Rook Pawn Endgames – Simple Theoretical Draws

If you can get your king in front of your own pawn, in a single pawn endgame, then you can almost always force promotion, and therefore win the game. This technique has been demonstrated in the king and pawn endgame post. In summary, what you do is gain the opposition – the 2 kings seperated by one square, with your opponent to move means “you have the opposition” – then you outflank the enemy king and drive him back, until you are on a queening square. Then you push your pawn up the board. That is all well and good, except it is no good in rook pawn endgames.

No Way to Win

In the following position, there is no way for black to win – I hardly need to mention that white cannot win – regardless of who has the move, because of stalemate themes. First of all let`s suppose that it is white to move:

The draw is easy. All you have to do is oscillate the king back and forth on the squares g1 and h1. For example 1. Kh1 The pawn can`t promote if your king is in the way! …h2 stalemate = draw. The alternatives are no better, for example 1…Kf3 is met by 2. Kh2 going for the pawn …Kg4 keeping the pawn 3. Kg1 and after …Kg3 we are at the starting position again. Black has made no progress. If 1…Kf2 then 2. Kh2 wins the pawn. If it is black to move, then you use the same technique, for example: 1… Kf3 2. Kh2 and we are in the line discussed earlier. If 1…Kg4 then simply 2. Kh2 or even 2. Kh1. They are equally vaild drawing moves.


The King is in Jail

The main conclusion from rook pawn endgames is that they are almost always drawn, as long as the defending king is nearby. Even if the attacking king is in front of the pawn, there is a way to draw, and as the title suggests, it is about not letting your opponent`s king escape. This position is drawn regardless of who has the move:

If white is to move first, then all you do is oscillate between the f2 and f1 squares. For example, 1. Kf1 Kh2 2. Kf2 Kh1. If the black king is in prison, then I guess the white king is like a prison guard patrolling the door to the cell. If the prison guard moves away from the door, then the black king escapes, for example 1. Kf3 Kg1 and now the black king is on a queening square, the pawn will promote. 2. Kg3 h2 and there is no stopping h1=Q. When black plays h2, Kf1 is stalemate.


A Useless Bishop

If a bishop starts on a light square, then it will never land on a dark square, and vice versa, because of the nature of how the piece moves. This is important, becuase it means that bishops can only ever control half of the squares on the board. In the first endgame position, you can add a dark squared bishop to the board and it would still be a draw. In the second endgame, adding a dark squared bishop would create a way to win, because the black king is active enough. Lets consider these possibilites one by one:

As there are stalemate themes available, provided that white follows the right procedure, black can`t win. Black can try tricks of course, but these are normally quite easy to avoid. Let`s say it is black to move. 1… Bd4+ 2. Kh1 if black does not move his bishop off the diagonal a7-g1 then it is stalemate. …Bg7 3. Kg1 white will just move back and forth from g1 to h1. Any checks directed at g1, and the white king goes to h1. If black does not let the white king out to g1 it is stalemate, if he does, then the position repeats itself. …h2+ 4. Kh1 Kh3 stalemate.

Bad Bishop but Active King

In these endgames you want to have a bishop of the same colour as the queening square of the pawn, to support promotion, but if the attacking king is active enough. By which I mean it is in control of the queening squares, then a win is possible, even if your bishop is on the wrong coloured squares.

White to move:

Of course black does not have to rush, and can even waste moves if needs be, by making irrelevant bishop moves. 1. Kf1 patrolling the prisoners door, not allowing say Kg1 and the promotion of the pawn. …Bc7 (1…Bb8; 1…Bd6 and 1…Be5 also work) 2. Kf2 Bb6+ The bishop is on the right diagonal. 3. Kf1 keeping the black king in prison. Now we waste a move with …Bc5! wins. For example 4. Ke2 Kg2 If it was black to move first, then we would just get on with the plan, and play 1…Bc7!

Practical Example: Good Bishop and Pawn

At a chess congress I played at – 20th 4NCL (Nottingham) 2018 – There was an endgame between a FIDE master and an amateur, which was pawn and bishop versus lone king, but the bishop was on the right coloured sqaures. I included this example, to illustrate the difference between a good and a bad bishop. When you have a good bishop in these endgames, it is always won.

Nottingham, September 2018

Kramaley, David 

Willow, Jonah B


After 39 moves, this position was reached, with white to move:

At first glance, you might think that white is doing okay, because he has a couple of pawns for the piece, alas one of them is about to drop, because they are too weak, and the black king is actively placed.

