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Knight vs Pawn

As we continue covering the four and five piece endings, we will now make the shift from rook endings to minor piece endings, and we shall begin with knight vs pawn. Other than in a couple of extreme instances, the knight cannot win by itself against the pawn, but it is important to be able to understand and calculate moves with the knight to determine if it can stop a passed pawn, and whether the king is able to impede the progress of the knight in his mission to hunt down the pawn.


The first thing that will make the chasing of a pawn easier to figure out is understanding a few facts about the knight and knowing how many moves it takes a knight to get from one square to another.


Let's take a look at a position that wouldn't actually occur in a game as it would be declared a draw, but the purpose of this exercise is to see patterns of how a knight gets from one square to another square on the board.



So now let's look at a fairly simple example of a knight chasing down a pawn.



The first example was fairly simple, but sometimes it is not that obvious, and other mechanisms must be used. In the next example, we will see a case where the knight cannot directly chase the pawn, but rather, must use a check to gain a necessary tempo.



The last mechanism to look out for, if you cannot stop the pawn from promoting, is possibly finding a knight fork once the pawn promotes. See the following example.




The one Case Where the Knight Wins


So there is one case where the knight can mate the king, and that is specifically when the player with the pawn has an advanced rook pawn with the king stuck in front of it. Let's look at an example.




Problems


Unlike most articles where problems involve finding the right move to either win or draw, these will be of a different format. For each of the following diagrams, it is White to move, and your job is to figure out whether or not White can stop the black pawn and draw the game. If so, your job is to figure out how to draw. If not, show how Black wins.


Problem 1




Problem 2




Problem 3




Problem 4





Solutions


Problem 1 - Yes! White can draw the position. Due to the misfortune of the black king, White is able to check the king twice and catch the pawn after 1.Ng6+ Kg8 2.Ne7+ Kf7 3.Nd5 b2 4.Nc3 and White will either capture the newly promoted queen or block the pawn on the next move, depending on whether Black promotes or moves his king.


Problem 2 - No! White has no way to draw the position. Due to the way the knight moves, it is often more difficult to stop a rook pawn than any other pawn, and in this case, not only is the knight unable to maneuver in such a way to get the pawn, but the knight also impedes White's king from getting to the pawn. For example, after 1.Kf2, Black doesn't take the knight, but rather, advances the pawn with 1...h2 and if White's knight wasn't on g2, the white king could go there and stop the pawn, but in this case, the king is just as helpless as the knight. Black will promote on the next move.


Problem 3 - No! White has no way to draw the position. At first glance, this position looks very similar to the example involving the royal fork after promotion, but there is one major difference here. That would be the unfortunate location of the white king. After 1.Nf7 c3 2.Nd5 c2 3.Nb4, the move 3...c1=Q comes with check! White is forced to move his king and doesn't have the time to fork the black queen and king, and Black wins.


Problem 4 - Yes! White can draw the position. This one is tricky though. 1.Ng1 Kd1, 1.Ng5 c2 2.Ne4 Kb2, 1.Kg7 c2 2.Nf2 Kd2, and 1.Nf2 c2 2.Nd3+ Kd2 3.Nc5 Kc3 4.Ne4+ Kd3 5.Nc5+ Kc4 all win for Black. Therefore, White's only move is 1.Nf4. All of Black's legitimate responses lead to a draw for White. After1...Kd1,White has 2.Nd5 c2 3.Ne3+ with a draw. After 1...Kd2 2.Ne6 c2 3.Nd4 c1=Q 4.Nb3+, it is also a draw. Lastly, after 1...c2, White has 2.Ne2+ Kd1 3.Nc3+ Kd2 4.Na2 and the position is a draw.

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