The king is the main piece in chess, and the central object in any player’s thoughts. How do I protect my own king and checkmate the opponent’s monarch? While being quite valuable, the king can’t boast being mobile enough to fight efficiently in the middlegame, so most of the time its power can be seen only in the endgame.
As you probably know, one of the best ways of securing your king is castling. This allows the protection of the king by a group of valiant pawns and improves the coordination of other pieces, connecting the rooks. In the center the king is very vulnerable and subject to all types of attacks by pieces from both sides of the board, so in most cases it makes sense to castle early. Of course, chess is a very complicated game, so there are many exceptions to this rule.
While castling the natural way or artificially (walking with the king “on foot”) is a standard maneuver, some positions require the opposite behavior. Sometimes the king is an important actor even in the middlegame. Here is an example of a fresh game where the Black king decided to stay in the center and take care of itself:
In other situations the king is not satisfied with the passive role of remaining in the centre, and it bursts into the action! In 2010 the fantastic game Gashimov-Grischuk was played (game of the year according to ChessPro). The Black king walked half of the board to help Black win the point. Such travels require good coordination of the other pieces, as they should be accompanying His Majesty and protecting it whenever necessary.
Here is another absolutely classical example of a king’s walk:
Photo by Martin Chrz
In a game against renowned GM Rafael Vaganian at the Snowdrops-Oldhands match I also got to meet a brave king. On move 21, instead of a standard castling, Rafael decided to leave his king in the centre. This was possible due to the knight on d5, who turned out to be a powerful defender. The king was quite safe on d7, and just waiting for the right moment to grab the pawn on d6.
Here is the game:
The first interesting option was 16. Qe2, but I have missed it. On move 19 I misevaluated the position and didn’t play f4, although it was more promising than 19. Qe2. Black wasn’t forced to play Kd7, but the idea looked both strong and beautiful. Mutual mistakes happened on move 28. At some point I decided to settle for a draw and played somewhat inaccurately.