You know how to solve this now.
You only have to answer one question.
Is white able to reach a key square?

And after 1.Kc4, Ke6; 2.Kc5, Kd7;3. Kb6, Kc8; (or any other try)

You'll notice the King is unable to reach any of the key squares, so black can secure a

Opposition in Chess
How to play for a win in chess endgames? Use the opposition.
When you know all about the opposition, you will be able to make your king as strong as
The opposition is a very important weapon in the fight for three adjacent key
squares in the king and pawn endings.
If you're able to win the opposition, you'll win the fight for the key squares.

Normal Opposition
In the next diagram you see the initial position when we talk about the opposition.

You are white. The black king prevents you from reaching any of the three marked
squares. You prevent the black king from reaching them too.
Is there a way to advance?
Yes there is! You have to make sure your opponent has the move in this position. When
your opponent has the move, he can't continue defending all three squares.
After 1....Ke7; you can play 2.Kc6, reaching a marked square. This way you'll make
The rule to remember is: if you don't have the move in the above diagram, you have the
You could also remember this as follows.
If you are the one to make the last move to reach an opposition position, you have the
Why is this so important?

I'll give you an example.

White to play. Can he win?

Without the knowledge of the opposition, you'll have to calculate at least four lines
(starting with Ke5, Kd5, Kd4 and c5). This involves counting a lot of moves until the end
of each line.
However, if you have knowledge of the opposition (and key squares), you'll find the
right move with ease.
Let's find the answer together.
First you have to find the key squares. Because the pawn hasn't crossed the middle of
the chessboard, there are three of those.

Now you know where the key squares are. You only have to reach one of them to
secure a win.
How do you reach a key square? Use the opposition.
If you play 1.Ke5, you'll have the opposition.

Black has to defend the key squares, so he has to play 1...Kd7 now.
You'll have to take the opposition again playing 2. Kd5.

Black defends the squares again with 2....Kc7.

And you take the opposition again with 3.Kc5.

Now we have the initial position and you have the opposition.

As you've seen in the beginning of this page, black can no longer defend all of the key
squares. He has to move to one side or the other (3.Kd7 or Kb7), giving white the
chance to occupy one of the key squares.

And after 4. Kb6 a key square is occupied and the win secured.

If you're unsure about the win here, play the two variations untill the end.
Variation 1: 4....Kc8; 5.Kc6 (opposition), Kd8; 6.Kb7, Kd7; 7.c5 (and now c6, c7 and
c8Q will follow).
Variation 2: 4....Kd8; 5 Kb7, Kd7; 6. c5 (and again c6, c7 and promotion will follow):

Distant Opposition
If there's more distance between the Kings, there's still the same idea.
If there's an odd number of squares in between the kings, the one who doesn't have the
move has the opposition.

To reach a target square in this position, you'll have to have the opposition.
If white has the opposition, black has to move. So black tries Kc7.

How do you reach a key square? Use your knowledge of the opposition.
Therefore you'll play Kc5 (Ke5 achieves the goal too, but taking the opposition
immediately is by far the easiest).

By now, you know you'll reach a target square, don't you? After 1..... Kd7; 2. Kd5 Ke7
(or any other move), one of the key squares is reached.
As a test, just to show yourself you've mastered the distant opposition, solve the next
White to move, take the distant opposition.

It should by now be easy to solve.

Let's look at it together.
You have the opposition if you were the last one to move into an opposition position.
What is an opposition position here? It has to be a distant opposition, so there have to
be an odd number of squares in between the kings (the kings have to be on the same
White can reach only one dark square on the d-file and that is d2.
So Kd2 is the right answer here.

Side Opposition
When the normal opposition occurs on a rank, it usually is called the side opposition.

Ofcourse here's distant opposition as well.

Diagonal Opposition
The next position shows you the diagonal opposition.

And a distant diagonal opposition.

In the diagonal opposition you'll have to calculate a bit.

When taking the opposition, you'll have to make sure there is an odd number of squares
in between the kings.

Virtual Opposition
When kings connect on a rank, file or diagonal, you now should be able to determine
who has (or can take) the opposition.
But what about situation where no such connection exists. What should you do?
Take a look at the next position.

I wouldn't have a clue if I didn't know the next rule.

Rule: you will gain the virtual opposition if you move the king to a square that builds a
rectangle (or a square) in which each corner is the same color.
Because black is on a white square, white has to move to a white square too.
The square e2 is the only one to make a rectangle with four white corners.

Now try this for yourself.

In the next position, take the opposition with the white king.

I hope you were able to solve this quickly now?

If you struggled a bit, read the previous part on virtual opposition once more.
For the solution, see the next diagram.

To understand outflanking, you need to know what the opposition means.
Opposition combined with outflanking, helps you to win endgames. The outflanking
maneuver helps you to penetrate the opponents position.
I'll first give you an example. If you study this, all will become clear.
I'll then show you how to use this outflanking during practical play.

As an example, you have to win this position with White.

You have the move.
And to make it a little difficult for you, you're allowed to move your rook only once.
How do you solve this problem?
Use the concept of opposition, together with the idea of outflanking.

