top of page

Bishop and Pawn vs Lone King

As we continue the four-piece minor piece endings, we come to see that there aren't very many that require attention because a minor piece and a king cannot win by themselves, unlike a rook or queen and a king, which can.

However, there are a rare few that do require attention. One of them was the last article on the knight versus the pawn because the knight can be slow at getting across the board. A bishop doesn't have that problem as it is a long range piece, and so it is very rare that a single pawn is going to beat a bishop, and it would likely be a draw 99.9% of the time. Now when we get to five-piece minor piece endings, a bishop versus multiple pawns is significant, and we will get to that when the time comes.

But as we continue the four-piece minor piece endings, this one we are about to cover is probably the most important one to know as it will often save you many half points that, in many positions, would otherwise be lost, and that is specifically a bishop and a rook pawn against a long king.

It should first be pointed out that a bishop and pawn where the pawn promotes on a square opposite in color to that which the bishop resides on is still a win for the player with the bishop and the pawn when it is not a rook pawn, as illustrated below:

However, it makes a major difference when the pawn involved is a rook pawn, and so that is what we will be talking about for the rest of the article.

The first fact to know is that if the bishop is the color of the promotion square, the side with the pawn wins, even if the defending king is in front of the pawn. It should be noted that 1.Kg6 is an even quicker approach than what is shown below, but what is shown below is intentional to illustrate one stalemate that must be avoided.

So far, it all looks like an easy win for the side with the bishop and pawn. However, what you are about to see is a vital piece of information as it can save you a lot of games. When the side with the bishop and pawn has a rook pawn that needs to promote on a square that is of the opposite color of the bishop, all the king has to do is get to the corner before the pawn does and there is absolutely nothing that the player with the bishop and pawn can do, and is forced to resort to a draw.

Now if the defending king is in the box, but is unable to get in the corner, the side with the pawn might be able to win, but it can be tricky. See the following position:

So now that we have seen the basic principles of the wrong color bishop and rook pawn draw, being able to execute it if you are given a bishop and pawn versus long king position should be fairly simple. You walk the king towards the corner in front of the pawn if it can get there. But you will always go in that direction.

However, the point of this lesson isn't to simply know how to execute the four-piece ending we just talked about, but rather, it is to use this knowledge as a resource for positions with a few more pieces or pawns. I will show you one example, and then you will have a number of problems that will be able trading down to this drawn ending from the defending side.

In the example given below, we will see white appearing to be lost, but he really isn't!

So now let's look at a few problems. In each of them, it is White to move. The question in each case is how does White create the draw we discussed in this lesson. To make matters a little more challenging, in one and only one of the problems, this achievement is not possible, and Black wins with best play. For the one that you determine is a win for Black, just simply state that Black wins with best play.

Problem 1:

Problem 2:

Problem 3:

Problem 4:


Problem 1 - White draws after 1.Rxh7+ Kxh7 2.Kf2 (Not 2.Kf3?? Kg6 and White cannot play 3.Kg4 as the black pawn promotes. White must first force the bishop to self-block the pawn before trying to go up and around to get the pawn.) 2...Bh2 3.Kf3 (Only now does White play this move.) 3...Kg6 4.Kg4 and the pawn cannot be saved.

Problem 2 - White draws after 1.Ra1+ Kb7 2.Rb1+ Kc8 3.Rxb8+ Kxb8 (If 3...Bxb8, it is important that White plays 4.Kf2, drawing, and not 4.Kf1 Ba7!! and White is in zugzwang. He is forced to move back to the e-file and Black promotes the pawn) 4.Kf1 Bh2 5.Kf2 Kc7 6.Kf3 Kd6 7.Kg4 and White captures the pawn on the next move with a draw.

Problem 3 - White is unable to draw the game with best play. 1.Kc2 Kf6! (The king must be used to keep the white king out of f3. He will use the king and bishop to stop the white king from getting to the h-file, and only then walk the h-pawn to promotion. Black cannot win by trying to advance the pawn immediately - 1...h5 2.Kd3 h4 3.Ke2 h3 and now the only move is 4.Kf3 and White draws easily. If 4.Kf1??, Black wins by simply moving his king, forcing the White king back to the e-file, and only then advance the h-pawn.) 2.Kd3 Kf5 3.Ke2 Kf4 4.Kf1 Kg3 and the white king is stopped. Black will simply advance the h-pawn to promotion.

Problem 4 - Black needed every move to win the position in Problem 3. Here, the bishop is on the wrong diagonal, and White cannot be stopped from getting to the corner. After 1.Kc2, advancing the h-pawn leads to a similar draw to earlier examples: 1...h5 2.Kd3 h4 3.Ke3 h3 4.Kf2 Bh2 5.Kf3 Kg6 6.Kg4 and a draw occurs. However, trying to elbow White out with his king doesn't work in this scenario either. After 1...Kf6 2.Kd3 Kf5 3.Ke3 (A square not available to White with the Bishop on b6) 3...Kg4 4.Kf2 and now 4...Kh3 5.Kg1 and 4...Bb6+ 5.Kg2 both draw for White.



bottom of page