Is it possible to draw in such an endgame? Are there exceptions? If so, what are they?

3 Answers 3


How do you draw in an opposite color bishops endgame with two pawns down?

Fortress is your only chance in such a position.

  • You must base your defense on the color of your bishop.
  • Make your bishop a "bad bishop", so he can defend your pawns, if you have any.
  • You will stop opposing passed pawns by controlling the diagonal that is the same color as your bishop.
  • Exchange as many pawns as you can.
  • Force stronger side to put his pawns on the color of their bishop.
  • Put your pawns on the color of your bishop.
  • Your king must fight the enemy one, by "cutting him off" from helping his passed pawns promote. You achieve this by posting your king on the square that has the same color as your bishop, when blockading opposing passers.

Below diagram shows what a fortress is:

[Title "Weaker side builds a fortress"]
[fen "8/2k5/4Bp2/2b1p1p1/4K2p/7P/8/8 w - - 0 1"]

White will move the bishop along the c8-h3 diagonal, and there is nothing Black can do to set his pawn majority into motion.

There is no way for him to break the fortress, since White's defense is organized on the light squares, which is the color of his bishop.

Another example that illustrates the points listed above:

[Title "Another fortress"]
[fen "5k2/p2K1P2/P3P3/2b5/2B5/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"]

Again, we can see that defense is based on the squares of the same color as the bishop is. In this case, Black defends on the dark squares.

As stated above, Black has "bad bishop" but this is good thing here, since White can not win the a7 pawn.

Also, this example demonstrates how weaker side uses bishop and king to "cut off" enemy king from crucial promotion squares. White can not break the blockade, nor can he create zugzwang so the position is a draw.

Since you have asked specifically about endgame with 2 pawns down, there are some tips that can further help you. Read on...

Battling 2 connected passers:

  • Weaker side positions the bishop so it attacks one, and controls the other pawn;
  • Passers on sixth rank usually win, otherwise high probability of a draw.

Again, simple illustration:

[Title "Illustration of a drawing concept"]
[fen "8/2b1k3/8/1B1PP3/3K4/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"]

Black attacks e5 pawn, and controls d6 square. That way, if d6 is played, Black sacrifices bishop for 2 pawns and draws.

Remember this rule, as it is the only way to draw in such positions.

Battling 2 widely separated passers:

This one is very hard, as stronger side has great winning chances. You must apply the "one diagonal" defense -> control both passers on the same diagonal. That is your best bet. Use king and bishop to push away enemy king from key promotional squares. Below is an example of what I was talking about:

[Title "The one diagonal"]
[fen "8/2bB4/2P5/6k1/4K3/5P2/8/8 w - - 0 1"]

1. Kd5 Kf6! {The white king will not get to e6} 2. Kc5 Ke7 3. Kb5 Bf4 4. Kb6 Kd8 1/2-1/2

This example also demonstrates how to deploy the principle of pushing away ( or blocking ) the enemy king, by using bishop and king synergy.

Remember, you must keep your pieces mobile, and it is absolutely mandatory that you can reach both passers with your king as fast as the opposing one.

You should be able to establish diagonal control easily, however, reaching with king on time is not so simple. If you manage to be there on time to establish blockade or push away the enemy king, then you will draw.

Are there exceptions?

Yes! Chess would be poor and dull game if there were no exceptions to its "rules"!

If so, what are they?

OK, so far we looked at the principles for the defender, now it is time to see what options stronger side has.

First off, stronger side fights to prevent the creation of the fortress. This is done by taking over control of the squares your bishop controls. Thus the stronger side wants to have "good bishop", so it can "push away" weaker side's bishop. This plan is very risky, but it is the only way to win ( generally speaking, of course; it all depends on the actual position).

Sometimes you will have to sacrifice a pawn or two in order to break the fortress, this is not unusual!

Your best bet to win is to create separated passers, that are separated at least by 2 files or more -> the more the better!

Below is the famous example of how stronger side breaks the blockade and wins with the separated passers:

[Title "Kotov vs. Botvinnik, 1955"]
[StartFlipped "0"]
[fen "8/8/4b1p1/2Bp3p/5P1P/1pK1Pk2/8/8 b - - 0 1"]

1... g5!! 2. fxg5 (2. hxg5 h4 3. Bd6 Bf5 4. g6 Bxg6 5. f5 Bxf5 6. Kxb3 Kg2 -+)  2...d4+! 3. exd4 (3. Bxd4, Kg3 4. g6 Kxh4 5. Kd2 Kh3!! 6. Bf6 h4 7. Ke2 Kg2!) 3...Kg3! (3...Kg4? 4. d5! Bxd5 5. Bf2 {White draws}) 4. Ba3 (4. g6 Kxh4 5. g7 Kg4 -+) (4. Be7 Kxh4 5.g6+ Kg4 -+) 4...Kxh4 5. Kd3 Kxg5 6. Ke4 h4 7. Kf3 ( 7.d5 Bxd5+ -+ ) 7...Bd5+ 0-1

Black wins because he will win the bishop for a pawn. His own bishop can defend the remaining pawn and keep the opposing one in check. Therefore, White can not exchange pawns and save a draw.

