Pawn Endings (1)

Black to play. How would you continue from here? What result would you expect?

I tell my pupils my three favourite things are chocolate, ice cream and pawn endings, so, whenever I have the opportunity I trade all the pieces off to reach a pawn ending as quickly as possible.

Playing White, I reached this position in a friendly game against Steve at the Adelaide on Tuesday evening.

The game continued 1… h5 2. h4 g4 3. Kd4, taking the opposition, when it’s clear I’ll soon win a pawn, eventually followed by promotion.

If you’re not sure about this concept I’d advise you to download Chess Endings for Heroes, which teaches you all you need to know about endings to reach, say, 1500 strength.

But could Black have done better? After the game we looked at 1… h6 2. h4 gxh4 3. gxh4 h4 4. Kd4, again taking the opposition and winning. Black could do better here in two ways. There’s 2… g4 3. Kd4 h5 4. Kc4, and after either 4… Kd7 or 4… Ke4 White will, with best play, eventually reach a queen ending a pawn ahead, which, according to the tablebases is a win. (Of course, whether I’d have been able to win it over the board is another matter entirely!) There’s also (after 1… h6 2. h4 gxh4 3. gxh4) 3… Ke5 4. Kc5 Ke4 5. Kxc6 Kxe3 6. b5! f4 7. bxa6 when again both players will promote, leaving White a pawn ahead in a queen ending which again, as it happens, is a tablebase win.

Going back to the diagram, this position, though, is a draw.

1… h5! 2. h4! gxh4! 3. gxh4 Kd7! is the only way to draw, intending to meet 4. Kc5 with Kc7! and 4. Kd4 with Kd6!, in both cases holding the draw by taking the opposition!

An instructive ending, I think. Pawn endings are really important. In other endings you must always think about what will happen in the pawn ending so their mastery is vital to really understanding chess.

I’ll be posting more soon – and there will also be occasional pawn endings in the weekly puzzles.

Click on any move below for a pop-up window which will enable you to play through the moves.