I had this position today, with White to play:

    [FEN "8/1p3kpp/p1n1p3/3p4/3P4/1P2B3/P2K1PPP/8 w - - 0 25"]

What should White's plan be to try and win, and are there any particular pawn structures White should aim for? Does White actually have any advantage?

In the game I got to the following position:

[FEN "8/2B5/2n1pk2/p2p2p1/Pp1P2P1/1P2KP2/8/8 w - - 1 35"]

and there seems to be nothing (the computer doesn't find any way to make progress either).

I was hoping to use the fact that I have a tempo available (Bc7-b6) to force my king through the kingside after something like f4 gxf4; Kxf4 Kg6; g5 , and move my king around Kh5-h6, however Black always has ...e5! to break out once my bishop is on b6 and my king is not covering e5 or d3. The actual game followed my idea but it ended up in a wrong-colour rook pawn situation.

3 Answers 3


While this position is probably a dead draw, there is no way white could claim even the slightest advantage here.

Sure, there are pawns on both sides of the board, but the d4-pawn closes the juiciest diagonals for the bishop and is an eternal target for the black knight.

Even more important is the fact, that after black plays b5 the queenside is completely sealed. The white king cannot intrude and the bishop cannot attack anything. The same isn't true for the black knight … if white walks his king to the kingside he has to take possible counter play on the queenside into account.

Just playing g6 and putting the king on f7 should be enough to defend the kingside for black. But if ever black really starts to march on the kingside with king and pawns, this frees up the black knight not only for queenside counterplay but also for kingside defence. I don't see how that would ever result in a white breakthrough.

So to sum up: This just isn't a position where white can put any pressure on black. Of course in the game apparently black put a lot of pawns on black squares, turning them into targets for the white bishop, but even that wasn't enough to tip the scales.


Does White actually have any advantage?

No, White has no advantage here whatsoever. With proper play, the game should end in a draw.

Why I am I so certain that White has nothing in this position? Well, let us analyze the position using the diagram I submitted below:

enter image description here

Red color represent squares that Black knight control, while pink color represents squares controlled by Black pawns. Green color represents squares on which Black king can penetrate into White camp.

By looking at the diagram, you can clearly see the barrier knight and pawns on the queenside create for the White king. You can see that Black has sealed the queenside and White can not create any counterplay there.

White can not penetrate through center of the board either, as we can clearly see on the diagram, since d5 + e6 pawns and knight block entry points.

This leaves kingside as the last hope, but Black king has a route ( marked with green color ) that can take to prevent White king to penetrate. White can not stop Black king to take this route.

Black bishop has no targets to attack, and is bound to the defense of the d4 pawn. This pawn is a serious weakness in White camp and the biggest problem is that White can not get rid of it.

Black knight is very well posted, and restricts White pieces to the defense of the weak pawn. Black king is about to get active as well.


White must play g4! in order to prevent Black king from penetrating. After that move he has sufficient resources to defend with ease.

What should White's plan be to try and win

White must wait for a mistake, after playing g4!.

are there any particular pawn structures White should aim for?

White has better minor piece for the endgame, but that weak pawn hinders him to utilize his advantage. In endgames, bishop is always stronger than a knight, if the side with the bishop has no weaknesses.

White should strive to create imbalance by forcing Black somehow to play ...e5. The passed pawn is nothing special as it is central one, and bishop is fast enough to catch it on time, so Black would not have much.

On the other hand, after ...e5, white should aim to create a passed h pawn in order to play for the win. That pawn should reach h6 so the bishop could defend it from afar, while keeping "an eye" on the Black passed pawn.

This would tie Black king/knight to the proximity of the White passed pawn, enabling White king to possibly penetrate on the queenside.

Of course, this is all hypothetical talking, Black would never allow such a thing to happen. Your question was about winning pawn structure, so my answer is to get the pawn structure where you have passed h pawn, and d pawn is exchanged. That is the pawn structure White should aim for.

Your second diagram looks very promising, but at the moment I have no time to analyze it. I believe you could have won with slightly better play. He (or she?) made such terrible moves, that if pressured just for few more moves, he/she would crack ( I am 100% sure of this ). Maybe I will update this post with thorough analysis ->let us hope that I will solve the problems at work.

Best regards, feel free to leave a comment if you need help or you have anny follow up questions.

  • Thanks, that's a good analysis. In the game I thought my d-pawn was strong because 1 pawn is holding back 2 of black's pawns, and also it blocks all the squares his knight can go, so his knight is bad. But as you say, since there is no route for my king to invade, all of that doesn't mean anything.
    – M.M
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 3:36
  • @MattMcNabb: I really believe you have winning advantage in the second diagram. I just hope that I will get time to analyze it... Best regards. Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 10:46
  • I hope so too :)
    – M.M
    Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 10:47
  • Note, that if black doesn't play b5, white could presumably play Kc3+a4-b4-b5 which would improve his position considerably: Black has to play b6, to keep the white king out, which will be a weakness. The knight is chased to a worse square - no more pressure on d4. And the bishop can be brought to e5, where it is much stronger. Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 11:19
  • @BlindKungFuMaster: After Kc3-a4-b4 Black responds with ...b5! fixing b4 pawn as another weakness. Again we see that White has no good plan for making progress. Commented Feb 1, 2015 at 11:30

The following is from a post I wrote for the Chess Endgame Facebook page.

We have seen how bishops and knights maneuver against each other when one of them has an extra pawn to promote. Next we will look at positions where the true strengths and weaknesses of each piece play the deciding factor.

In general, the bishop is stronger in positions with pawns on both wings (especially passed pawns), due to its long range movement. The knight excels with pawns on only one wing. However, an exception can occur when pawns are on both wings, but the bishop's pawns are locked on the same square color as the bishop itself. In such a situation, the knight can take its time moving across the board, because the bishop will suffer from its limited access to only 32 squares.

In these situations, the differences between the minor pieces are often more significant than possessing a protected passed pawn.

You already analyzed the position with a computer, so I hope these general strategy tips will be helpful.

  • 2
    Well, I managed to get my pawns on opposite colour squares to my bishop but it didn't seem to help. Computer "analysis" is often not very useful in endings because they can't see long term plans such as how to organize the king-side pawns.
    – M.M
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 2:12

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