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

In endgames of minor piece vs. a single Pawn, the distinction between strong side and weak side is blurred. The strong side -- the side with the piece -- can normally do no better than draw. If there is a win, it is for the weak side.

Bishop vs. Pawn

These endgames are easy to evaluate. If the Bishop can attack any square in front of the advancing Pawn, the game is drawn.

BCE 140a

The trick here is not complicated. The Bishop must guard b7, the only square where it can stop the Pawn.

1.Ka6 Be4 2.b7 Kc7 3.Ka7 Bxb7

Knight vs. Pawn

These endgames are more difficult than Bishop vs. Pawn. Unlike the line pieces, the King and Knight both move in short steps and meet on adjacent squares when they fight.

BCE 101

Here the King and Knight circle around the Pawn, attacking each other in turn. Neither side can make progress.

1...Kc2 2.Na3+ or 1...Ka2 2.Nc3+

BCE 101

The Knight often has another defense available to it. Here it allows the Pawn to promote, because the position of the King permits a fork.

1...Kc2 2.Nc4 b1=Q 3.Na3+

BCE 101a

A Pawn on a Rook file (a/h-files) is the most dangerous adversary for the Knight, with its freedom of movement severely restricted on the side of the board. If the Pawn is not far advanced, the Knight can cope.

1.Nc3+ Kb4 2.Nd5+ Kc4 3.Nb6+ Kb5 4.Nd5

BCE 101a

Here the Knight has no good moves and will be captured quickly. It makes no difference if White or Black is to move.

BCE 101b

The knight must also avoid positions where it can be attacked by the Pawn.


Now the Knight has no way to cover either of the two squares which the Pawn will pass on its way to promotion.

BCE 102

The knight can often use a check to propel it toward the advancing Pawn.

1.Nf7 h3 2.Ng5 h2 3.Ne4+ Kc2 (See the following two diagrams for Black's alternate third moves.) 4.Ng3 Kd1 5.Kd6 Ke1 6.Ke5 Kf2 7.Kf4

BCE 102

This is the position if Black had continued 3...Kd4 4.Nf2 in the previous variation. The Black King is blocked by an invisible barrier. The moves 4...Kd3 & 4...Ke4 are not permitted by the rules, while 4...Ke3 & 4...Ke5 both lose the Pawn to a fork by 5.Ng4+. Black has no choice but to try a run around the barrier.

4...Kc3 5.Kd6 Kd2 6.Ke5 Ke2 7. Nh1 Kf3 8.Kd4 Kg2 9.Ke3 Kxh1 10.Kf2 stalemate

BCE 102

Similarly, this is the position if Black had continued 3...Kd3 4.Ng3 from the same previous variation. Here the barrier is formed by the squares e2 & e4, under direct attack by the Knight, plus the squares d2 & e3, which allow Nc1+, forking the King and Pawn. Black must again run around the barrier with Kc2, but this is too slow and gives the White King time to assist the beleaguered Knight.

BCE 102a

Finally, here's an unusual position where the Black King is smothered by its own Pawn.

1.Kc2 Ka1 2.Nc1 a2 3.Nb3 mate


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