The playing styles of two chess giants GM Aron Nimzowitsch and the World Champion Tigran Petrosian have many similarities. It is not just a coincidence since Petrosian was a diligent student of Nimzowitsch's books, and especially his iconic "My System". The future World Champion lost both of his parents at a very young age and therefore in order to save money to buy chess books he had to skip meals. As Petrosian jokingly said once "I have Nimzowitsch for breakfast today!"
In this article I want to discuss one chess trick that both Nimzowitsch and Petrosian used more than any other chess player I know. They really liked to move their Kings from one side of the board to the other! Why would they do it? There are two major reasons for what initially looks like a madman's run.
The first reason is similar to the famous episode from one of my favorite movies "Forrest Gump". When Forrest is chased by bullies, Jenny screams " Run, Forrest! Run!" But both Nimzowitsch and Petrosian preferred to send their Kings into safety before bullies actually started chasing him, when it might be too late. The funny thing is in many cases the prey turns into the hunter! As you can see in the next two games, White started his attack on the King's Side only to get crushed on the King's Side after his opponent's Kings fled the dangerous place.
But in many cases the intentions of such a King's run can be very aggressive. Say you want to attack your opponent on the King's Side and in order to do it you need to push your pawns there. But if you do it, then you will endanger your own King (just as we saw in the previous two examples). So, before you push the pawns in front of your King, you might want to send him to the safety of the Queen's Side. Only after your King's journey is over do you start your pawn advance on the King's Side. The next games illustrate this idea very well:
If you like this strategical concept and cannot wait to use it in your own games, please remember that only few positions meet the necessary requirement for the King's run. In most cases the position is either semi-closed or the pieces of your opponent are so passive that they cannot really harm your wandering King. If you decide to move your King from one side of the board to another side in an inappropriate situation, then your King can get himself in big trouble. That is the reason why not so few chess players (with the exception of Nimzowitsch and Petrosian) did it on a regular basis!