Lesson 1 by Lifemaster Igor Epshteyn

UMBC, room ECS 023, 2-10-99

Notes by David Joyner. (No claim to completeness .)

Theme: Introduction to pawn endgames: pawn mobility, opposition, triangulation.

Position 1.1: (Djivionskiy, 1855) A “chess joke” to illustrate zugswang. Note how Black has no good moves in the problem below.

  • In algebraic:White: King c4, Knight b4, Pawn a3 (3 pieces),Black: King a4, Pawns a3, a6, c5, c7 (5 pieces).
  • In Forsyth notation:



White to mate in 6.

(Hint: 1. Nc6.)

You must know pawn endgames. One reason this is so is because you need to know how to evaluate endgame positions, even if you are not in a pawn endgame yet, in order to determine your best move.

Know the following four basic positions by heart and the “rule of the 6th rank” given below. The way of endgame thinking is to reduce to known positions and these positions will help you do this.

Position 1.2: The first basic pawn endgame position.

  • In algebraic:White: King e6, Pawn d6 (2 pieces),Black: King e8 (1 piece).
  • In Forsyth notation:


White to move: draw.
Black to move: White wins.


In this position the pawn occupies what I call a square of exception, a square filled with one’s own pieces. This hinders the white king. As a general rule, try to get your king ahead of the squares of exception.

Rule of the 6th Rank: In a K+P vs K endgame, if White can reach the 6th rank ahead of his pawn then White wins.

Position 1.2a. The following position illustrates the Rule of the 6th Rank stated above.



White wins.


Position 1.3: The second basic pawn endgame position.

  • In algebraic:White: King e6, Pawn d6 (2 pieces),Black: King e8 (1 piece).
  • In Forsyth notation:




Black should try to move his king back along the same file as the white pawn. For example, 1. e6+ Ke7 2. Ke6 Ke8.

Position 1.4: The third basic pawn endgame position.

  • In algebraic:White: King d4, Pawn d3 (2 pieces),Black: King d6 (1 piece).
  • In Forsyth notation:


White to move: draw.
Black to move: white wins.


The player to move “loses the opposition”.
The short opposition is the position where both kings are on the
same file and separated by one square. (Usually this is simply called
the “opposition”.)

Position 1.5: The fourth basic pawn endgame position.

  • In algebraic:White: King b6, Pawn a5 (2 pieces),Black: King d7 (1 piece).
  • In Forsyth notation:


White to move: white wins.
Black to move: draw.


Position 1.6:
Coordination of squares: This is my own term which is used to
generalize the concept of the “opposition”.
The player to move must “lose” the opposition.
In general, opposition can be classified by the number of squares
between the kings. One can talk about “diagonal opposition”
or “long opposition”. These can transform into the short opposition
but the route of the king is very important.

Long opposition is examined in the position below.

  • In algebraic:White: King d1, Pawn d3 (2 pieces),Black: King d8 (1 piece).
  • In Forsyth notation:



White to move: draw.


Rule of opposition: Try to keep an odd number of squares between the kings to keep the long opposition.

In the position above, black can use the square of exception d3 to take the long opposition by … Kd8. Note that that black can perform a classic maneuver known as triangulation (either Kd7-c7-c6 or Kd7-c7-d6) in order to lose one tempo.

Position 1.6a
The following problem illustrates the idea of a reserve tempi (typically an optional pawn move, allowing one to win the opposition). Reserve tempi are stronger than triangulation since they are optional.



White to play and win.


1. Ke2 Kd7 2. Ke3 Ke7 3. d3!

Position 1.7



White to play and draw.


Position 1.8

White to play and draw.


Position 1.9 The following study by Skuya illustrates the idea of the decoy sacrifice of a pawn.

White to move and draw.


1. Kf5 Kg7 2. e7 Kf7 3. e8=Q+ Kxe8 4. Ke6!

Position 1.10

White to play and win.


Position 1.11 The following position illustrates the idea of mutual zugszwang.



Player to move loses.


Position 1.11a

White to move.


Position 1.11b The following position illustrates the general tool of fixing the opponents pawn on the 3rd rank.

White to move: white loses.


We have the following corollary of the Rule of the 6th Rank.

Rule: In many cases, the defensive side should not allow the opponent to fix it’s pawn on the 3rd rank for white and the 6th rank for black, because winning the pawn means victory.

Position 1.12
A study by Grigor’ev, 1923, illustrates the idea of the opposition and tests your understanding of the first 3 basic endgame positions.

White to play and win.

1. g7 Kf7 2. Kf5 Kg8! (2 … Kxg7 3. Kxg5 leads to basic endgame position 3, with white having the opposition, a white win) 3. Kg4! (3. Kxg5 Kxg7 leads
to basic endgame position 3, with black having the opposition, a draw) Kf7 4. Kxg5 e4! (4 … Kxg7 5. Kf5 Kf7 6. Kxe5 and white has a reserve tempi to win back the opposition. 4 … Kxg7 5. Kf5 e4 6. Kxe4! and white wins.) 5. Kh6! and white wins.


  • Know by heart the four basic endgame positions.
  • Know the Rule of the 6th Rank.
  • Solve the following problems.
  1. In Forsyth notation:


    Player to move wins.


    solution below

  2. (Part of study by Prokesh, 1946).In Forsyth notation:




    White to play and win.


    solution below

  3. (Part of study by Matison, 1918) White to play and draw.In Forsyth notation:




    White to play and draw.


    solution below

  4. In Forsyth notation:




    solution below

  5. (Study by Farni) In Forsyth notation:





    solution below

Homework solutions:

  1. 1. Kf4 Kd2 2. Kf3 K-any 3. Kxe3.
  2. 1. Kg5 Kh8 2. Kh6 Kg8 (2 … g5 3. f7) 3. Kxg6.
  3. 1. g6 fxg6 (1 … Kxg6 2. Kg2 preserves the
    long opposition) 2. f5 gxf5 3. Kg1 Kg4
    (3 … Kg5 4. Kf1!) 4. Kg2.
  4. 1. d4 Ke8 2. Kc7 d5! 3. Kc6 Ke7 4. Kxd5 Kd7.
  5. Black to move: 1 … a5 2. bxa5 (2 b5 Kb8 wins) Ka6.
    White to move: 1. Kc7 Ka8 2. Kb6 a5 3. Kxa5 Ka7.