From the above game, we can derive the following rule:

  • Stronger side moves king towards the pawn opposing bishop is holding back
  • Stronger side tries to create separated passers, and the more distant form each other they are the better!

As for connected passers, your only chance is to get them to the sixth rank. Then there is a chance to win by creating zugzwang. Below diagram is great illustration of this principle:

[Title "Stronger side wins with connected pawns"]
[fen "3k1b2/8/3PP3/1B1K4/8/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"]

If you remember from before, weaker side must attack one pawn, and control the other.

Here, at the moment Black does exactly that. His defense holds since White can not advance any further.

Still, White can play a waiting move 1.Kc6, and force Black to abandon the control.

This type of positions is the only way for you to win with connected passers, otherwise weaker side holds as explained before.


I have tried to minimize the amount of posted content, so you don't get overwhelmed.

In case you need further info start here.

If you have follow up questions, leave a comment.

Best regards and god luck!


Yes, if the pawns can be blockaded it's often an easy draw. One example:

[fen "8/4k3/4P3/3P4/2B1K3/b7/8/8 w KQkq - 0 1"]

As long as the black bishop controls d6, the pawns aren't going anywhere.

But two pawns are two pawns. If they are farther apart and far progressed often one pawn wins the bishop and the other pawn wins the game, or one pawn sacrifices itself so the other one cannot be blocked by the bishop anymore. But this depends heavily on the specifics of the position.

  • I love this defense. Very nice.
    – Xonatron
    Sep 10, 2015 at 2:35

There are a lot of cases where two pawns is not enough to win an opposite bishops ending, but generally it depends on the position. If the defending side manages to block the pawns on the color of the attacking bishop (like @BlindKungFuMaster's position), it is usually a draw. Especially when they are on the same diagonal, as then zugzwang is less likely. The defending player usually needs both the king and the bishop for the blockade.

An very fine example of a winning position is this one:

      [FEN ""]
      [Event "Linares"]
      [Site "Linares ESP"]
      [Date "1998.03.04"]
      [EventDate "1998.02.22"]
      [Round "10"]
      [Result "0-1"]
      [White "Veselin Topalov"]
      [Black "Alexey Shirov"]
      [ECO "D85"]
      [WhiteElo "?"]
      [BlackElo "?"]
      [PlyCount "106"]
      [StartPly "93"]

      1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7
7.Bb5+ c6 8.Ba4 O-O 9.Ne2 Nd7 10.O-O e5 11.f3 Qe7 12.Be3 Rd8
13.Qc2 Nb6 14.Bb3 Be6 15.Rad1 Nc4 16.Bc1 b5 17.f4 exd4 18.Nxd4
Bg4 19.Rde1 Qc5 20.Kh1 a5 21.h3 Bd7 22.a4 bxa4 23.Ba2 Be8
24.e5 Nb6 25.f5 Nd5 26.Bd2 Nb4 27.Qxa4 Nxa2 28.Qxa2 Bxe5
29.fxg6 hxg6 30.Bg5 Rd5 31.Re3 Qd6 32.Qe2 Bd7 33.c4 Bxd4
34.cxd5 Bxe3 35.Qxe3 Re8 36.Qc3 Qxd5 37.Bh6 Re5 38.Rf3 Qc5
39.Qa1 Bf5 40.Re3 f6 41.Rxe5 Qxe5 42.Qa2+ Qd5 43.Qxd5+ cxd5
44.Bd2 a4 45.Bc3 Kf7 46.h4 Ke6 47.Kg1 Bh3 48.gxh3 Kf5 49.Kf2
Ke4 50.Bxf6 d4 51.Be7 Kd3 52.Bc5 Kc4 53.Be7 Kb3 0-1

Black played the fantastic move 47 ... Bh3!!, sacrificing the bishop to gain a critical tempo with the king. White's king could not join the bishop in time for the blockade.

  • 6
    The move 47...Bh3 is widely considered to be one of the best chess moves ever played, so a learner shouldn't be discouraged if the position seems very hard to grasp. It nicely demonstrates the idea in this answer though.
    – JiK
    Sep 8, 2015 at 12:05

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