How to play Pawn Endgames – Lecture 2 – Opposition (DailyChess 2013)

Pawn Endgames – Lecture II – Opposition

In today’s lecture I want to discuss the technique called “Opposition”! It’s the main reason we can convert simple Pawn Endings into a win or hold inferior positions! The battle between Kings is mainly a battle for the Opposition! But before we discuss the term “Opposition” in detail, I would like to give a definition of corresponding or correlative squares. In chess, and especially in Pawn Endings we have two squares that belong to each other, two squares that correspond or correlate!

Correlative squares in Pawn Endings are squares, on which “Zugzwang” exists!

We’ll see this in almost all examples! But what does Opposition mean? Well…

If two Kings face each other with one square in between, it’s called “normal Opposition”. If they are seperated by three or five squares, it’s called “distant Opposition”.

There is another case of Opposition, but we’ll look at it in a seperate lecture. To obtain the Opposition means, to force the Opponent to move and thus leave the line-up of the Kings!

See our first example



Opposition - Black holds the Opposition



This one should be familiar to you from our first lecture!

1. Ke5 {White has to give up the Opposition (as he was in “Zugzwang”) and as a

result, has to give up the control of a certain key square as well!}

Ke7 ! {It’s essential for Black to keep the Opposition! This stops White from
“Outflanking” his opponent’s King and as a result, to penetrate into his

(1… Kc6?? 2. Ke6! {Opposition! White was able to outflank his
opponent and now keeps the Opposition and controls the key squares!}

Kc7 3. d5
{The pawn goes to the fifth, which means he gains additional key squares!}

Kd8 4. Kd6 {Opposition} Ke8

5. Kc7 {Outflanking and controlling the remaining three squares. The pawn is able to Queen!})

2. d5 {The only way to make some progress. Otherwise Black will keep the Opposition for 50 moves and claim draw! Although the pawn moved now to the fifth, and gains additional key
squares, they are of no use, as the White king is not IN FRONT OF HIS PAWN! As
a result he’s unable to control them and in the end, to use them!} Kd7 {Using

the fact, that the corresponding square, the d5 square, which White would like
to use to take the Opposition, is taken by the own Pawn! Thanks to this, Black
maintains the advantage and the superior King.}

3. d6 {Controlling d7, stopping Black from taking the Opposition. But it’s of no use, as White will
never be able to get in front of his pawn.} Kd8 {Once again exploiting white’s
own pawn!}

4. Ke6 Ke8 {Opposition!}

Opposition - Black holds the Opposition1

5. d7+ Kd8 {The only way to defend the
Pawn is to go to d7, which stalemates!} 6. Kd6


Very well… let’s move to our next example, also one we saw already. It’s with a pawn on the fifth!

Pawn on the 5th

With a pawn on the fifth

In this case, as we know, additional key squares exist (namely: a6-b6-c6-a7-b7-d7). The Pawn stands already on the fifth rank, and the King is in front of it! This gives us the control over the additional key squares provided by a Pawn on the fifth. White wins, no matter who’s turn it is!}

1. Ka6!

(1. Kc6 {Is not precise, as there is a Stalemate trick left for Black!} Ka7! 2. Kc7 (2.

b6+ ? Ka8 3. b7+ (enternig the 7th rank with check!)

(3. Kc7 {Stalemate})

3… Kb8 4. Kb6 {Stalemate}) 2… Ka8 3.
Kb6 Kb8 4. Ka6 and we return to the initial position.)

1… Ka8 {The Opposition does not help Black anymore! The King
controls the key squares! The Pawn just has to move forward!}

(1… Kc7 2. Ka7)
2. b6 Kb8 3. b7

Pawn on the 5th1

{REMEMBER: If the Pawn enters the 7th rank quietly (without a check), it usually wins!}

Kc7 4. Ka7 {White wins.} *


The stronger side uses the Opposition to Outflank the opponent’s King! In that case he’ll be able to move around and penetrate into his position, gaining control over key squares and finally to support his pawn, dashing towards his Queening square! If the defending side has the Opposition, it prevents a penetration by the opponent’s King and thus holds the draw!

Study NN

 Study: N.N.


1… Kc7 !

