|Copyright © 2005– by CCLA. |
All rights reserved.
The Passsed Pawn
by Arthur E. Holmer
First, a definition to clarify what we mean when we use the term passed pawn. Alburt and Krogius1 give “a passed pawn is one that is not blocked by another pawn and doesn’t have enemy pawns on adjoining files. In other words, no pawns can stop it on its march to promotion.” Introductory instructional manuals such as the classic Chess The Easy Way2 have rules that illustrate how to play with or against passed pawns. The most typical rules given are “passed pawns must be pushed” and “blockade passed pawns with the king”. When you have more than one passed pawn, a more advanced manual such as Fundamental Chess Endings4 must be consulted.
Let’s take look at how these varied rules are presented in these manuals and how they are applied in actual games.
Passed Pawns Must Be Pushed
This rule is given by Reuben Fine on page 1622. The idea is that as the passed pawn gets closer to promotion it cannot be ignored by the other side. The rule has a corollary; outside passed pawns are used as a diversion. When a passed pawn is on the a,b, g or h file it is considered to be an outside passer. The idea in this case is that when one side is forced to commit or divert resources to stop an outside passed pawn, then the side with the passer can attack other areas of the board with more force.
|Diagram 1 - White to move|
Fine2 gives this diagram (No. 151A) as an example of how to use an outside passer as a diversion. The winning line is 1. Kf1 Ke7 2. Ke2 Kd6 3. Kd3 Kc6 4. Kc3 Kb5 5. Kb3 Ka5 6. a4 Kb6 7. Kb4 Ka6 8. a5 Kb7 9. Kb5 Ka7 10. a6 Kb8 11. Kc6 Ka7 12. Kd7 Kxa6 13. Ke7 Kb5 14. Kxf7 Kc4 15. Kxe6 g5 16. g4 Kd3 17. Kxd5 Ke2 18. e4 1-0. (The original descriptive notation of the text has been converted to algebraic notation by Bill Wall in reference3.) The line is a nice illustration of how the White king is able to invade the queenside while the Black king is busy dealing with the outside passer.
Here is a game that illustrates the technique of using an outside passed as a diversion.
|[Event "Candidates Semifinal"]|
|[Site "Denver USA"]|
|[White "Fischer, Robert James"]|
|[Black "Larsen, Bent"]|
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Nc6 6. Bc4 e6 7. Bb3 Be7 8. Be3 O-O 9. O-O Bd7 10. f4 Qc8 11. f5 Nxd4 12. Bxd4 exf5 13. Qd3 fxe4 14. Nxe4 Nxe4 15. Qxe4 Be6 16. Rf3 Qc6 17. Re1 Qxe4 18. Rxe4 d5 19. Rg3 g6 20. Bxd5 Bd6 21. Rxe6 Bxg3 22. Re7 Bd6 23. Rxb7 Rac8 24. c4 a5 25. Ra7 Bc7 26. g3 Rfe8 27. Kf1 Re7 28. Bf6 Re3 29. Bc3 h5 30. Ra6 Be5 31. Bd2 Rd3 32. Ke2 Rd4 33. Bc3 Rcxc4 34. Bxc4 Rxc4 35. Kd3 Rc5 36. Rxa5 Rxa5 37. Bxa5 Bxb2 38. a4 Kf8 39. Bc3 Bxc3 40. Kxc3 Ke7
|Diagram 2 - White to move|
This is diagram No. 2.45 on page 44 of Fundamental Chess Endings4. Mueller and Lamprecht give: “White’s a-pawn deflects Black’s king to the queenside and then his kingside pawns fall prey to the White king”. 41. Kd4 Kd6 42. a5 f6 43. a6 Kc6 44. a7 Kb7 45. Kd5 h4 46. Ke6 1-0 “Larsen resigned due to 46. … f5 47. Kf6 hxg3 48. hxg3 +-”.
Fine’s teaching and this game provide clear instruction on how to use an outside passed pawn for advantage.
