Endgame Techniques: Pawn Race

In this article, I am going to analyze positions in which both sides possess passed pawns that have similar opportunities for promotion. Such a pawn race can produce interesting play.


Pawn race 1
Black to play

One interesting endgame came about in the city of Amsterdam in 1972. American GM Walter Browne, six-time champion in his country, did not take the correct route and granted his opponent the possibility of a simple tie following 1…f5?? 2.Kb4 f4 3.Kc4.

Here the winning idea is to bring the white king to a bad square, in this specific case the square a6. We see the motive.

1…Kd5! The king wants to escape the check from the white pawn.

2.b4 If 2.Kb4 Kd4! In order to avoid 3.Kc3, the main variation is gained in a similar way. 2…f5 Black falls behind in the race, but a fine detail will work in his favor.

3.b5 f4

4.b6 Kc6! The key move. In order to continue advancing, White has to bring their monarch to a6, where they will receive check from the black pawn when it promotes, this nuance defines the showdown.

5.Ka6 f3

6.b7 f2

7.b8(Q) Promoting first does not absolutely guarantee the victory, in fact, the white queen will be left exposed on b8. 7…f1(Q)

8.Ka5 Qa1

9. Kb5 Qb1 winning.

I learned a lot about Chess Endgames by using “Strategy Behind Pawn Breakthroughs in the Opening, Middle and Endgame – GM Roman Dzindzichashvili” and I recommend it if you want to learn more about the topic.

Pawn race 2
White to play

To finish, let’s study a composition from Dvizov in 1965.

The four pawns are located in the fifth row. The active role of his king and the passiveness of his opponent is in White’s favor. 1. Kg6!! 1.Kf6? is not enough because of 1…Kg8! 2.g6 b3! It will be important to control the square g6 in order to avoid mate on this square 3.h6 b2 4.h7 Kh8 5.g7 Kxh7 6.Kf7 b1(Q) 7.g8(Q) Kh6 and a tie. 1…Kg8 The following variation is fun: 1…b3 2.Kf7 b2 3.g6 b1(Q) 4.g7 Kh7 5.g8(Q) Kh6 6.Qg6 Qxg6 7.hxg6 c3 8.g7 c2 9.g8(Q) c1(Q) 10.Qg6 mate.

2. h6 b3 If 2…c3 3.h7 Kh8 4.Kf7! c2 5.g6 c1(Q) 6.g7 Kxh7 7.g8(Q) Kh6 8.Qg6 mate.

3.h7 Kh8

4.Kh6! b2

5.g6 b1(Q)

6.g7 mate.

“Mastering the Endgame Series” – Part 1 – GM Roman Dzindzichashvili
“Pawn Endgames – GM Jesse Kraai, IM David Vigorito and IM John-Paul Wallace”
Endgame Tips for Beginners


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