(1… Ka7 ? {This would be a blunder! Always keep an eye on
simplifications! Here White is able to exchange the pawns AND gain the
Opposition (almost by force)} 2. a5 ! bxa5 3. Kxa5 {Opposition. If the Kings
move to the right side, they’ll end up in front of the pawn but with White
having the Opposition and with the knowledge we have from our previous
examples, winning!} Kb7 4. Kb5 Kc7 5. Kc5 {Opposition} Kd7 6. Kb6 {Outflanking!
} Kd6 7. c5+ Kd7 8. Kb7 {Pawn on the fifth plus the Opposition! Too much for
Black to handle!} Kd8 9. Kc6 Kc8 10. Kd6 Kd8 11. c6 Kc8 12. c7 Kb7 13. Kd7)


(2. a5?! {Does not help either! Black will force the Opponents King to
move BEHIND HIS PAWN and as a result, to give up the chance, ever entering the
key squares!} bxa5 3. Kxa5 Kc6 4. Kb4 Kb6 5. c5+ Kc6 6. Kc4 Kc7 7. Kb5 Kb7 8.
c6+ Kc7 9. Kc5 Kc8 10. Kb6 Kb8 11. c7+ Kc8 12. Kc6 {Stalemate!})

(2. c5 ?!bxc5 3. Kxc5 {Remember what you’ve learned! The Position now contains a Rook Pawn,
and with it, two key squares (b7-b8). Black holds with ease!} Kb8 4. Kb6 Ka8 5.
a5 Kb8 6. a6 Ka8 7. a7 {Stalemate!})

2… Kc6 {Opposition!} 3. Ka7 {Never forget your aim! Black wants to hold the game, not to win it!}

Study NN1


Kc7!! {Opposition!}

(3… Kc5? 4. Kb7 {White wins!} Kxc4 5. Kxb6)

4. Ka8 Kc8! = {Remember your main goal! Opposition! The game is drawn!}

(4… Kc6? 5. Kb8! Kc5 6. Kb7 Kxc4 7. Kxb6)


Interesting stuff isn’t it? Let’s move on to a more advanced lecture.

Study Neustadl 1890

 Study: Neustadt, 1890


1. Kh1!! {If we check the position, it’s important to see the correlative

squares! In this position they are




But there is another way of holding Opposition! There are different kind of Oppositions.
You already know the “normal” Opposition! But there is also a “distant”
Opposition (with 3 or 5 squares between the King) or the virtual Opposition!
We’ll study this one later in a seperate lecture!}

(1. Kf1? Kd2 2. Kf2 {The correlative squares are d2-f2 and d3-f3, but f3 is not accessable due to
White’s own pawn! This would grant black a decisive advantage!}

Kd3 3. Kg3 Ke3 4. Kg2 Ke2 5. Kg3 Kf1 6. Kg4 Kg2 7. Kxg5 Kxf3 Black wins)

1… Kd2

(1… Ke1 2. Kg1=)

(1…Ke2 2. Kg2= {And white will keep the Opposition as we saw in our previous

2. Kh2 Kd3 3. Kh3= {And White holds.} *

 The Opposition, especially the distant opposition, is only of any use, if the stronger side can outflank his opponent!

Study Mattison 1918

Study: Mattison, 1918

This is also a highly instructive study! I would recommend to repeat it twice to make sure you understand it well!


{White is busted isn’t he? Well he has one important defensive ressource! But
first let’s assess the position! Black’s King is more active than White’s! He
is able to penetrate White’s position just in time to take all the pawn and
control the key squares e5-f5-g5 (you shouldn’t be asking where they are,
otherwise go back to Lesson 1!) Additionally, White’s King is too far away to
control the key squares. But he can try a last trick, either to push the
opponent’s King back OR to force the opponent’s pawn forward (“Moving key
squares”)} 1. g6 !! {Impressive isn’t it?} fxg6 {The key squares moved.}

(1…Kxg6 {The King went back, White got time to move his own King forward and
defend the Pawn!}

2. Kg2 {Distant Opposition!} Kf5

3. Kf3 {“normal Opposition”! Now Black does have a “extra Tempi” to force White to move, but
it won’t help.}

Study Mattison 8192



4. Kg3 Ke4 5. Kg4 {The only way to make progress is to advance the Pawn. But then the key squares will be e3-f3-g3 and white will always keep them if Black takes the white Pawn!} f5+

6. Kg3 {Do you remember our final examples in Lecture 1? Well… i guess if White had studied this
example she wouldn’t have resigned at all!} Ke3

7. Kg2 {There is only ONE thing white has to make sure! IF the opponent’s King ever captures the Pawn, the white King MUST enter f2!} Ke4

