Pawn Ending Trick

Looking for interesting pawn endings from recent games, as one does, I came across this, from the online 4NCL.

It’s Black’s move here. What do you think? Who’s your money on? White, Black or draw? Place your bets.

Rien ne va plus, ladies and gentlemen.

35.. Kf7
36. g3 Ke6
37. Kg2 Ke5
38. Kf3 b6
39. Ke3 g5
40. c4 h5
41. h4 gxh4
42. gxh4 bxa5
43. bxa5 c5
44. Kf3 Kd4

and Black is clearly winning, although White continued until he was checkmated, 30 moves later.

Seems straightforward enough, doesn’t it? Black started with a better placed king and a better pawn formation, enough to give him a winning advantage.

But did you notice something? Let’s look at the slow motion replay.

35.. Kf7
36. g3 Ke6
37. Kg2 Ke5
38. Kf3 b6??

Black had 11 legal moves here: eight of them won, two drew (Ke6 and Kf6) and one lost. Perhaps 38.. d5 is simplest.

Have you seen the win yet?

Yes, White can play the Stock Pawn Ending Tactic 39. b5!, meeting 39.. axb5 with 40. a6! and promoting on a8. Perhaps with little time on the clock, neither player noticed.

39. Ke3?? g5??

He had to play either 39.. axb5 or 39.. b5, both of which were winning.

40. c4?? h5??
41. h4?? gxh4??

Even now, 42. b5! will still win.

42. gxh4?? bxa5!

Finally Black plays the correct move, preventing the breakthrough for good.

43. bxa5 c5
44. Kf3 Kd4

This is something you need to know – the idea happens quite often in pawn endings. If you miss it, it will cost you not just a half point but a full point.

If you’re a chess teacher, your students need to know it as well. Point them in the direction of this article.

This is why lower level games are sometimes more instructive than master games. It’s always good to learn from mistakes, but preferable to learn from someone else’s mistakes rather than your own.

Richard James

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Richard James

Author: Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy ( or and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966. Richard is a published author and his books can be found at Amazon. Richard is currently promoting minichess (games and puzzles using subsets of chess) for younger children through his website, and writing coaching materials for children (and adults) who want to start playing serious competitive chess, through View all posts by Richard James

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