The King and pawn endgame is probably the most important chess endgame there is. It is crucial for any player who wants to make progress in their chess careers to understand these endgames and learn to master them, as they appear frequently.
A key aspect of the King and pawn endgame is Zugzwang – the idea that a player is obliged to move even if it isn’t in their best interests. You can’t skip your turn in chess, and when you are left with only a bad move (usually one that loses the game), we call this Zugzwang.
Zugzwang is a German word that means “compulsion (or obligation) to move”. According to chess historians, it was introduced into English in 1904 by Emanuel Lasker who was the World Chess Champion for 27 years without break from 1894 to 1921.
Sometimes creating a Zugzwang position is the only possible way to win the game, and this is especially true in king and pawn endgames. In order to discover Zugzwang’s motivations, you need to plan not only your own play, but also control opponent’s possibilities and moves.
In this video, IM Valeri Lilov gives a full lesson on Zugzwangs in king and pawn endgames, showing practical examples of this important concept and explaining how you can look to use them in your own games in order to convert those close, equal-looking endgames into full points!
Zugzwang in King and Pawn Endgames
In order to understand how Zugzwang works in king and pawn endgames, let’s take a look at the position on the left.
In this position, it is Black to move, but this means that Black will lose! There’s practically nothing Black can do about it. Skipping a turn would be great, but of course, you can’t do that in chess.
If …Kc6, White plays Ke5 and wins the f-pawn, and ultimately the game as White can push pawns while protecting them. Likewise with …Ke6, White can get into Black’s position with Kc5 and win the b-pawn, and the game.
And this loss comes for Black from a position that looks equal. We see how powerful Zugzwang can be.
Let’s see another common example, as seen on the position on the right. Who wins here? Well, if it is White’s move, White wins!
White would play Ke4 and create Zugzwang for Black, who has no practical chances of stopping White from pushing forward, promoting the pawn and winning the game.
Be sure to watch the full video with IM Lilov – he has plenty of other examples and he also explains how these is applicable to your own games.
Practical Chess Endgames for Club Players
Do you find yourself struggling in the endgame? IM Valeri Lilov’s Practical Endgames for Club Players teaches you the patterns behind the 47 most important endgames that anyone from an amateur to Grandmaster must know. Valeri reveals his groundbreaking methodology which allows playing endings precisely and with almost zero memorization. It is based on pattern recognition and general understanding of endgame principles. It is a very powerful weapon, yet simple enough that any club player can quickly grasp it. Click here to get instant access with 35% off.