Bishop and Pawn Endgame

I read a valuable chapter in Jeremy Silman’s Complete Endgame Course last night and wanted to share it today before this evening’s Chess Club meet-up. This endgame involves a bishop and pawn against a lone king. 

Let’s say you are in the position of having the lone king. As long as the following three things hold, you can force a draw (stalemate). 

  • The pawn is a rook pawn (on files a or h)
  • The queening square for the rook pawn is the opposite color of the bishop’s squares.
  • Your king can get to the queening square in time.

If any of these things are violated, then the player with the bishop and pawn can win. Let’s first look at a situation in which the lone king can force a stalemate.

WIth white or black to move, black can force a draw.

In the above diagram, with either color to move first, there is no way for white to stop black’s king from moving to the queening square a8. This is where black’s king can hover, and eventually force the draw.

With Black to move, black can force a draw.

With the above diagram, if it were white to play, white can win if he plays his king to f6 and force black’s king away from the queening square. White must be careful in protecting the pawn and bishop on following moves. However, black can force the draw if it is black to move as they can get to the queening square via King to g7.

Now let’s look at a few situations in which one of the laws is broken and white can triumph.

White can promote and win: pawn is not a rook pawn

Although in the above diagram, the queening square is an opposing color as the bishop and the black king can get to that square, because the pawn is not a rook pawn, black cannot force a draw without a mistake on white’s end.

Queening square same color as bishop

In this case, the second rule is broken. With the bishop having the same color as the queening square, white is able to force the king off and away from that square to promote the white pawn.

Black king cannot get to the queening square

In this situation, although white has a rook pawn with a bishop opposite in color to the queening square, the black king simply cannot arrive at the queening square of h8 without white making horrible blunders.

It would be good practice to plug the three positions above into a chess engine and make sure you can promote and win against the strongest of engines.

Given what we have learned, let’s look at the following position.

With either to play, white can win this game. Black, with a knowledge of endgames, knows he cannot win with a lone bishop, so is out to try and force a draw. Black will be ready and willing to sacrifice his bishop for the pawn on the b file (as long as it isn’t protected by the pawn on the a file). White must be aware of this stalemate situation, and offer the utmost protection to the b file pawn. With both pawns in play, white is also ready and willing to exchange bishops.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s