Study Mattison 2919


8. Kg3 Ke3 9. Kg2 Ke2 10. Kg3 Ke3 11. Kg2 Kxf4 12. Kf2 {Drawn!})

Study Mattison 3920

2. f5 ! {Black has a difficult choice! If he moves the pawn forward, the key squares advance as well and the opponent’s King will never be able to move in front of his Pawn. If the Pawn takes white’s pawn, he’ll also have difficulties getting in front of it and keep the key squares
under control.} gxf5 {The key squares are e3-f3-g3. White does not have
difficulties controlling them! He’ll just have to make sure to keep the

(2… g5 3. Kg1 Kg4 4. Kg2 Kxf5 5. Kf3 {Drawn})

3. Kg1!

(3. Kg2? {blunder’s the game! Now Black will get the key squares and the Opposition!}
Kg4 4. Kf2 Kf4 5. Ke2 Kg3)

3… Kg5

Study Mattison 294

4. Kf1 {The correlative squares are f1-f5.

Because black cannot enter it, he’ll be forced to go somewhere, where white
can take the Opposition himself!} Kf4 5. Kf2 {Drawn} *


Please leave a comment if you liked this lecture, I’ll add a video-lesson in near future!

stay tuned!

Lukas Wedrychowski

DailyChess – lectures & reviews













How to play Pawn Endgames – Lecture 1 – Key squares (DailyChess 2013)

Dear chess friends,

I’m happy to launch my new lectures here on (or more precisely You’ll be able to find lectures twice a week, on Tuesday + Thursday! They’ll usually range from opening analysis (repertoire suggestions) to endgames (basics + advanced studies).

If you have any suggestions, improvements, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll try to answer as soon as possibe.

Otherwise, I hope you’ll enjoy your stay and learn something for your own play!

Pawn Endgames – Lecture I – Key squares

Pawn endings are quite difficult to play. All remaining pieces (Knight, Bishop, Rook, Queen) has been exchanged and the only powerful forces left on the board are the King’s and the Pawn(s).

The main aim thus is, either to create a mating net (which is quite rare to be honest) or to promote a pawn (in general to a Queen or a Rook) which enables us to checkmate the King!

To achieve this, we usually have to support our pawn on it’s way to his respected Queening square!   The opponent’s king willl usually try to stop it and both king’s will sooner or later start a fight for dominance! Who is the stronger monarch? In this lecture you’ll learn techniques which enable you to evaluate correctly, which king has the better prospects and how a pawn ending has to be evaluated finally!

The concept of key squares

I’ll guide you through this jungle with the help of some basic lectures and some additional studies, which will give you a wide knowledge of how to play pawn endgames!

Let’s start with a simple one to explain the basic things


Pawn on the 4th - Key squares

A basic position

As you can see, there is only one remaining pawn left on the board! The question, whether it’s sufficient to win for white will depend on two factors.

Key squares + Opposition

In this lecture I would like to focus on “key squares”, and leave “opposition” for the next one. What are key squares?

“Key squares are squares, which – once under control by the King – enable us to WIN, no matter who’s turn it is!”

Well then, but how can we spot the key squares? Here’s your first, important technique, you should remember for a life-time!

“The key squares of a certain pawn (who did not enter the 5th rank yet AND is not a rook pawn) are two ranks above him plus the two neighbour squares of it.”

(see the next diagram)

How to find the key squares 1

The key squares of the pawn g4

So once we know, how to spot the key squares, we’ll easily find the squares in the first diagram. The squares are


1. Ke5 Ke7! {Keeping “Opposition”! We’ll explain this term in another lecture! Black stops white from outflanking him and as a result, to penetrate his position!}

(1… Kc6?? 2. Ke6 Kc7 3. d5 {The Pawn moves to the fifth rank,which gives him additional key squares!})

2. Kf5 Kd6  {threatening Kd4 winning the pawn (as the defending Ke4 is illegal then)} 3. Ke4 Ke6! {Once again – Opposition! The only way, White can make progress is, by pushing the Pawn.}

(3… Kd7?? 4. Kd5+-{And white would be winning instead, as he stands in front of the pawn and has the Opposition!})

4. d5+ Kd6 {Stepping in front of the enemy Pawn, as White will be forced to take the Opposition! But he won’t be able to keep it for long as black plans to use the opponent’s Pawn to gain it himself!}

5. Kd4 Kd7 {White would like to take the Opposition, but his own Pawn denies him the access to d5!}

6. Ke5 Ke7 7. d6+ Kd7 8. Kd5 Kd8 9.Ke6 Ke8 10. d7+ Kd8 11. Kd6 {Stalemate!} *

This was rather easy wasn’t it? Let’s move to the next example

Pawn on the 5th

Pawn on the 5th gains additional key squares

Once a pawn goes to the 5th rank, he usually gains additional key squares (three more to be precise). This enables us to establish the following rule

A pawn on the 5th gains additional key squares! If the King manages to stand in front of his pawn, he usually wins the game without any difficulties (except for Rook pawns!)

