Sunday, August 18, 2013

Endgame Studies Part 1: The Opposition in the Endgame

Hey guys! This is my first post for the blog! :)

Today we'll start off with the art of using the king to the fullest potential in the endgame. In the endgame where both sides have almost equal material, the king is a very useful piece. It can act as an extra defender of your pawns and attacker for your opponent's pawns. However, your opponent can use his own king too, so we have to learn ways to outmaneuver the opponent.

One of the key ideas between the battle of Kings is the Opposition. Take a look at the following position:

Diagram 1: The Direct Opposition

Notice that both Kings are 2 spaces apart. In this scenario, neither King can move to the other side behind the enemy king if it was their move. The King to move first will inevitably allow the opponent's king to cross into his territory. In an endgame with pawns, such an opportunity given to the opponent will result in a harder position to win or draw with.

Now look at the following position:

Diagram 2: Puzzle

Your white King is on a1, and the black King is on a8. Assuming that the aim is to move your King to h8, how would you do so? (White to move)

The main way to do so is to move so that you can reach the opposition as shown in Diagram 1 with it being your opponent's turn. However, both Kings have many options it can travel in, and it will be very hard to calculate each of the many options available. There is 1 way to "see" which is the "right move" to force the opposition. This idea is known as "Indirect Opposition".

The main idea is to put your King at a position where the rectangle formed by the 2 kings have all 4 corners having the same colour. Examples are shown in the positions below:

Whenever the opponent King moves, move forward and to the right square (that creates the rectangle with 4 corners having the same colour) at the same time. By this way, you can force your opponent into a direct opposition, and enter into his territory.

Back to the position in Diagram 2, it's not hard to see the winning move:

1) Ka2!

Now taking the Indirect Opposition.

1) ... Kb8

A good defence. Ka7 and Kb7 loses to Ka3/Kb3 respectively, and after coming forward, they lose the opposition and the game. Now, White cannot go Ka3, as even after gaining the opposition, he will be stuck on the Queenside, and black is able to block the advance towards h8.

2) Kb2! Kc8
3) Kc2 Kd8
4) Kd2 Ke8
5) Ke2 Kf8
6) Kf2 Kg8
7) Kg2 Kh8
8) Kh2

Now, no matter what black plays, he cannot gain the opposition, and the white King can travel to h8.

The following idea is important in endgames when you need to enter the opponent's territory with your King to attack his pawns and fight for the win! Learn to calculate and play endgames using the idea of the Direct and Indirect Opposition, and you'll be able to win more endgames.

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