Blockade Passed Pawns With The King
This rule is given by Fine on page 1712.
|Diagram 3 - White to move|
Fine2 gives this diagram (No. 157B) to show how the side with the passed pawn wins when the opposing king is not blocking the passed pawn. The winning line is 1. Kc7 Bf3 2. b7 Bxb7 3. Kxb7 1-0 (Bill Wall3. Fine then comments “White goes to the kingside and captures at least one pawn there.”
|Diagram 4 - White to move|
Fine2 gives this diagram (No. 157A) to show how the side with the passed pawn can only draw when the opposing king is blocking the passed pawn. White can try some desperate measures, but will only draw anyway. For example, 1. Ke7 Bg4 2. Kf6 Kc6 3. Kg7 Bh5 4. Kxh7 Kb7 1/2-1/2 (Bill Wall3. Fine then comments “Although he (White) has won a pawn, he is blocked on all sides. As long as he stays on KKt7 (g7) or KR7 (h7), Black plays his king back and forth , but once he switches to the queenside Black gets his king on Kt2 (b7) and plays his bishop back and forth”.
Fine clearly demonstrates that the king can be a very effective blockader. Here is a game that illustrates the use of the king in blockading a passed pawn.
|[Event "Ostend International"]|
|[Site "Ostend BEL"]|
|[White "van Vliet, Louis"]|
|[Black "Nimzowitsch, Aron"]|
1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 c5 3. e3 e6 4. b3 Nf6 5. Bd3 Nc6 6. a3 Bd6 7. Bb2 O-O 8. O-O b6 9. Ne5 Bb7 10. Nd2 a6 11. f4 b5 12. dxc5 Bxc5 13. Qf3 Nd7 14. Nxc6 Bxc6 15. Qg3 Nf6 16. Rad1 a5 17. Qh3 h6 18. g4 d4 19. e4 Qd7 20. Rde1 e5 21. f5 Nh7 22. Nf3 Qe7 23. Qg3 Rfe8 24. h4 f6 25. Ra1 Qb7 26. Rfe1 Kf7 27. Re2 Rh8 28. Kg2 Nf8 29. g5 hxg5 30. hxg5 Nd7 31. gxf6 gxf6 32. Nh4 Rag8 33. Ng6 Rh5 34. Kf2 Nf8 35. Rg1 Rg5 36. Qh4 Rxg1 37. Kxg1 Nxg6 38. Qh5 Kf8 39. fxg6 Qg7
The queen steps in as a blockader.
40. Rg2 Rh8 41. Qe2 Rh4 42. Bc1 Rxe4 43. Qd2 Rh4 44. Qxa5 Qd7
Nimzowitsch, on page 3175 gives: “The blockading queen relinquishes her post. When we take into consideration that the blockader is ordinarily a minor piece, we have to grant the queen has acquitted her unaccustomed duties superbly”.
45. g7+ Kg8
|Diagram 5 - White to move|
“Now His Majesty Himself has taken over the blockade”.
46. Bc4+ bxc4 47. Qxc5 Rh1+ 0-1 (48.Kf2 [48. Kxh1 Qh3+ 49. Kg1 Qxg2#] Qf5+ 49.Bf4 Qxf4+ 50.Ke2 Qe3#)
Play Against Two Passed Pawns
A key factor in the analysis of two passed pawns is the number of files between them.
|Diagram 6 - Black to move|
Mueller and Lamprecht4 give this diagram (No. 2.40B) on page 41 to illustrate how to play against pawns that are one file apart. They explain that the important concept in this type of position is that the Black king can stop the d5 and f6 pawn by shuttling back and forth between the d7 and d6 squares, however, any attempt to capture one of the pawns allows the other to advance, e.g. 1. … Ke8?, then 2. d6 puts the Black king in zugzwang. Although disconnected, the pawns are in effect defending each other.
If the pawns are two files apart then the situation is very different in that they cannot defend each other as in the preceding example.
|Diagram 7 - White to move|
Mueller and Lamprecht4 give this diagram (No. 2.40C) on page 41 to illustrate how to play against pawns that are two files apart. They first introduce a useful rule to help analyze this type of position. The Rule of the Common Square as given on page 414 Mueller and Lamprecht note “the rule of the common square can be used to evaluate such races. Draw a line from the more backward pawn to the file of the other pawn and complete it to make a square. If this square reaches the eighth rank, then one of the pawns will queen”. In the above diagram the common square is bound by the g4-d4-d7-g7 squares. The point is to play a pawn to push the imaginary square to the eighth rank. This is accomplished by White in playing 1. g5!. Now the common square is the box with the g5-d5-d8-g8 squares, indicating a pawn will reach the final rank and promote. Play follows with 1. … Ke7 2. g6 Kf6 3. d6 Kxg6 4. d7 and there is no way to stop a pawn from promoting.
