[FEN "8/8/8/3pk3/1K6/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"]

Even with White to move, the game is lost. OK, but according to what rule/principle?

With 1. Kc3

  • I'm able to get first to one of the key squares (c3,d3,e3)
  • I get the diagonal opposition with the black King
  • I can occupy the black's promotion square before the black's King

In spite of all that, the ending is lost. Is it because I can't keep the oposition?

p.s. The point of all this is to be able to evaluate this basic position only by applying rules, not having to calculate the concrete variations.

  • 3
    Just remember that there will always be some calculation of concrete variations involved, specially when waiting moves or extra tempi are involved. The rules will indeed help you evaluate and find the right objectives to aim for (thus make your calculations more efficient), but don't let loose on the calculation side. Glad to see you've found all the answers useful. You may enjoy going through the book of Jesus De La Villa "100 Endgames You Must Know", it covers all these kinds of basics, with very intuitive explanations.
    – Ellie
    Jan 12, 2018 at 17:28
  • Thank you Phonon, actually I am studying exactly from that book (I got it for Christmas). When a pawn (or two) up, I still don't feel confident in simplifying so I'm trying to learn how to evaluate correctly these basic positions - because OTB at this point of the game the time on the clock is such an issue and I would like to avoid blunders.
    – ThinkTank
    Jan 15, 2018 at 10:58

6 Answers 6


If you want to evaluate this ending with general rules, the rule of key squares is a good way to deal with it. However, this rule doesn't say "whoever reaches a key square first will get the result he is aiming for", it says "if the offensive king (here, Black) reaches one of the key squares, he will win."

Here after 1.Kc3 Ke4 2.Kd2 Kd4 you cannot prevent Black's king to reach one of the three key squares, so you lose.

[FEN "8/8/8/3pk3/1K6/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"]

1.Kc3 Ke4 2.Kd2 Kd4 3. Kc2 (3. Ke2 Kc3) Ke3
  • 1
    Perhaps one small additional point to make here is that black also has to keep white from gaining the opposition; if this position is reached with black on the move, white can draw. For example, after 1.Kc3 Ke4 2.Kc2 Kd4? 3.Kd2, black has triangulated in such a way as to lose the opposition.
    – BobRodes
    Jan 13, 2018 at 7:30
  • @BobRodes : it depends on which 'rule of thumb' you want to use to evaluate KPK endgames. If your rule is 'one square ahead of the pawn with opposition', yes, your remark is spot on. The rule the OP wants to use seems to be 'key squares two rows in front of the pawn (when the pawn has not the half of the board)', and in that case opposition is not a factor anymore.
    – Evargalo
    Jan 13, 2018 at 8:51
  • 1
    Oh, I see now. I was seeing the "key squares" as the fourth rank rather than the third. My mistake.
    – BobRodes
    Jan 13, 2018 at 21:19
  • @BobRodes surely 2. Kc2 Ke3 would secure the win for black in that situation. To keep the opposition white either has Kc1 which is met with Ke2, or Kc3 which is met with d4, Alternatively Kd1 is simply met with Kd3 giving opposition back to black
    – Darren H
    Jan 17, 2018 at 20:51
  • @DarrenH Absolutely. That's why 2. ... Kd4? is a mistake. My point was that if the defender can hold the opposition in front of the pawn, and the pawn has not yet reached the fifth rank, the game is drawn. With the pawn on d5 as in this position, black K on d4, and white K on d2, black to move loses, white to move draws.
    – BobRodes
    Jan 20, 2018 at 22:00

The point of all this is to be able to evaluate this basic position only by applying rules, not having to calculate the concrete variations.

Well, the basic rule of (single) pawn endings is that if the side with the pawn manages to get their king on one of the key squares (and the pawn can't be taken on the next move), it's a win.

I'm able to get first to one of the key squares

It doesn't matter that you're the first one to get there, that's probably where your mistake lies.


The diagonal (or horizontal) opposition doesn't do anything for you here because it doesn't help you prevent the black king from controlling the promotion square. If you slide down the c file, keeping the diagonal opposition, the black king just slide down the e file until it reaches e2, and then the pawn can simply march forward. And if you move your king to the d file, the black king can get the vertical opposition, forcing you to move out of the way until again it reaches e2 or c2, controlling the promotion square.

You could draw if you could get to the d file with the opposition, and without the pawn having extra tempos, but that would require black to blunder, for example 1.Kc3 Ke4 2.Kc2 Kd4?? 3.Kd2.

I guess the bottom line is that "not all oppositions are created equal", and often you do need to look at concrete variations anyway. Opposition is a tool, but what really matters here is getting control of the promotion square.

  • I really hoped that I missed some basic rule. I'm always hesitant to simplify the position where I'm a pawn up unless I can calculate completely until promotion.
    – ThinkTank
    Jan 12, 2018 at 16:23
  • The other answers are better than mine because they explain in terms of the key squares rule, which I think was what you were looking for. I focused to much on the opposition.
    – itub
    Jan 12, 2018 at 17:01

The reason why he can't stop you from reaching the key squares is because he cannot prevent you from gaining the opposition (while your pawn is still behind you).


A simple rule of thumb for king and pawn endings is that when the king is in front of the pawn then it is a win. The reason is that king will be able to gain opposition.

8/8/8/3pk3/1K6/8/8/8 w - - 0 1

1.Kc3 Ke4 {You lose control of one of the key squares, as the following variations show.} 2.Kd2 (2.Kc2!? {Setting up a trap.} Ke3! (2...Kd4?? 3.Kd2! {Drawing, although the position would lose if the first rank was removed:} 3...Kc4 4.Kc2 d4 5.Kd2 d3 6.Kd1! {This move would be impossible if the first rank was removed, but White draws here.} (6.Ke3 {White would have to play this if the first rank was removed.} Kc3))) Kd4 3.Kc2 (3.Ke2 Kc3) Ke3 {And Black Wins.}

The replayer has moves with annotations.

A video could also clear things up, because it explains the blockade and how to remove it.

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