Pawn Breaks | Chess Endgames

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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71 Comments

  1. Great video! Could you please recommend some books for further practice on this topic? I'd really appreciate it.

  2. Can you send me the link to your middle pawn break video, please. Thank you.

  3. 6:55 there is also another way to win the game by playing g5.

  4. @16:24 the King cant catch the pawn playing Kf6 because of g5+! after that white queens first and win the game

  5. Hey at 5:04 if the kings were on e7 and e5 still white is winning

  6. We want some videos on rook vs king pawn ending

  7. Excellent. Just what I need this week. Thank you.

  8. Stjepan, You're inspiring me so much that I started believing myself could be a GM too 🙂 One question, Is english your first language, or you learnt? Because i want to improve my speaking english too… I watched your video on quiting job, and started youtube-ing and chess-ing whole time. I think this is not usual but a marvelous way of living if you make it possible. I want the same way of living like you. For chess, my rating on lichess is similar like yours – my account is danzawhite there. Howbout we compete and at the same time sharpening each other on the way to becoming a GM? I live in Mongolia which is next to Russia and China. Just a thought to share with you Stjepan. Good luck and hearing from you 😉

  9. Pozdrav Stjepane, prvo, svaka pohvala za tvoj rad i trud. U tvojim video serijama sam se prepoznao, jer sam isto zaljubljenik u sah kao i ti, nazalost tek pocetnik i nemam jos ELO (moja procjena oko 1750-1800). Posto si "nedavno" prolazio isti put koji ja sad prolazim, sto bi mi savjetovao? Koje knjige/video? Koje knjige/video za otvaranje (d4 bijeli, caro kann), strategija, sredisnjica i vrlo za mene bitno knjige/video za zavrsnicu? ili sto bi ti napravio na mom mjestu? Pozdrav Tomislav

  10. Another classy endgame video, Stjepan! I'm planning to start reading Dvoretsky's book on endgames, would you recommend it?

  11. The analysis from 12:48 onwards is quite off. :S After 1…a4?? 2.bxa4 black's only try is 2…c4. Then white must respond 3.b3! to kill black's counterplay and white wins. If 3.a5?? then surely 3…b3! wins for black. However after 3…c3?? white has 4.b3! winning. If 4.cxb3?? then it should be a draw as said.

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