The Boss Takes Matters Into His Own Hands

The Boss Takes Matters Into His Own Hands

| 36 | Middlegame

It’s rare to see the king going on the attack, especially in the middlegame with queens on the board. However, it can happen and when it does it is usually aesthetic and shocking.

We learn early on to protect the king, and quickly begin to see him as a stationary object, at least until the queens and many other pieces come off. And usually, this is the case. Of course, there are many instances where long king marches have occurred (and I am not talking about those which were compelled by the opponent!). For example, Tigran Petrosian was famous for his king marches. However, those were usually conducted with the purpose of evacuating the king from a threatened sector, or in preparation for opening a certain part of the board. In this article we will be seeing some examples where the king takes an active part in the attack, either by helping to directly threaten the enemy king, or by grabbing material.

This kind of action is seen as aesthetic because the use of the king in such a way is unconventional and creative. Finding such an idea during the game shows the player’s imagination and boldness. Of course, you rarely get a chance for your own king to go on the attack on a board full of pieces, and I certainly don’t recommend marching forth in every game! In this article, however, I will show some examples where an attacking king march was the correct solution to the position.

The Hunted Becomes the Hunter

Our first example is from the game Ambroz-Rausis, played in 1989. In this game White sacrificed a piece and subjected the black king to a prolonged king-hunt. After first missing a win, he either avoided or overlooked a variation leading to perpetual, which resulted in the following position:


Sweet revenge for the black king, wasn’t it? After having been chased across the whole board, suddenly he himself had the opportunity to deal the deadly blow.

Nigel’s Famous King March

Reproducing the following famous example is pretty much a requirement for this article. Some of you may have seen it before, but I am sure many have not. This was the game Short-Timman from Tilburg 1991. White’s rooks are more active and there are weak dark squares around the black king, but the battery of queen and bishop on the long diagonal is tying down the white knight. So it is not so easy to make progress. Nigel Short now made an innocent-looking move…


Karpov’s King Steals a Piece

The previous couple of examples showed a king literally taking part in a mating attack. Now we will see some where the king just walks up and grabs some material. It is surprising to find a minor piece at the mercy of the slow-moving king’s creeping approach, but here it happens to Artur Yusupov’s knight in the 1983 Soviet Championship.


Having seen this game (although I didn’t remember it, it was probably somewhere in my subconscious) it was not hard to find a similar idea in one of my own games. After digging up the Karpov game, I now see that it was practically an identical scenario!


So you see, although such bold kings are rare, it is an idea you should be aware of – that the king is not just a sitting duck, but can (under certain circumstances) step out of his home and become a fighting piece, even while a battle rages around him.

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