Pawn on the 5th IINo matter who moves, white wins


1. Ke6 Ke8 2. d6 Kd8 3. d7


If the Pawn enters the 7th rank quietly (without a check!) he’ll Queen!}

Kc7 4. Ke7 {White wins!}


So by now we know, how to identify the key squares of a pawn on the 4th (or below) and on the 5th (if not a rook pawn)

But now let’s see what happens, if the pawn actually is a rook pawn…

Rook Pawn 1


A rook pawn and it’s key squares

The key squares of a rook pawn (probably the most annoying one you can get if you try to win) are the the squares next to the corner! For our h-pawn here, the key squares are g8-g7. Thanks to this, the opponent has only to reach the corner in time and he’ll either be stalemated or win the pawn. Don’t believe me? Let’s see

Rook Pawn 2


1. h3  {Usually it’s quite useful to have an “extra Tempi” in order to take over the Initiative if it’s necessary! But even with this, the h-pawn is too hard to break!}

Kh7 2. Kh5 Kh8 3. h4

(3. Kh6 Kg8 4. h4 Kh8 5. h5 Kg8 6. Kg6 Kh8 7. h6 Kg8
8. h7+


If a pawn enters the 7th rank WITH check, it usually
shouldn’t be enough to win!}

Kh8 9. Kh6 {Stalemate!})

3… Kh7 4. Kg5 Kh8 5. Kg6 Kg8 6. h5 Kh8 7. h6 Kg8 8. h7+ Kh8 9. Kh6 {Stalemate!} *


If the Opponent has a Rook Pawn left, it’s sufficient to control the key squares (Pawn on h -> g7-g8) by placing the King in the respected corner of the board!

So you have a good knowledge of the basic key squares. Now let’s move on to some advanced techniques when it comes to realize it and fight for them over the board!


Study N.N. - Most distant key square

 Study: N.N.

Unfortunately I don’t know who invented this study, but it’s one of my favorites! The basic lesson you can draw from this one is

Head for the most distant key square! Why? Because it’s more difficult for your opponent to catch – and thus fight for equality – and it allows you to sometimes move around your Pawn and get IN FRONT OF IT!

1. Kc2 Ke7 2. Kb3 Kd6

Study N.N. - Most distant key square2
3. Ka4!!

(3. Kc4 ?? Kc6 = {And the position is equal as black can defend!
The reasons are:

* Black has the Opposition

* Black controls the key squares
of the pawn b4 (namely a6-b6-c6)

* White’s King is not IN FRONT OF HIS PAWN})
3… Kc6 {Black might enter the key square, but due to a “BODYCHECK” and later
on the “OPPOSITION” he won’t be able to hold it. This above mentioned
technique’s will be a subject of their own. For the moment all you need to
know is, to head for the most distant key square!}

4. Ka5 {Controlling a6-b6} Kb7

5. Kb5 {Opposition} Kc7 6. Ka6 Kc6 7. b5+ Kc7 8. Ka7 Kc8 9. Kb6

{The Pawn is already on the 5th rank, and thus gets additional key squares!} Kb8 {Here it’s important to know a small trap which you should try to avoid by any means. White has to ways of playing, but only one is precise!}

Study N.N. - Most distant key square3


10. Ka6 !

( 10. Kc6?! white will have to come back, as there is a small stalemate trick for black).

Ka8 11. b6 Kb8 12. b7 {enters the 7th rank quietly!}

Kc7 13. Ka7 {And the Pawn Queens next move!}


Quite interesting isn’t it? I’ll give you a final study (by Moravec, 1952) and explain to you the concept of “moving key squares“.