When the pawns are three files apart the situation is similar to one file apart in that they can again defend one another. However, there is an important detail that must be kept in mind.
|Diagram 8 - White to move|
Mueller and Lamprecht (4) give this diagram (No. 2.40D) on page 41 to illustrate how to play against pawns that are two files apart. First sketch the common square bounded by the g3-c3-c7-g7 squares. The detail mentioned above is that if Black is on the move, the king move must maintain the symmetry of the position with 1. … Ke5, not 1. … Kd5 as 2. g4 Ke4 3. c4 moves the square to the eighth rank. White to move wins by 1. g4 Ke5 2. c4 Kd4 3. g5 Kxc4 4. g6 and the pawn will queen.
Here is a game that illustrates play against two passed pawns two files apart.
|[Event "Bundesliga 2000-1"]|
|[Site "Hamburg GER"]|
|[White "Seger, Ruediger"]|
|[Black "Agdestein, Simen"]|
1. e4 c5 2. c3 e6 3. d4 d5 4. exd5 exd5 5. Be3 c4 6. b3 cxb3 7. axb3 Nc6 8. Bd3 Nge7 9. Ne2 g6 10. O-O Bg7 11. Nd2 Bf5 12. Nf3 O-O 13. Re1 Bxd3 14. Qxd3 Nf5 15. Bf4 Re8 16. Qb5 Qd7 17. Ng3 a6 18. Qd3 Nxg3 19. Bxg3 Rxe1+ 20. Rxe1 Re8 21. Rd1 h6 22. Kf1 g5 23. Ne5 Bxe5 24. dxe5 Qe6 25. Qxd5 Rd8 26. Qxe6 Rxd1+ 27. Ke2 fxe6 28. Kxd1 Kf7 29. h3 Kg6 30. f4 Kf5 31. fxg5 hxg5 32. Ke2 Ke4 33. b4 Nxe5 34. Bxe5 Kxe5
|Diagram 9 - White to move|
This is No. 2.54 from page 48. Mueller and Lamprecht note that both players are in severe time pressure and the play reflects this. Notes are from Mueller and Lamprecht4.
Preparing to create an outside passed pawn
35. ... b6!?
Agdestein prepares the creation of an outside passed a pawn.
36. c4!? a5 37. c5? axb4?
This is bad because White’s king is already in the square of the new b pawn. Every tempo counts.
38. cxb6! Kd6 39. h4 b3?! 40. Kd3 e5
The time control had now been reached, but Seger was not sure of this and made a ‘safety move’, which turned out to be a most unfortunate blunder.
41. hxg5?? e4+! 42. Kc3
|Diagram 10 - Black to move|
In this case White is helpless against the two Black passed pawns two squares apart. The passers are too far advanced to capture one and catch the other. Time pressure can produce some strange results.
42. ... e3!
The common square indicates one pawn will queen.
43. b7 Kc7! 44. b8=Q+ Kxb8! 45. g6 e2! 46. Kd2 b2 0-1
Due to 47. g7 e1=Q+ 48. Kxe1 b1=Q+ -+.
1. Alburt, Lev, Krogius, Nikolay, Just the Facts! Winning Endgame Knowledge in One Volume, W.W. Norton, New York, 2001.
2. Fine, Reuben, Chess The Easy Way, David McKay Company, New York, 1942.
3. Wall, Bill, Chess The Easy Way Ebook PGN, http://billwall.phpwebhosting.com/.
4. Mueller, Karsten, Lamprecht, Frank, Fundamental Chess Endings, Gambit Publications, London, 2001.
5. Nimzowitsch, Aron, My System & Chess Praxis, Landmark Classics edition, translated by Robert Sherwood, New in Chess, Alkmaar, 2016.