The Solution
You have to start by making your king the stronger one. You'll achieve this by taking the
So 1.Ka2.

You've taken the distant opposition.

1....Kb8; 2.Kb2,

You've held on to the opposition, but you couldn't move forward yet.

And now we've arrived at a key moment.

You can keep the opposition with 3.Ka2, but this doesn't help you to make progress.
You don't want to move your king to a3 or b3, because this allows Black to take the
opposition and your king will be the weaker one.
There's another very good option though. You have to play:

Now you're outflanking the black king.

You're making forward progress while placing a file between the kings. You are
preventing Black from taking direct opposition.
Black has to decide now how to defend. He has three possibilities: Kb8, Kb7 and Ka7.

Variation 1: 3...Kb8

This allows you to move forward, taking the opposition again.


And now the process will be repeated. 4....Ka8; 5.Kc5,

Outflanking once more.

5....Kb8; 6.Kb6,

You've taken the direct opposition, and Black is in trouble now. He has only one move


Now it's time for the final outflanking move.

You've probably found this one yourself already...
7.Kc7, and Black has only one move left:

And now, finally, the time has come for your rook to move. All the outflanking has lead
to a position where the rook can deliver mate.
8.Ra1 mate.

Variation 2: 3...Kb7

This move prevents you from moving forward (for the moment).
If you were to move to b4 or c4, Black will take the opposition (b6 or c6) and you cannot
make any further progress.
So you have to take the opposition yourself, to make your king the stronger one again. I
hope you know which move to play?
Yes, indeed:

You've taken the opposition and you're ready to start a new outflanking maneuver.
4...Ka7; 5.Kc4!, moving one step forward.

One step at the time will get you to the other side.
The rest will then happen just like in the previous variation.
But... Black can try a different defence, like 5....Kb6.

This allows you to take the opposition again (I'll repeat it once more: it makes your king
the stronger one).

And now Black has to retreat to the seventh rank or he has to allow another outflanking
by 6....Ka6; 7.Kc5.
This way you'll always be able to advance to the other side, just like in the previous

Variation 3: 3...Ka7

If Black takes the virtual opposition by playing 3....Ka7, you're allowed to continue
moving forward using the outflanking move

In this position Black has two options.

1: stay on the a-file.
As long as black stays on the a-file, you can make forward progress (4....Ka6; 5. Kc5,
and now Black has to retreat because 5....Ka5 would run into 6.Ra1 mate).
2: return to the b-file.

Whenever Black returns to the b-file, you'll be able to take the opposition on the b-file
and another outflanking maneuver will soon start (4....Kb8; 5.Kb4, Ka8; 6Kc5!).
The rest will play out as in variation nr.1

Practical Example

This position illustrates why opposition and outflanking are important.

If you're White, you'll only win if you have the opposition. You'll win using an outflanking
Black has two options here: stay on the seventh row or retreat to the eighth row.

Option 1: Stay on the seventh row

If Black plays1...Kb7, you'll now easily find 2.Kd6!

Making forward progress by outflanking your opponent. After 2....Kc8, you'll take the
opposition with 3.Kc6!

You're ready for another outflanking maneuver. 3...Kd8; 4. Kb7, and your king covers
the queening square.

Thanks to your knowledge of opposition and outflanking, you now cover the queening
square and your pawn will promote.

Option 2: Retreat to the eighth rank

We've seen Kc8 in the previous line, so let's now look at 1...Kb8.

We know that taking the opposition is good, so 2.Kb6 is fine. (2.Kc6 wins as well,
because after 2....Kc8; 3.c5 you'll have the opposition again)

You know what will follow, don't you? You've seen it all before....
3....Kc8; 4.Kc6, Kd8; 5.Kb7, covering the queening square with help of the outflanking

So I hope you've got the feel for outflanking now. I think it will prove helpful in your
endgames. You now know how to outflank your opponents!

Critical squares
Discover the critical squares and use them!
The concept of critical squares looks a lot like the concept of key squares.
Where the key square is used to calculate whether or not you'll be able topromote a
pawn, the critical square is used to calculate if you can win a pawn.

In this position, with blocked pawns, you see the critical squares of the d5-pawn.
This pattern of critical squares is always the same for blocked pawns. It's three squares
on either side of the pawn.
Why is it useful to know about critical squares?
The importance will be clear to you if you know the following rule.
If White is able to occupy one of the critical squares with his king, he'll be able to win the
Let's look at an example.

In this position White will be able to occupy one of the critical squares. If White is to play,
then 1.Kg5 will do the job.

All Black can do now is try to protect his pawn.

1....Kd6; 2.Kf5,

2....kd7; 3.Ke5,

3.... Kc6; 4.Ke6,

And now Black can no longer defend the d5-pawn.

4....Kc7; 5.Kxd5,

White has won the pawn, as predicted. Does this guarantee the win as well?
Unfortunately, in this position it doesn't.
Black is able to reach a draw by playing 5....Kd7;

If you've studied the page about key squares, you'll know this is drawn position.
White will not be able to occupy any of the key squares.
Could you have foreseen this in the starting position?
I give you the starting position again, now with the key squares made visible with dots.

