Endgame Fundamentals: Creating a Passed Pawn

By Donny Gray

Of course, the main objective in chess is to checkmate your opponent. However many things must happen before you can reach that point. In most endings the main idea is to queen a pawn, but to do so you must first create a passed pawn.



In the first example, White can create a passed pawn. Of course, in chess there are always exceptions, but in most cases you should push the pawn that is unopposed to create a passer. In this case the a pawn is the unopposed one. Trying other pawns can lead to trouble.

1. b4 c4

Now, Black’s 2 pawns stop White’s 3.

True, White can still create a passer with

2. a4 ba
3. b5

but Black will queen first and win the game.

Now back to the original position.

1. a4!

It does not matter if Black takes or not. White has a passer that will win the game for him.




In the next example, White again has 3 pawns to Black’s 2. And again pushing the unopposed pawn creates the passer.

1. b4

And now no matter how Black responds, White will have a passer that will win.

Many openings have a long range plan of creating a passer. For example, in the Exchange Ruy Lopez after move 7 we come to this position.




One of the ideas is that if White can force off all pieces, he is left with the following pawn structure.




As you can see, White has 4 pawns to 3 on the Kingside. Black has a pawn advantage on the Queenside, but White’s 3 can stop Black’s 4, as one of them is doubled. So White will try to create a passer with his Kingside advantage. None other than Bobby Fischer used to play this opening. Imagine trying to stop him from creating a passer playing Black against him! Many a GM had his day ruined trying to stop Fischer from this simple plan.

Of course in real games things are not so simple. There may be pieces in the way or an attack on your King. So in closing, let’s take a look at an ending that appeared in the game Kasparov vs. Vukic that was played in 1980.




Black has just played Nf6 and Kasparov wins by creating a passed pawn.

36. Bf6 gf
37. Rd1! Resigns

Black has no choice but to go to the pawn ending where he cannot stop the passer, so he resigned.

Play could have continued…

37…… Rd1
38. Kd1 Kd7
39. g5 fg
40. fg Ke7
41. gh

White has a passer on the Kingside. Black can stop it but the point of White’s play is the Queenside pawns! Notice that White has 3 pawns to Black’s 2! So White has cleverly created passers on both sides of the board. Black cannot stop both.

41……. Kf8
42. b4 Kg8
43. b5 Kh7
44. ba ba
45. c5




Here is the complete game:




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