A Prison For A King

A Prison For A King

| 60 | Endgames

Endgames are difficult to learn for most of players who have recently begun their chess journey. Indeed, the endgame has many sets of rules that contradict well-known opening and middle game axioms. For example, an outside passed pawn, which is usually a rook or a knight pawn, suddenly becomes more important than a central one. Also, the fact that a king becomes an active participant of the game is a real revelation for inexperienced players . To dissipate their fear of centralizing the king in endgames, I usually show them the following remarkable game:

Aside from the famous game, Short vs. Timman, you won't find many examples of such a king march in the middlegame, meanwhile it is common in endgames. Therefore, if you manage to immobilize your opponent's king by putting him in a prison, it will usually bring some serious benefits. The following game demonstrates the concept quite well. I was lucky to watch it live since I played my own game on the next board.

Strong players usually don't miss opportunities to lock the opponent's king out of play, therefore I was surprised by the following mistake from GM Dominguez:

Magnus Carlsen
Magnus Carlsen doesn't believe in fortress, but he does believe in locking in kings. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Instead, in the real game, Black missed this idea and even lost the game.

Of course, don't forget that this was just a blitz game. Meanwhile, here Carlsen got somewhat lucky; he himself used this idea in his old game vs. GM Aronian:

Troitsky. Photo: Wikipedia.

It is not always the case that you put your opponent's king in a prison to win the game, sometimes it is your only hope to survive, and it can be the key to some truly amazing defenses.

Try to find a draw in the following well-known problem by the great problem composer, Alexey Troitsky. It is very difficult, so if your rating is below 2000, and you manage to find the solution, take a deep breath and give yourself a huge pat on the back!

If you think that situations like this happen only in composed positions, you would be wrong. Here is a real game played between two grandmasters:

The lesson is quite simple here:

  1. Don't forget that kings become very active in an endgame.
  2. Don't miss an opportunity to lock in your opponent's king, and don't allow your opponent to do it to your own king!
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