As you can see, the black pawn is not on a key square. This means that, once you
capture the pawn, you're not automatically winning.
If we move the pawns one row up, things change dramatically (because the key
squares are different there).

The critical squares (left image) and the key squares (right image).
You can see that with capturing the black pawn, the king will be on a key square.
This helps you to see very quickly if a position is winning.
You know that if you're able to occupy a critical square with your king, you'll win the
Black pawn. And as soon as you capture the pawn, you'll be on a key square, so you'll
promote your own pawn and win the game.

More Critical Squares

Blocked pawns have a lot of critical squares.

White wants to occupy the squares marked with a pink X.

Black has to reach a square marked with a black X.
What happens if both sides are able to occupy one of their critical squares?

Both sides are only two moves away from reaching their critical squares.
In these type of positions, the one who first makes contact with the winning square wins.
Where is the winning square located?

In this position, for White the winning square is e7. For Black it's c4.
If one of the kings arrives at his winning square first, it attacks the enemy pawn.
The other king must then defend the pawn, but will only have one move to do so.
The defending king will then be brought in Zugzwang and has to let go of its pawn.
Let's play this position.
1.Kf5, Kb6; (We already know that defending the pawn doesn't help).

2.Kf6! (not 2.Ke6, Kc5; Now White can't defend its pawn and loses), Kb5;
Both sides have arrived at their critical squares.

3.Ke7!, occupying the winning square.

White threatens to win the d6-pawn.

3....Kc5 (the pawn has to be protected);

The d6-pawn is protected for now. But the winning square isn't called winning square for
no reason.
4.Ke6, winning.

Black has no legal move left to protect his pawn. White will capture the pawn next move
and will be free to promote his own pawn.

And Now...
You now know what critical squares are and how to use them.
From now on, if you see blocked pawns, I hope you'll remember two things.
1: the critical squares you have to conquer (or defend).
2: the winning square you have to occupy if your opponent reaches his critical square
as well.

Two Passed Pawns against a Protected

Passed Pawn
When you have two passed pawns, this may help you win the game.
In case your opponent has a protected passed pawn, things may be difficult though.
White to play. Can you win this endgame?

When you are familiar with the "rule of the square", you might be able to solve this
In this position six things are important.
First: the white pawns can't promote without help of the white king.
Second: the white king can advance to f4 without leaving the square of the passed
pawn c4.
Third: the black king has to guard the connected passed pawns. He has to stop them
from advancing, so he is stuck on the kingside.
Fourth: the black king isn't able to capture the defending passed pawn, because the
other passed pawn would then be unstoppable.
Fifth: the white king may step out of the square if he can help his pawns promote before
the black pawn does.
Sixth, and this is the thing you have to know already (or to calculate for yourself during a
real game): if the white pawn queens, the black king can be mated.
Armed with this knowledge, you'll be able to come up with a plan.
White has to get his king to the kingside, to help his pawns move forward: 1. Kd2.

And black has to keep his king in front of the white pawns, to keep them from promoting

White can now play 2.h4, starting to move the pawns forward.

The black king has to retreat. If black would play Kf5 now, this would allow white to play
h5, moving his pawns forward again. To prevent this, black plays 2...Kh5.

White is going to bring his king further to the kingside now. 3. Ke2, Kg4; 4.Ke3, Kh5; 4.

The white king is still in the square of the black pawn.

The black king has to retreat once again, giving white the chance to move his pawns
once more . 4....Kh6; 5. g4,

5....Kg6; 6.h5+, Kh6;

White has the move now. He wants to create this position with black to move, as black
to move would have to retreat once more.
So he starts a triangulation, to reach this goal.
Notice that the white king is free to move around, as long as he stays in the square of
the black's protected passed pawn.
7. Ke4, Kg5; 8.Kf3, Kh6; 9.Kf4,

Now white has reached his goal and black has to retreat. 9.... Kh7; 10.g5, Kg7;

And this position is a crucial position. There's only one winning move here. 11.g6!,

Black defends with 11....Kf6 (or Kh6);

So White will have to perform one more triangulation to reach the g5-square. 12. Ke4,
Kg7; 13.Ke3, Kf6; 14 Kf4,

Black has to give access to the g6-square now.

After 14....Kg7 (the usual defense, although Ke7 is tricky too) White has to leave the
square of the black pawn to make progress, so 15. Kg5!.
When leaving the square in a real game, you'll want to be very sure such a move
doesn't lose.

Now there's no way back. Black will queen his pawn, so White has to make sure he has
a winning sequence. 15....c3; 16. h6+, Kg8; 17. Kf6, c2;

18. h6+, Kh8; 19. Kf7, c1Q;

The black pawn has promoted. However, as it didn't promote with a check, it isn't
20.g7+, Kxh7; 21. g8Q+, Kh6; 22. Qg6#.

Here is the winning position. If the black king hadn't been checkmated, the position
would only have been a draw.

If the c4 pawn were on a4 in the starting position, or if the passed pawns were on the fand g-file, then the position is only drawn.
I hope you understand this endgame now.
My advice for you is to practice it (with a chess friend) several times, until you eventually
know it by heart.