Stop those pawns!


In an endgame, stop your opponent’s pawn or pawns from promoting. When a pawn promotes, it usually becomes a queen. And a queen ahead in an endgame will likely win. In today’s article, the winning side stops two pawns before promoting its own pawn.

Recently I played in the South Central Regional All Women and Girls Chess Championships. Read my report about the tournament at the US Chess Federation  Web site. I tied for first with Yue Chu, but had better tiebreaks so earned the title of “champion.” However, Yue and I split the $200 first prize and $100 second prize, earning $150 each.

Root, Salinas
Me accepting prize money from tournament director and organizer Luis Salinas

Near the end of my last-round game, I recognized a common endgame pattern. Knowing that pattern helped me win the game. The pattern is how to draw with king and pawn against a king.

King and Pawn vs. King

When you are defending keep your king in front of the enemy pawn. Also, use your king to keep the other king from getting in front of its pawn. Keep the opposition, which means keep your king opposite from your opponent’s king with just one square in between. Let’s look at a couple of moves:

King, Bishop and Pawn vs. King

But what if the attacking side had a bishop in addition to that pawn? Then the defending side could not keep the opposition. The bishop would move, losing a tempo so that the defender would be on the move again. Unfortunately for the defender, moving loses the opposition and the game.

A real-life example

Knowing these patterns was helpful in the fifth and final round. At a critical moment, I realized that I should keep my king with my only pawn, push that pawn toward its promotion square, and use my extra bishop to make a tempo move. That tempo move would force my opponent to move her king away from the promotion square.

Notice that my opponent played all the way to checkmate. Many opponents will play out games rather than resign. Therefore, one does need to know the basic endgame checkmates such as, in this case, king and queen (and bishop) versus king.

WIM Alexey Root, PhD

Alexey Root is a Woman International Master and the 1989 U.S. Women's chess champion. Her peak US Chess rating was 2260. She has a PhD in education from UCLA. You can find her books on chess on