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I had been thinking about exercises to help players <1400 gain confidence. For instance, they should feel confident they can always win with queen and king vs king, or rook and king vs king, even against Magnus Carlsen. They should also feel confident they can win with a bishop and 8 pawns vs 8 pawns.

So I lazily took all the pieces off the back ranks and removed black's king pawn, to give an exercise with king and 8 pawns vs king and 7 pawns. I figured winning a pawn up in a pawn endgame is a useful skill to know, and it should not be too hard.


[FEN "4k3/pppp1ppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/4K3 w - - 0 0"]

However, initial desultory poking around showed Black may be able to sit tight and form a barricade. This could be instructive for a beginning player, but it also might be too intimidating.

While this probably won't happen in actual play (exchanged pieces mean there is probably at least one line open), this is a non-trivial case worth looking at, as Black could quite possibly establish a blockade down two pawns (you can ignore the two backwards pawns--I saw this pawn structure in a recent video of Ben Feingold's, about his 2019 Foxwoods tourney.)


[FEN "8/4k3/1p4p1/p1pPPp1p/P1P2P1P/8/4K3/8 w - - 0 1"]

What is a good strategy for White to minimize the possibility of blockades? Also, what is Black's best strategy to push pawns and maximize the possibility of blockades?

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I figured winning a pawn up in a pawn endgame is a useful skill to know

It is a useful skill to know and an even more important skill to know is when a pawn-up endgame is a win and when it is a draw and when it could be either depending on who is to move first. This is a vital skill because it stops you from swapping off into a drawn king and pawn endgame when you are a pawn up.

I had been thinking about exercises to help players <1400 gain confidence.

When it comes to building confidence in pawn-up endgames for <1400 players this is where you / they should start. This is a win for white if it is white's turn and a draw if it is black's turn.

[FEN "4k3/8/8/8/8/8/4P3/4K3 w - - 0 0"]

This teaches you the importance of:

  • The opposition and
  • Getting your king in front of your passed pawn not behind

In terms of preventing (or aiming for) drawing blockades the <1400 player needs to know this position and why it is a win for white if it is white's turn and a draw if it is black's turn.

[FEN "8/ppp3k1/8/PPP3K1/8/8/8/8 w - - 0 0"]

This teaches you that it is the position of the pieces which is key not material balance. White to play wins by sacrificing a pawn or even two depending on black's response.

Finally, Capablanca's Position:

[FEN "6k1/7p/8/8/8/8/6PP/6K1 w - - 0 0"]

It is a win for white but if black knows the ending it is very easy for white to go wrong and end up in a drawn position. Many white players much stronger than 1400 would struggle to win this against a knowledgeable black opponent.

All 3 of the positions above could arise from the position in the question. All 3 have far fewer pieces and so are much simpler but are far from straightforward. Mastering them first would be a good first step.

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    I agree these positions are important ones to learn, practice and master, but I don't think this really answer the question. The OP is looking for winning pawn endgames to use as long playing exercices, in particular with 8 vs 7, which is quite a different stuff. – Evargalo May 20 at 11:15
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    This doesn't even attempt to answer the question. – JiK May 20 at 11:38
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    The OP makes the assumption that being a pawn up in such a symmetrical position must automatically be a win for white and that it would be useful for weak players to learn how to win. That assumption is wrong. All 3 of the positions I give could arise from the position the OP gives. All 3 have far fewer pieces and so are much simpler but are far from straightforward. Mastering them first would be wise. – Brian Towers May 20 at 12:43
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    If you could mention your last comment as the first statement in your answer, I think the answer would be much better. I, too, had difficulty seeing where the connection is between the question and this answer. +1 – justhalf May 20 at 14:24
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    @justhalf I've added it at the end. – Brian Towers May 20 at 17:12

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