So I think for many players, myself included, study of the endgame has to evolve at a pace that reflects our practical application of that phase of the game. Nowadays, I am interested in any endgame, but I still get most interested in positions that I have experienced, wither through my own play, or through that of my students. I was recently looking at some games of one of my students when the following position was reached.
So then, what about the ending Bishop vs 3 connected pawns? First, here are some general considerations:
- the worst pawns for trying to win include a rook's pawn
- if the pawns can all reach the 5th rank, they win.
- with a rook's pawn, it is better for the defender of the bishop controls the promotion square of that rook's pawn.
- king position is also a big factor with the defending king wanting to get in between or in front of the pawns.
A good way to learn these endgames is to have some basic positions to head for, so here are some typical drawing positions:
It is worth noting that to draw, white wants to get his king in front of the pawns, and his bishop to a position where it is preventing the pawns' advance.
So with this knowledge, it should be able to create a plan if you ever get into this sort of position with specific moves being guided by general principles. There are even some amazing ideas like this one:
So going back to the original position, what should white play in order to draw?
Saying that, it can be seen just how difficult it is to play these type of positions. I seriously recommend setting up some positions and playing them out, with an opponent if you can find one. There is also the Nalimov Tablebases which work with 6 man endgames, and thus can definitively tell us the result of all endgames with king and bishop versus king and 3 pawns. Interestingly, I originally set the wrong position up in the Tablebase and was surprised to see that white was losing.
* I used Averbakh's volume on minor piece endings to help me write this: