Base: Queen first, lose (or draw) later

  1. What is the most economic position in a pawn endgame where Black queens first, but only draws, White pawn(s) not higher than rank 5 on time of Black queening? (This subsumes ranks 6 and 7)

3 Answers 3


1+1, 2nd rank (from Black's side):

[Title "Black to play -- draw"]
[FEN "8/8/8/k7/8/K7/Pp6/8 b - - 0 1"]

1. b1=Q

(Even 0+1, if we assume that Black will Queen first and ask questions later)

  • I couldn't help accepting the answer just for the bracket which is in true mathematician's style :P Sep 25 at 17:35
  • (Note that Evargalo effectively posted the same position but didn't have the audacity to drop the pawn :-) Sep 25 at 17:46

An answer (maybe unique) is (seen from Black)

[FEN "8/4K3/8/5P2/8/2k5/3p4/8 b - - 0 1"]

where after 1...d1Q 2.f6 it's the usual draw of queen against bishop pawn. The point is that the black King stands very unfortunate: 2...Qe1+ 3.Kf8 and 3...Qb4+ isn't possible (thus f7 can't be impeded and the bK is out of the winning zone either).

This end position BTW is the heart of the following brilliant study:

[FEN "5K2/2p5/8/2k5/8/2P5/4P3/8 w - - 0 0"]

Mikhail Zinar, Shakhmaty v SSSR 1981, 1st special prize, 1.Kg7!!

What?? Why not 1.Ke7 or 1.Kf7? 1.Ke7? Kc4 is obvious: either Black gets both pawns or again Q vs bishop pawn arises, this time with black K already on b2. And after 1.Kf7? Kd5! we have mutual zugzwang, White's only try is 2.Kf6 Kc4 3.e4 Kxc3 and so on, where White queens even another move earlier, but now Black plays the K to d2 and we have the above position (with mirrored colors)! Thus 1.Kg7! Kd5 (Kc4 is easy, as above, again White queens another move earlier and Qg5+ wins in the end, unimpeded by a Kf6) 2.Kf7! and Black is in zugzwang. (Running to c3 is, as seen, one move short, running to Pe2 hopeless either.)

  • The text and variation doesn't seem to match either diagram.
    – Evargalo
    Sep 22 at 10:50
  • 1
    @Evargalo: Diagram 2 can't be played from Diagram 1 - the sides have been mirrored. If White in the study plays 1.Kf7?, mutual zugzwang forces White to f6. Black thus has a draw like shown in the second diagram, with colors mirrored. (I had to mirror, since I formulated my question as "White draws", and in the study White must avoid Black drawing. You might see clearer if you play out 1.Kf7? with an engine.) Sep 22 at 19:29
  • Beuatiful but not quite unique: the position White Kd7 (instead of f6), Pe7 vs. Kd2, Pc3 is also drawn after 1 e8Q c3 and now White has no good checks at all and the wK is still too far to win after 2 . . . c2. Sep 24 at 23:58
  • OK, so it wasn't unique (I had wondered) but it was a wonderful excuse to repost this wonderful study! Sep 25 at 17:37

In case we want White to be winning and not just drawing, we need more pawns. This is probably not the most economical solution:

[FEN "8/5K1k/6p1/6PP/8/5p2/4p2/8 w - - 0 1"]

1...e1Q leads to an immediate mate: 2.hg6 Kh8 3.g7 Kh7 4.g8Q#

After 1...gh5 2.g6 Kh6 3.g7, Black has a choice:

  • They still can promote first, but after 3...e1Q 4.g8Q they will get mated by 5.Qg7# or 5.Qg6#
  • Or they can run away with 3...Kg5, but then they won't promote at all, e.g. 4.g8Q Kf4 6.Qg1+-
  • @Evergalo: Winning is split off to elsewhere ;-) (I admit my presentation is confusing, I will work it over, well, not today, weather is to good for Internet :-) Sep 23 at 10:18
  • @HaukeReddmann : Ok, I'll move this answer to the relevant question when the weather is opportune !
    – Evargalo
    Sep 23 at 10:32

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