Coach Dante's Endgame Crash Course! -- Pawns: Corresponding Squares & Opposition 2
In our previous entry we left off with a couple of rather complex exercises. Before we move on to address the nuances of those positions I wanted to take some time to discuss one of the most misunderstood aspects of chess play, Calculation.
Calculation in its simplest form is when a chess player thinks "I move here, then they move there, then I move there, and they move there... ad infinitum," and while Calculation plays an important part in chess it is definitely NOT the most important part. The idea that many non-chess players and amateurs have that a Master is better than an amateur because he can see 20 moves ahead and a Grandmaster is better than a Master because she can see 29 moves ahead is one of the greatest false beliefs in the chess world. This simply isn't true in 99% of games.
In "Modern Ideas in Chess" Richard Reti wrote:
The layman thinks that the superiority of the chess master lies in his ability to think out 3 or 4, or even 10 or 20, moves ahead. Those chess lovers who ask me how many moves I usually calculate in advance, when making a combination, are always astonished when I reply, quite truthfully, "as a rule not a single one."
What sets Grandmasters apart from Masters apart from amateurs is their ability to recognize patterns in the position by evaluating the position's aspects (pawn structures, tactical ideas, strategic patterns, piece placement, etc. etc.) and executing a plan exploiting those patterns. With that being said, in our endgames Calculation will take on a stronger role. Being able to confidently count the number of moves before a pawn Queens or a King reaches a Key Square is a crucial skill to hold.
In our first puzzle from yesterday we first recognize that with the Kings 3 squares apart they are in Opposition, but with White to move he is LOSING the Opposition.
From a Study by H. Mattison, 1918
In the above example we notice that equally important to the Calculation of various lines was the recognition of the ensuing key positions and their evaluation. Being able to Calculate the double pawn sacrifice would be meaningless without the knowledge that Black could not maintain the Opposition due to the pawn occupying the f5-square.
Let us use the second exercise from yesterday to drive home the symbiotic relationship between Calculation and Evaluation.
White to Move
White is a pawn up and can grab the Distant Opposition with 1.Ke1, but Black is not without their trumps. The d6-pawn does an incredible job of controlling the e5-square, a key point of entry to the White King. Black's King has the flexiblity to answer White's King moves to infiltrate along the e-file. How then does White crack this position? Let us first look at what happens if White attempts to grab the Distant Opposition straight away.
Study by J. Drtina, 1907