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Elementary endgames (Part 7d)
Outside passed Pawn with major pieces.

In minor piece endgames, the outside passed Pawn proved to be a winning advantage in almost every position that we've looked at. In major piece endgames, the win is not so clear.

The heavy pieces can attack and defend several points on all sides of the board at the same time. Positional factors like the initial placing of the pieces make the difference between a win and a draw.


Rooks belong behind passed Pawns. As a passed Pawn advances, each move forward restricts the space available to a Rook in front of it and increases the space of a Rook behind it.

In the following position the Black Rook is actively placed behind the Pawn. It has a more favorable position than the passively placed White Rook.

Speelman 137a; Averbakh 134

The position is drawn. Once the Pawn reaches a7, the White Rook can't vacate the promotion square without the help of its King. If the White King approaches the Pawn on a7, the Black Rook will drive it away with checks. The Black King can stay where it is, safe from dangerous checks by the enemy Rook.

If White leaves the Pawn on a6, to keep a King shelter on a7, Black will attack the Kingside Pawns. In the worst case, Black will sacrifice the Rook for the a-Pawn, after which the White pieces will be too far from the Kingside to stop the Black Pawns. White will be forced to sacrifice its own Rook and the game will be drawn.

In the following position the White Rook is actively placed behind the Pawn. The Black Rook is passively placed; all it can do is occupy the promotion square, preventing the Pawn from moving there.

Speelman 137b

The position is a win for White. White will advance the Pawn to a7 and bring up the King to chase the Black Rook away from a8. The Black King can no longer afford to sit there and do nothing, but as soon as it leaves the Kingside Pawns, they become vulnerable to attack. The play will be complicated, but White should prevail.

The following position is similar to the first, which was a draw. Here the Queenside pieces are shifted from the a-file to the b-file.

Speelman 137c

Now White has winning chances. The White King has both the a- and c-file to escape checks. If Black should sacrifice the Rook for the b-Pawn, the White King will be one file closer to return to its Kingside and aid its Rook.


In Queen endgames, King safety is the most important consideration. In the following position, White's King is sheltered from checks by its Pawns.

Speelman 139a

The only vulnerable line is the long a8-h1 diagonal. By playing 1.Qb7, the White Queen stops all checks on that diagonal and prepares to shepherd the a-Pawn to a8. Black is lost.

In the following diagram, only the position of White's f-Pawn has changed.

Speelman 139b

Now the White Queen must stay on a2 to stop checks on the 2nd rank. If the Black Queen sits in front of the Pawn on a6 or a7, it can't be dislodged easily. Black should be able to draw.

 More of this Feature
• Part 7 : Introduction
• Part 7a : Knights
• Part 7b : Bishops
• Part 7c : Minor pieces
• Part 7d : Major pieces
 Related Resources
• Part 6 - Rook's Pawn