Knight vs Two Isolated Pawns

If you're defending with a knight vs two isolated pawns, what should you do?

Rule: Your king has to stop one pawn, your knight the other.

Example nr.1

In this example things have gone terribly wrong for White.

Although the king is stopping one pawn, the knight isn't able to stop the other.

After 1.Nc6, h2; 2.Nd4+, Ka3; the White knight can't stop the h-pawn.



Example nr.2

This position is almost the same as the previous. The only difference is the file of the second pawn.

Is the white knight able to stop the g-pawn?

After 1. Ne6, g2;

Thanks to the following check, the knight gains a tempo.

2.Nd4+, Ka3; 3.Nf3,

The knight arrives just in time to occupy the queening-square.



Example nr.3

If your king is far away from the scene of the action, you'll lose.

In this position the white king isn't able to stop any of the pawns.

After 1. Ke7, Ka2;

2.Nc3+, Ka1;

One of the pawns will promote.



Example nr.4

In every position, you have to find out which pawn has to be stopped by which piece.

In this position, it may look like the king has to stop the h-pawn (because the knight is already stopping the a-pawn).

Unfortunately, the king isn't able to stop the h-pawn.

Therefore the only way to save this position is to let the pieces swap their duties.

1.Kf6, Kg4;

Black goal is to promote the h-pawn as soon as possible.

2.Ke5, h5;

3.Kd4, h4;

The white king has reached the square of the a-pawn. Now the knight is free to help and stop the h-pawn.

4.Nc4!, Kf3;

5.Ne5+, Kg3;

6.Nc4,

6....Kf2;

You may ask yourself why doesn't Black play his h-pawn to h3? This is because in the position after 6....h3; 7.Ne3; the knight stops the h-pawn (as shown in the knight vs pawn ending)

7.Ne5, Kg3;

8.Nc4, and Black can't make any progress.

If this isn't obvious to you, you may like to revisit the page about knight vs single pawn endings



Conclusion

In the ending with knight vs two isolated pawns, the defender may be able to secure a draw if the defending king is close enough to stop one pawn and if the knight is able to stop the other.

You'll have to find out which pawn to stop with your king and which pawn with your knight.


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