White`s most stubborn defense is 40. Kc2 but black will win a pawn after …Bg5 e.g. 41. Kd3 Kf4 and white loses a pawn. In the game play continued 40. Kc4 Bxb2 41. Kxc5 Bxc3 42. f3 Kf4 43. Kxc6 Kxf3 44. Kd5 Kf4 


White is now in zugzwang. In other words, having the move is a disadvantage, because when the white king moves, the e4 pawn will drop (If you are unsure about this, then please leave a comment and I will reply within a couple of days). White can play a4 (played in the game), but that is to no avail, because black can just wait. If on the other hand 45. Kc4 then  …Bb2 and 46. Kb3 Be5 now the e-pawn will drop.

45. a4 Be5 46. a5 Bc3 47. a6 Be5 48. Kc4 Kxe4 49. Kc5 Bd4+ 50. Kc6 Bb6 51. Kb5 Kd5 

52. Kb4 Kc6 53. Ka4 Bd8 54. Kb4 Kb6 55. Ka4 Kxa6 56. Kb4 Kb6 57. Ka4 a5 58. Kb3 Kb5 59. Ka3 a4 60. Kb2 Kb4

61. Ka2 a3 resigns… There is no way for white to stop the pawn from promoting. For example 62. Kb1 Kb3 63. Ka1 Bf6+ 64. Kb1 Bd4 (wasting a move, to force the white king to a worse square) 65. Kc1 (only move) …a2 and there is no way to stop the a-pawn.

About Mark

Hi there!

Welcome to my chess improvement website. As an art, a sport and a science, chess has a lot to offer. Different people take different approaches to the game, and get different forms of fulfillment in doing so. What virtually all chess players benefit from is a logical way of thinking, which means that you will become a better decision maker.

With more possible positions than atoms in the known universe, chess has plenty of room for expanding. Nowadays, chess professionals train with powerful chess engines, that can calculate up to 20 moves deep, and can play better than any human alive today, which raises the level of play, and allows anyone in the world, who has access to a computer, the ability to become a great chess player.

How I Began My Journey

I was introduced to the game at the age of six or seven, and occasionally played against my dad and brother, who were, like me, of beginner strength. Nothing much happened for a few years, until at the age of 10, I started playing against my teacher and classmates, and also joined the local chess club. Playing against the adults who arrived later, the weaknesses in my play were highlighted.

On one particular occasion, which I remember well, a strong league player sat down opposite me, and we played a game. He showed me where I went wrong, after almost every move! I was creating weaknesses in front of my king, and bringing out my queen too early on. He said “In every position, there are loads of trap doors, that you can fall through…” After a pause, he continued “…And what you have to do is avoid them, and lead your opponent into your own traps.” At that age, this made a lot of sense to me, and I was intrigued to learn more about chess. Soon after he said this, he trapped my queen at the edge of the board, as if to prove his point.

After one year, I joined the club`s B team, and started to play ‘proper’ ECF rated matches. I won my first ever game in just 19 moves, and lost the following one in 19 (through resignation). I began to buy chess books, and became a premium member on I was learning fast.

The next momentous event was entering my first ever chess congress. I turned up at the Frodsham 2018 U120 congress, with no prior experience of what chess congresses are like, how to manage my time on the clock, or how to cope with psychological aspects of the game. After 5 rounds, I finished the outright winner, on a score of 5/5, and took home the princely sum of £150. I felt elated, and this spurred me on to get to the next level.

Since then, I have been to 2 more congresses, finishing mid table in each, with scores of 3/5 and 2.5/5, playing in a higher band (U135 ECF). At the end of July 2018, ECF awarded my first official grade of 130.

My Reasons For Helping Others

I want to see chess grow in popularity, and the number of chess players to rise. When this happens, there will be more competition, and a greater interest in the game. Chess will become more mainstream – like in Russia – and it will be promoted more in schools, as productive and beneficial exercise for the brain. As a result of chess becoming more popular, there will be more tournaments and local events, so that it is easier to get involved in this sport.

The Main Goals

This site is designed to take you from beginner up to strong club player level and beyond. The content included will provide you with the foundation to become an all round player, with an understanding of tactics, positional elements, strategies and much more. We want you to not only become a strong chess player, but also a creative thinker, and be able to develop your own style. In order to accelerate your improvement, the content released in each chapter will build on what you have already learned in the previous sections.

If you have any questions, don`t hesitate to leave a comment below, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

All the best,