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Two evenly matched players have reached the endgame exchanging off all their pieces except the King and 3 Pawns. Having castled on opposite sides, we have now reached the following interesting position.

8/pppk4/8/8/8/8/4KPPP/8 w - - 0 1

Quite clearly, this is now a race for pawn promotion. What should be the strategy in this position (for both players)? Should your King go after the enemy pawns, or lead your own pawns to promotion?

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Good question. Draw I suppose. –  Zistoloen Dec 7 '12 at 13:08
    
Who has the first move here? –  xaisoft Dec 7 '12 at 17:19
2  
The position is symmetrical so it doesn't matter. Let's just say white has the first move. –  Happy Dec 7 '12 at 17:23
    
Well if it is white's first move and both players just move their outside pawns for promotion, white will win. If it is black's first move, black will win. This would mostly likely be the course of play though. –  xaisoft Dec 7 '12 at 17:27
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For these types of positions, I play the computer against itself. When it's done, I look at the moves to find those with which I disagree. Then I go back, and force the moves I like to see how the computer punishes me. This helps me understand why the computer made the move it made. It's like having an instructor. –  Tony Ennis Dec 8 '12 at 14:38
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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

For complicated reasons (detailed below), the following draw by repetition looks optimal.

[FEN "8/pppk4/8/8/8/8/4KPPP/8 w - - 0 1 "]

1. h4  a5  2. h5 Ke7 3. h6 Kf6 4. g4 a4 5. Kd2 Kg6 6. g5 a3 7. Kc2 b5 8. Kb3 b4 9. Ka2 Kh7 10. Kb3 Kg6 ½-½

Neither player can advance the ♟c/♙f, or will end up in zugzwang.

If White advances the ♙f, Black wins.

[FEN "8/2p5/6kP/6P1/1p6/pK6/5P2/8 w - - 8 9"]

  9. f3 c6 10. f4 c5 (9. f4 c5) 11. f5+ Kh7 12. Ka2 (12. f6 Kg6 -+) c4 13. Ka1 b3 14. Kb1 c3 15. Ka1 c2 (13. Kb1 b3 14. Ka1 c3 15. Kb1 b2 16. Ka2 c2 17. Kxa3 c1=Q -+(16. Kc2 a2 17. Kxc3 a1=Q -+)) 16. g6+ Kxh6 17. g7 c1=Q# (15. Kc1 a2 -+)

If Black advances the ♟c, White wins.

Notice how it falls back to White playing ♙f4 with reverse colors.

[FEN "8/2p5/6kP/6P1/1p6/pK6/5P2/8 w - - 8 9"]

  9. Ka2 c6 10. f4! c5 (9... c5 10. f3! c4 11. f4 +- see Wf4) 11. Kb3 c4+ 12. Ka2 +-

I wouldn't call that a full analysis, especially as the first moves are played so hastily, but I don't think neither player is in zugzwang from the start, as back-and-forth moves on columns seem free.

As neither the rush of pawns work, nor helping one's pawns with one's king (which must stay in the opponent's far-pawn's square), I think the position is symetrical enough to be a fair draw.

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Hooray for the replayer in which this was carried on. –  Nikana Reklawyks Dec 8 '12 at 11:59
    
I think the key is both players must keep their "inside pawns" back; it took me a while to see that. It is very tempting to try to build a Phalanx(f4,g4,h4), which I believe is actually losing. –  Akavall Dec 8 '12 at 16:15
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Unless there is careless pay, I see this ending up in a draw, play might continue:

[FEN "8/pppk4/8/8/8/8/4KPPP/8 w - - 0 1"]

1. Kd3 Ke6 2. g4 a5 3. h4 a4 4. h5 Kf6 5. Kc3 b5 6. h6 Kg6 7. g5 a3 8. Kb3 b4 9. Ka2 Kh7
10. Kb3 Kg6 11. Ka2

Black can't do 11... c5, because then it is basically over with:

  [FEN "8/pppk4/8/8/8/8/4KPPP/8 w - - 0 1"]

 1. Kd3 Ke6 2. g4  a5  3. h4  a4  4. h5  Kf6  5. Kc3  b5 
 6. h6  Kg6  7. g5  a3 8. Kb3  b4  9. Ka2  Kh7  10. Kb3  Kg6 
 11. Ka2  c5  12. f3 c4  13. f4  c3  14. Kb3  a2  15. Kxa2  c2 
 16. Kb2 b3 17. Kc1  Kh7 18. f5  Kg8  19. f6  b2+  20. Kxc2  Kf7 
 21. h7  Kg6 22. h8=Q
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Errr, most of the moves you show in the second diagram are totally unenderstandeable if you don't explain the underlying zugzwang a bit more. What about 11... c6, if each and every tempo are important ? If White f4, then he's the screwed one. (Unfortunately, I can't carry the analysis myself.) –  Nikana Reklawyks Dec 7 '12 at 18:43
    
If black plays 11...c6, white should still play 12. f4. If white, however, plays 12. f3, then he is screwed. Going back to 11...c6, it could continue 12. f4 c5 13. f5+ Kxf5 14. h7 Kxg5 15. h8=Q" –  xaisoft Dec 7 '12 at 18:53
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13... Kh7 makes more sense. –  Nikana Reklawyks Dec 7 '12 at 19:40
    
Whoever downvoted? An explanation would be nice? –  xaisoft Dec 8 '12 at 13:06
    
Why is this downvoted? I don't see a difference between @NikanaReklawyks post and this except some more detail in theirs. –  xaisoft Dec 9 '12 at 18:31
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