King and pawn endgames are the best place to start studying the endgame. The king, in the opening, usually needs to be protected and placed in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with the other pieces. During the middle game, that is the case mostly as well. As the pieces are exchanged, especially the queen, the board opens up more, reducing the possibilities for checkmate. Therefore, the king begins to take on a more prominent role.
Indeed, once the endgame has been reached, the main strategy is to bring the king into play. Then its value as a fighting piece, which was minimal in the opening and middle game, increases to the point where normally its value is between a knight and a rook. If the king is passive and out of play it usually means the loss of the game. It’s like playing a piece down.
INDEX TO EXAMPLES
- The Queening of a Pawn
- The Opposition
The Queening of a Pawn
In this position, no matter where the black king is placed, the queening of the white pawn cannot be prevented.
In the basic ending of king and pawn vs. king, the defending king must first get in front of the pawn in order to stop it from queening.
In this position the black king is in front of the white pawn, but the draw is only possible if it is Black’s move: 1. …Kc8! 2. d7+ Kd8 3. Kd6 stalemate. With White to move, 1. d7 2. d7+ Ke7 3. Kc7 and the pawn queens.
In Example I the marked squares are key squares, and the opposition prevents White from crossing them.
In Example II demonstrates another example of winning with the opposition, ending in a position of mutual zugzwang. Example III is another example of mutual zugzwang.
Whichever player has the move wins. However, care must be taken. If White plays 1. Ke6? Kc5! and the White king must move away from e6, allowing Black to capture on d5 and win.
However, if White plays 1. Ke7! Kc5 2. Ke6 then Black must move away from the pawn on d6, allowing White to capture it and win the game.
This method is called triangulation.
With Black to move, 1. …Kc4! 2. Ke6 Kc5 wins.