 Study - Moravec, 1952


Study: Moravec, 1952

13. Kf2 {The first move is quite clear, going for the pawn.} h4 !

Study - Moravec, 1952_5

{The key squares of the h pawn are still the same, but it became tactically more difficult to catch it!}

(13… Kd7 {A direct try to defend the Pawn is not successful!} 14. Kg3 Ke6 15. Kh4 Kf5 16. Kxh5 Kf4 17. g4 {It’s obvious that White should win!})

14. Kg1!! {Brilliant! We should never forget to see the position and interpret it correctly instead of just seeing moves! What did black’s last move? He moved his pawn foreward, which means the distance between the pawn and the king grew! This enables white to gain time for a manouvre which leads to success!}

Study - Moravec, 1952_6

(14. g3?? hxg3+ 15. Kxg3 {The position is drawn!})

(14. g4 ?? {Of course, giving the Opponent the possibility to exchange off the pawn will just lead to equality.}

A) 14…Kd7 {Just for learning purposes I’ll show you another way to draw! The Pawn advanced, and so did the key squares of the pawn! On it’s initial square, the key squares have been

“f4-g4-h4″, but now that the pawn moved to g4, the new key squares are
“f6-g6-h6″. And it’s much easier for black to reach them, as white will have
to deal with black’s passed pawn!}

Study - Moravec, 1952_2

15. Kg2 Ke6 16. Kh3 Kf6 17. Kxh4 Kg6

Study - Moravec, 1952_3


{Although white aimed for the “most distant key square” he was just not in time! A motif or technique is not a guarantee to win the game, but you’ll certainly have to know it in order to see additional options your opponent might not!}

18. g5 Kg7 19. Kg4 Kg6 20. Kf4 Kg7 21. Kf5 Kf7 22. g6+ Kg7 23. Kg5 Kg8 24. Kf6 Kf8 25. g7+ Kg8 26. Kg6 {Stalemate!})

B) (14… hxg3+ =)


14. Kf3? h3! 15.g4 {As a result, it seems logical to move it two squares! But don’t forget

that …}



(15. gxh3?? {If white takes the pawn, his own passed pawn transformed from a Knight pawn to a
Rook pawn. By now you should be familiar with the concept of key squares. The
opponent’s king only has to reach the corner in order to hold the draw!}

Kd7 16. Kg4

(16. h4 Ke7 17. h5 Kf6 18. h6 Kg6 {And the pawn is stopped.})

16… Ke7
17. Kh5 Kf7 18. Kh6 Kg8 $11)

(15. g3? {Moving the pawn one square does not
really help. The reason being, that the white king will face difficulties
getting the h-pawn, without it would be impossible to support the own pawn
(the threat of Queening would be too high).}

Study - Moravec, 1952_4

Kd7 16. g4

(16. Kf4 h2 {Black wins.})

16… Ke6 17. Kg3 Kf6 18. Kxh3 Kg6 {Controlling the key square,
blocking the opponents king from stepping in front of his pawn. Black holds
the draw.})

15… Kd7 16. Kg3 Ke6 17. Kxh3 Kf6 18. Kh4 Kg6 {Drawn!})

14… Kd7

14… h3 15. g3 {of course we don’t fall for the trap now!}

(15. gxh3 {Would once again lead to a draw, as the new key squares (rook pawn) are easy for
black to handle!})

15… Kd7 16. Kh2 Ke6 17. Kxh3 Kf5 18. Kh4 {“Heading for
the most distant key square!”, yes we did it!}

Study - Moravec, 1952_7

Kg6 19. Kg4 {White does have the opposition and will control the key squares next move! But the most important thing is, he is IN FRONT OF HIS PAWN!}) 15. Kh2 Ke6 16. Kh3 Kf5 17.
Kxh4 Kf4 18. g4 {And white wins!} *


We’ve almost finished our discussion on key squares! For your homework, I would like to share two examples I found in one of the most instructive chess books dedicated to the endgame!

In the first example, white resigned as she thought she could not defend the pawn and with it, the position!

Coull-Stanciu, Thessaloniki Ol 1988


Coull – Stanciu, Thessaloniki Ol 1988

In the second example, you’ll see a nice tactical motif which you should remember, as it could win the game in an instant!

Spielmann - Duras, Karlsbad 1907

 Spielmann – Duras, Karlsbad 1907

White played the horrible 1.Rf4?? and faced horror after ….

1…Kg5! 0-1


I hope you enjoyed our journey as much as I did! By now you should have a firm understanding of key squares, on how to spot them and finally use them for either success or to hold a certain position!

Please leave a comment if you liked this lecture, I’ll add a video-lesson in near future!

stay tuned!

Lukas Wedrychowski

DailyChess – lectures & reviews