Endgames where each side has the King and a Pawn are usually drawn, but there are exceptions which lead to winning positions!
For an introduction to King and Pawn endgames, watch the video on opposition:
When it comes to king and pawn endgames, regardless of which ones precisely (king and pawn vs king or king and pawn vs king and pawn, or any other combination), three quintessential rules apply:
1. Opposition – when the kings are an odd number of squares apart, whoever is not to move has the opposition. This means that the other side has a compulsion to move which often leads to an unfavorable position.
2. Rule of the square – each passed pawn can be easily understood, and its chances of promotion easily calculated if you follow the rule of the square which states that if the opponent’s king is within the square or is able to reach it on its next move, the pawn can be caught. The square is drawn by making a perfect square using your pawn’s square and its promotion square as the two corners.
2. Critical squares – each pawn has critical squares. If your king is able to reach them, that means that you will be able to herd the pawn to promotion. If your opponent’s king reaches them first, the game is a draw.
These three rules (or principles) are the essence of King and Pawn vs King and Pawn endgames. The difference is that in these endgames, you might encounter different types of position as well. Those positions will require calculation two main factors as well: The distance of your king to the opponent’s pawn, and the distance of the pawns to their promotion square.
Generally, using only these, you will be able to reduce the amount of calculation needed to play these endgames successfully. Since there are numerous positions with K&P vs K&P, there are sadly no strict rules you could adhere to. Each position can be an exception which you aren’t prepared to encounter.
There are numerous studies which present these exceptions, and while they are extremely unlikely to occur in a real game, the studies may be the best way to prepare yourself for something extraordinary. One of them (composed by Reti) I shown in the video.
Most of the time, though, simply understanding opposition, critical squares and the rule of the square (and applying that knowledge!) is going to be enough for precise play.
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