Bishop and Pawn vs King

The endgame of B+P vs King is an easy win for the Bishop and Pawn, except for one special case called the “wrong rook pawn”. The B+P v K endgame is won. The status of these and similar endgames are:

Simple Winning Strategy: B+P v K

The simplest case is actually the general case. All different pawns have the same strategy, and are easily won, except for the rare “wrong rook pawn” case.

Diagram: B+P v K (easy win)

The win with the Bishop and Pawn is very simple. But it does involve waiting moves and zugzwang, so it’s a little tricky for beginners. You cannot win with just checks. In fact, all the defender has to do to avoid checks is stay on the opposite color squares! Thankfully checks are not needed to win.

The easiest way is to walk the pawn down the board supported by its King, using zugzwang waiting moves to get the King out of the way. At the last point, you can just use the Bishop for one tempo, to avoid the stalemate in the basic “K+P vs K” draw. So this means only one Bishop move is used.

So you don’t even need to use the Bishop to check the King out of the path of the pawn. Nor do you need to use the Bishop to prevent the defending King getting into the path of the pawn.

Exceptions to B+P vs K

One obvious exception is if the King can capture the pawn. This doesn’t occur very often, because you can simply defend the pawn with the Bishop, and leave it there until the King can make its way over to help advance the pawn.

Diagram: B+P v K (Win by Protecting the Pawn from the Front)

Diagram: B+P v K (Win by Protecting the Pawn from Behind)

In both these cases, the pawn cannot advance to a dark square, but the Bishop can protect the pawn while waiting for the White King to come over. Waiting moves and zugzwang will get the defending King out of the path of the pawn.

Note that defending the pawn from behind actually “indirectly protects” the Bishop. Even with Black to move in that case, Black cannot play “KxB” because then the pawn can run free to the queening square. But White can also retreat the Bishop with Bc2 or Bb1 if preferring to avoid unnecessary mental computations.

Wrong Rook Pawn Draws

Only the Rook pawn is a special case, and only the “wrong rook pawn”. Then it’s a draw. If you have a rook pawn, and its queening square has a different color square to your bishop, then it’s the “wrong” rook pawn. The problem is that when the King is in the queening square of the rook pawn, the bishop has the wrong color to check the King out of there. And King waiting moves cannot be used to get the defensive King away from a rook pawn, as it gets stalemated instead.

Related Chess Tactics

Read more about these related chess strategies: