Pawn Endgames #1 – King First, Pawn Second

The endgame is the latter part of the game, where few pieces are left on the board, and there is subsequently lots of space for the remaining pieces to manoeuvre. The kings that were before a burden, and had to be defended well now become attacking pieces, often aiming to escort the pawns to the opponent`s back rank and promote them to queens.

Although there are few pieces on the board, often it becomes harder to select the right plan, because there are many ‘reasonable’ looking moves, and subtleties in the position become glaringly obvious. When you become well acquainted with these typical pawn endgames, then you should be able to recycle them in your own games, and also develop a powerful thought process, by understanding these ideas.

Below is a winning endgame position, but you have to be careful on proceeding, otherwise black might be able to hold a draw:

 What Not To Do…

If you play e3 here, then it will be an immediate draw. Let`s see why (if you have a chess board, you might want to run through the moves on it):

1. e3 Ke4 2. Ke2 (the only move that holds onto the pawn) …,Ke5 white can try a few different ideas here, but none of them work. 3. Kf3 Kf5 gaining the ‘opposition’.

White continues 4. e4+ and black calmly takes his position in front of the pawn again     …, Ke5 5. Ke3 Ke6 It doesn`t matter which side white goes, black will calmly take the opposition, and repeat the pattern.

6. Kf4 Kf6 7. e5+ Ke6 8. Ke4 Ke7 

9. Kf5 Kf7 10. e6+ Ke7 11. Ke5 Ke8 another shift back. 12. Kf6 Kf8 13. e7+ Ke8 14. Ke6 Stalemate. The final position shown below is worth memorising:

The Way To Win

As we have just seen, the move 1. e3 is not the right way to go about this endgame, because it results in either stalemate or white losing the pawn and drawing by default. The key to this type of endgame, which is also true to many others is to gain the oppositionThe best move is therefore 1. Ke3 This move forces the black king to go one way or the other, and when it goes one way, you should always go the other way to outflank him. This way, you will soon push your opponent`s king back, and gain control of the queening square.

1…, Kd5 2. Kf4 black tries to keep the king centralised with …, Ke6 Again white gains the opposition with 3. Ke4!

We can just repeat the pattern, to force the black king further back …, Kd6 4. Kf5 Ke7 5. Ke5

Black realises that it is no good to keep conceding ground, so he changes tact …, Kd7 6. Kf6 Kd6

7. e4 Kd7

Just keep on pushing the pawn now, and there is nothing black can do to stop it. 8. e5 Kd8 9. e6 Ke8


10. e7 Kd7 the only move 11. Kf7 Kd6 12. e8=Q and black can resign here, because checkmate follows shortly.

To practice this endgame against a computer, I would recommend this drill on By doing this, the computer will highlight any mistakes that you are prone to make, and you can learn from this and be sure to win when it is possible.


4 thoughts on “Pawn Endgames #1 – King First, Pawn Second”

  1. That’s the problem I’ve always had with chess, and one of the main reasons I’ll never be as good as I want to at it – knowing what to do several moves before the kill!

    I count around 11 steps to this endgame, so it’s the type of technique you need revised in your head so that it’s second nature to you. 

    How do you sharpen your mind to become this versed in chess moves – to be able to think so many moves ahead and know each outcome to counteract?

    1. One of the main misconceptions about chess is that you need to always think in terms of concrete move sequences (variations). While ‘calculation’ (considering concrete sequences of moves) is a necessary part of chess, there are other aspects too, such as strategy. In this post, I am talking about a specific example, but this example is very common, because there are so many ways of reaching a position with just a single pawn (and both kings) on the board. 

      The main idea is that there is a foolproof method to determine if you can win, and also how to do it. The actual moves themselves are not that important, it is the method that you use to bring about promotion of your pawn. If you have any questions about the method I explain, then please do ask.

  2. Chess is one of my favorite games but I never play for sheep stations.  I play with my grandsons who by the way usually win. Perhaps they have already read some of your strategies. Working the pawns toward the other side to become a queen is a great strategy if you can get away with it. 

    My husbands grand father played chess all over the world and often just via a phone where he did not have eye contact with  his opponent.  They would play by calling the moves. He was in his time a world chess champion. 

    The rest of the family only play for the enjoyment of the game. 

    I love the way you have presented you site and instructions on how  to win. Thank you for sharing . 

    1. Thanks for your appreciation.

      It is quite interesting that your husband`s grandfather played over the phone, because my grandfather did the same when he was younger. He played correspondence chess regularly, and my dad said that he would be seen in front of 20 mini plastic travel sets, with each board in the middle of a game. 

      I would be very interested to know who your relative was, who became a world chess champion. That is really impressive. 

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