Pawn breaks are a common endgame technique used to force a pawn advance and an eventual queening.
A pawn breakthrough is a brute-force way to open up a line for your pawn to advance. Most often it includes sacrificing the pawn you break with in order to allow your other pawns to advance.
Pawn breaks are used to “remove the barrier”. If there is an enemy pawn which, if removed, would allow you to queen, then sacrificing all your remaining pawns is justified to accomplish that.
In the endgame, pawn breaks have a different goals to those which occur earlier in the game. You are not going for a positional edge or a strong square or something else, you push through in order to win!
That makes them an extremely powerful endgame weapon. They have to be factored in at all times, even if there are pieces still remaining on the board. A successful pawn break can mean an immediate resignation.
There are two essential factors you need to consider when calculating a pawn break in the endgame:
1. Distance (or number of moves) to the queening square. If you break open your opponent’s structure and sacrifice a pawn in the process, make sure that your pawn is closer to promotion than his, or that you do not create a passed pawn for him at all.
2. King position; if your opponent’s king is far away, the break works. But, if his king is withing the square of the now passed pawn, then your break (and pawn sacrifice) is losing! Make sure that you apply the rule of the square before playing a pawn break.
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