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Elementary endgames (Part 3)
Major piece without Pawns vs. Pawn without pieces.

Endgames of major piece vs. a single Pawn are relatively straightforward. If the strong side can capture the Pawn without sacrificing the piece, the remaining material is sufficient to force mate. Otherwise, the game is a draw. There are a few unusual positions where the weak side even wins.

Queen vs. Pawn

These endings occur frequently. The usual scenario is that both sides have a single passed Pawn racing to promote to a Queen. One side promotes a few moves before the other, leaving Queen vs. Pawn.

If the Pawn is not on the seventh rank, the game is always won for the strong side. If the Pawn is on the seventh rank, the game is won if the Pawn is not on a Bishop file (c/f-files) or a Rook file (a/h).

For Pawns on a Knight (b/g) or center (d/e) files, the Queen needs the support of its King to capture the Pawn. The winning procedure is shown in the following diagram.

BCE 544

First the Queen approaches the Pawn with a zigzag checking maneuver.

1.Qf7+ Kg2 2.Qe6 Kf2 3.Qf5+ Kg2 4.Qe4+ Kf2 5.Qf4+ Kg2 6.Qe3 Kf1 7.Qf3+

The position after 7.Qf3+ is shown in the next diagram. The move forces the Black King to block its own pawn, letting the White King advance one square closer to the Pawn.

BCE 544 (cont.)

The Queen can force the opponent's King to block its own Pawn as often as necessary.

7...Ke1 8.Kc6 Kd2 9.Qf2 Kd1 10.Qd4+ Kc2 11.Qe3 Kd1 12.Qd3+

Once again the strong side gets a chance to advance its King toward the Pawn. Eventually the King reaches a position where it can win the Pawn and force checkmate.

12...Ke1 13.Kd5 Kf2 14. Qd2 Kf1 15.Qf4+ Kg2 16.Qe3 Kf1 17.Qf3+ Ke1 18.Ke4 Kd2 19.Qd3+ Ke1 20.Kf3 Kf1 21.Qxe2+ Kg1 22.Qg2 mate

BCE 545

The winning maneuver does not work with a Pawn on a Bishop file. In the model position, the King seeks refuge in the corner instead of blocking its Pawn. The capture of the Pawn then results in stalemate.

1.Qg3+ Kh1 2.Qxf2 stalemate

BCE 546

A stalemate defense is also possible with the Pawn on a Rook file. If the strong side avoids the stalemate, the King has no time to approach the Pawn.

1.Qg3+ Kh1 2.Kd3 stalemate

Rook vs. Pawn

These endings also occur frequently. The usual scenario is both sides with a Rook and passed Pawn, the Pawns racing to promote. The side losing the race sacrifices its Rook for the opponent's Pawn, leaving a Rook vs. Pawn endgame.

Unlike the Queen, a Rook alone cannot stop the Pawn from advancing. The question is whether the strong side's King can reach the critical sector to stop the Pawn from promoting.

The first consideration is whether the King and Pawn are sufficiently advanced to present a real threat. The following diagram shows what happens if they are too far back.

BCE 281

Here the King and Pawn are on their third rank. The opposing Rook first separates the King from the Pawn.

1.Ra5 h5 2.Kc7 h4

Then it waits until the Pawn can no longer be protected by its King. Finally, it wins the Pawn. 3.Kd6 h3 4.Ra3 h2 5.Rh3

BCE 282

Rook vs. Pawn endgames abound with critical positions. These are positions where the game is won if the strong side is to move, but drawn for the weak side to move. Here's an example.

If the strong side is to move, it can stop the Pawn with 1.Rg1+ Kf5 2.Rh1 Kg6 3.Kb2 h5 4.Kc3 Kg5 5.Kd2 h4 6.Ke2 Kg4 7.Kf2 h3 8.Ra1 Kf4 9.Ra4+.

If the weak side is to move, the Pawn is unstoppable. 1...h5 2.Kb2 h4 3.Kc2 h3 4.Kd2 h2 5.Ke2 Kg3 6.Rh1 Kg2 7.Rxh2+

BCE 282a

This position illustrates a useful trick. First, the King and Rook induce a near stalemate.

1.Rg8 Kh1 2.Kf2 h2 3.Kg3 Kg1

At the critical moment, the King releases the stalemate, at the same time crossing over to attack the Pawn. The threat of immediate checkmate forces the King to abandon its pawn.

4.Kh3+ Kh1 5.Ra8 Kg1 6.Ra1+ Kf2 7.Kxh2

BCE 284

Here's another critical position. Even though the King seems far behind, White to move has enough time to catch the Pawn. This is because Black must advance both King and Pawn to the seventh rank to threaten promotion.

1.Kc6 d3 2.Kc5 Ke3 3.Kc4 d2 4.Kc3 Ke2 5.Kc2

If Black is to move, the White King is too far back.

1...d3 2.Kc6 d2 3.Kc5 Ke3 4.Kc4 Ke2 5.Ra2 Ke1

BCE 285

Positions where the Kings are on the same side of the Pawn are sometimes difficult to calculate. The weak side can use the opposition to prevent the other King from approaching. Here's another critical position.

1.Kd6 e3 2.Ke5 Kd3 3.Kf4 e2 4.Kf3 Kd2 5.Ra2+

1...e3 2.Kd6 e2 3.Ke5 Kd3 4.Kf4 Kd2 5.Ra2+ Kd3 (or 5...Kd1) draws

BCE 286a

Finally, here's a rare example where the Rook is unable to stop the Pawn.

1.c7 Rd6+ 2.Kb5 (not 2.Kb7 Rd7 or 2.Kc5 Rd1) 2...Rd5+ 3.Kb4 Rd4+ 4.Kb3 Rd3+ 5.Kc2 Rd4 6.c8=R (not 6.c8=Q Rc4+ 7.Qxc4 stalemate) 6...Ra4 7.Kb3 and wins the Rook or mates.


The positions on this page are all taken from Reuben Fine's Basic Chess Endings (BCE) and are numbered accordingly.

 Related Resources
• Part 1 - Elementary endgames
• Part 2 - Pieces in combat, no Pawns
• Part 3a - Major piece without Pawns vs. Pawn without pieces
• Part 3b - Minor piece without Pawns vs. Pawn without pieces
• Part 4 - Piece plus Pawn vs. equivalent piece without Pawn
• Part 5 - King and Pawn
Part 6 - Rook's Pawn
• Part 7 - Outside Passed Pawn
• Part 8 - Rook plus a lone Pawn vs. a Rook
• Part 9 - Strengths and weaknesses of the minor pieces
• Part 10 - Endgame Studies