Endgame Concepts: Rule of the Square

SquareIn the previous “Endgame Concepts” article, we talked about triangulation and its importance in regards to getting the opposition and outflanking. The concept that will be discussed in this article is called the “Rule of the Square”.

This concept helps with figuring out if a king can chase down an opponent’s pawn that is running towards promotion. Of course, if the king cannot capture or get in front of the pawn in time, then it will be able to queen. This can be used for offense or defense, depending on if you are the player rushing the pawn down the board or if you are the player making sure you can catch it.

I learned a lot about endgames by watching the “Fighting in the Endgame” DVD by FM Alisa Melekhina and would highly recommend it if you want to learn more about the topic!

Rule of the SquareLet’s look at the position to the right. If it is Black to move, can he catch the pawn? If it is White to move, can he push the pawn quickly enough to promote to a queen? These are things you need to know and calculate quickly in endgames in order to make sure you play correctly.

In order to figure out quickly if the pawn will be able to promote safely or not, we can use the rule of the square. You count the number of squares to the eighth rank (in front of and including the pawn square). Here, there are six total squares (b3-b8) Then you count six squares to the left or right side on the eighth square (b8-g8) and create a box using those coordinates. The box drawn on the board to the left is the square that Black’s king would need to be in, in order to catch the White pawn.

So in this position, if it was Black to move then 1…Kg3 or 1…Kg4 would allow him to enter the box and he could catch the White pawn before it could promote: 1…Kg4 2.b4 Kf5 3.b5 Ke6 4.b6 Kd7 5.b7 Kc7 6.b8=Q+ Kxb8 1/2-1/2

However, if it is White’s move here, he can play 1. b4 and a new box has been created from b4-b8-f8. After b4, then Black’s king could not enter this new box and would not be able to catch White’s pawn: 1.b4 Kg4 2.b5 Kf5 3.b6 Ke6 4.b7 Kd7 5 b8=Q 1-0

Understanding this “rule of the square” concept is important when you are in a position where you need to know if you can track down an opponent’s passed pawn with your king or not. Being able to create this square in your mind quickly will also help you to cut down on the time you would need to calculate. Memorize this rule and chase those pawns down!

“Fighting in the Endgame” – FM Alisa Melekhina
“Chess Endgames 5 – Endgame Principles Activity & Initiative” – GM Karsten Muller


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