Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Junior Club:Passed Pawns and the square rule

Take a look at the following diagram.  Who has the advantage and why?

The a-pawn is the only difference between the two sides.  In this position that pawn is a massive advantage.  As the pawn has nothing in its path, either black pawns on the a-file to block it, or black pawns on the b-file to capture it, we call it a passed pawn.

My advice to you:
"Passed pawns must be pushed"

Passed pawns should be pushed, as the further up the board they get the more dangerous they become.  Eventually a pushed passed pawn will become a queen.  Assuming it can not be captured that is.

In the above position White starts with 1.a4 Kf8, Black tries to get his king to the a-file to stop the pawn. 2.a5 Ke8, 3.a6 Kd8, 4.a7 Kc8, 5.a8(Q) and the pawn does queen.

But what happens if the Black king is closer?  Take a look at the below

1.a5 Kd8, 2.a6 Kc8, 3.a7 Kb7, 4.a8(Q) Kxa8

Trying to work out if the pawn can promote before the enemy king can catch it can be tricky.  Luckily for us there is a simple rule to help us, called the square.  Draw an imaginary diagonal line from the king to the back rank the king and this square will make a square, see below.

If the enemy king can step into this square on his next go it can catch the pawn otherwise that pawn can make it to the other side and promote safely.

In the following diagram the enemy king is almost in the square.  If white is to go then the black king is not in the square so is safe, if its blacks go then white will lose his passed pawn.

White to move: 1.c7 Ke7, 2.c8(Q)
Black to move: 1...Ke7, 2.c7 Kd7, 3.c8(Q) Kxc8

Its a simple rule and easy to visualize, so use it.

If you realise that the pawn will not make it, there is usually little point in just pushing it.  Instead it needs backup.  Time to call the King.  More on that next week...

Take a look at the below position.  Can White safely push the pawn to get a new queen?  Answer next week.

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  •  Spot any mistakes with this post, 
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