This article is by WIM Alexey Root
"Run, run, as fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Pawn." That's what every passed pawn thinks as it advances toward the other side of the board. If it can avoid being eaten (by the enemy king or enemy pieces), it will promote.
By definition, a passed pawn is NOT in danger from enemy pawns. Definition: A passed pawn has no enemy pawns on its file or files next to it.
I watched a game today (April 21, 2010) in which passed pawns decided the result. As in many games with passed pawns, this game ended with a "Pawn Race". A Pawn Race is when both sides push their passed pawns as fast as they can, on each move, to see who can promote first. This game was between International Master Gabor Papp (Texas Tech University) and International Master Daniel Ludwig (The University of Texas at Dallas).
If black had not resigned in the position above, whie would bring his king over to assist the queen in capturing the b2-pawn. Then white checkmates with king and queen against black's king, as explained in Basic Checkmates: The Queen Dance.
Sometimes you can't race your pawn to the finish line, because the enemy king is nearby. If the enemy king is blocking the file where your passed pawn wants to promote, then you need to get him off that file. How to get the enemy king "Out of my Hallway!" is in a previous article.
Even if the enemy king is not in your pawn's file, you must make sure the king can't eat your Gingerbread Pawn. Most players visualize (imagine) a Square of the Pawn to determine if the enemy king can catch their Gingerbread Pawn. See the video lesson The Square Rules. The blue shaded area in the diagram below shows the Square of the Pawn. If the enemy king can step into that shaded square, then he will catch the pawn. If black is to move, the black king will capture the a-pawn in the diagram below.
An outside passed pawn (on the a-, b-, g-, or h-files) is harder to catch than a central pawn (on the c-, d-, e-, or f-files). Two widely-separated Gingerbread Pawns (say on the a- and h-files) are going to frustrate an enemy king. But an enemy king doesn't have much trouble eating up Gingerbread Pawns separated by just one file (for example an e- and a c-pawn). In the following diagram, white is trying to stop black's a- and h-pawns. Black is trying to stop white's e- and c-pawns. Black may have gingerbread for lunch, but play through the diagram below to see for sure.
In Preschool Pawns we discussed that it is great for pawns to be in pawn chains or in islands of two or more pawns. An island of two pawns (for example, e- and d-pawns) can form a chain that will tie down an enemy king. If there is a pawn chain where both pawns are passed, these pawns are known as "connected passed pawns".
The e-pawn is a protected passed pawn. It is protected by the d-pawn. Poor black can't do anything about the e-pawn. White was able to gobble up black's two pawn islands. Black's islands were made up of isolated pawns, which are weaker than pawns in groups or pawn chains.
1) In a pawn race, start running! Your Gingerbread Pawn needs to make it to the other side of the board as quickly as they can!
2) If the enemy king is in your Gingerbread Pawn's file, get him "Out of my Hallway!"
3) Outside passed pawns, connected passed pawns, and protected passed pawns are the best passed pawns. It is hard for an enemy king to stop them.