Play Chess Like Hockey Players!

Play Chess Like Hockey Players!

| 72 | Endgames

At first glance, chess and ice hockey have nothing in common—unless we are talking about this bouncing chess hockey game. Unfortunately, this entertaining game has nothing to do with either chess or hockey. And yet we can learn some useful chess tricks by watching ice hockey. Notice how hockey players push each other while trying to get the puck. This absolutely legal technique is called 'shoulder checking'.

Here is Wikipedia's definition of shoulder checking: "A player puts his shoulder into his opponent to muscle the opponent out of position." Now, imagine that when your opponent is about to checkmate your king, you push him away from the board with all your force! Well, that would be illegal and I do not recommend it.

Instead, in certain endgame positions you can use what is known as 'shouldering'. Here is an endgame that happened in a recent game of my student. 

The endgame looked very straightforward, so when I asked my student what she thought about it she answered, "Black is winning". Indeed, what can be more basic than a king and pawn endgame where both kings rush to the same side of the board? Well, surprisingly, this kind of endgames is very tricky and even the strongest players have made mistakes in these positions!

The tricky part of these endgames comes from an amazing chess geometry that we discussed in this article from last year. Here is the very last example from that article:

Did you notice that in order to win, White's king shouldn't go straight to the puck (the a7-pawn), but instead he has to shoulder the opponent's king with 2. Kd5!! Watch how ice hockey pros do it:

Got it? That's how you should do 'shouldering' in endgames! If you want to practice this technique right away, you don't need to look for the nearest hockey rink. Use's drill instead!

I don't know much about ice hockey, but I am sure there is defensive technique against shouldering there. We certainly have one in chess! Try to solve the following very tricky puzzle. How can White make a draw?

If you solved this puzzle, then it's going to be very easy to find how my student's opponent could save his game:

As I mentioned above, sometimes even very strong players forget about 'shouldering'. Here is a remarkable example. The endgame looks very drawish. Can you find a very tricky way that White can actually win?

Years ago, I wrote series of articles about king and pawn endgames which was called "The Simplest Thing In Chess."  The sarcastic title was supposed to underline how tricky these simple looking endgames can be. "Shouldering" is one of the remarkable ideas that makes this kind of endgame so tricky!

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