Knight and Pawn vs King Endgame

The endgame of N+P vs King is an easy win for the Knight and Pawn. Even a rook pawn is a win, as there is no “wrong rook pawn” for a Knight. The Knight can check either color squares, so it cannot be a “wrong Knight”! Other similar endgames are:

  • B+P vs King (usually won)
  • B+P vs King with “wrong rook pawn” (drawn)
  • R+P vs K (easy win)
  • K+2N vs K (draw)
  • K+2B vs K (win)
  • N+B vs K (win)

The Basic Win with N+P

The N+P endgame is won with all pawns. The process is basically the same.

Diagram: N+P v K (easy win)

The win is simply to advance the pawn down the board, using the King to support the pawn. Waiting moves and zugzwang are used to dislodge the enemy King from the pawn’s path. And similarly at the end, the Knight can be used to gain the extra tempo needed to remove the King from the queening square. Knight checks are not even needed to dislodge the defending King, but you can use checks too if you prefer.

With a rook pawn, the process is almost identical. You just have to watch out for stalemates at the very end of the process, when the rook pawn reaches the 7th. The case with the rook pawn actually needs the Knight to check the enemy King out of the queening square (and it might be checkmate).

Exceptions: Defending King Attacks Pawn

If the defending King can win the pawn, it’s a draw because “K+N vs K” is a basic book draw. So the only drawing situations are where the enemy King reaches the pawn before it can be defended by the King or Knight. Obviously, if the White King can reach its pawn, the Black King cannot win the pawn, so the only interesting situations are where the King is far away and the Knight has to defend the pawn.

The two cases are where the attacker’s King is too far away to defend the pawn, and the Knight tries to defend the pawn either from behind the pawn, or in front of the pawn. The Knight is trying to defend the pawn until the King has time to come over.

Diagram: N+P v K (Knight Defends Pawn From Behind)

The Knight defense of the pawn from behind is a win. The Knight is “indirectly protected” by the pawn. The Black King cannot play KxN (Kxd4) because then the pawn is free to run to the queening square. So the win is simply to leave the Knight there, attacked by the King, and just bring the King over. The temptation is to move the Knight away because it’s attacked, but that then draws because the pawn gets taken.

Diagram: N+P v K (Knight Defends Pawn From In Front)

The Knight defending from the front is more often a draw. The King is forking the Knight and Pawn. And the Knight is not indirectly protected. The King can take the Knight and then block or win the enemy pawn, leading to a draw (either “Kings only” or a “K+P vs K” draw). But if the Knight moves to avoid capture, then the pawn is lost, leading to a drawn “K+N vs K” draw.