Coach Dante's Endgame Crash Course! -- Pawns: Corresponding Squares & Opposition 2

Coach Dante's Endgame Crash Course! -- Pawns: Corresponding Squares & Opposition 2

Jan 3, 2018, 7:56 PM |

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

So we see White cannot penetrate by grabbing the Opposition immediately.  Dvoretsky states, "In such situations there is usually a 'major line,' in which it is vitally important to capture the opposition. And when the enemy King retreats from it, you MUST outflank it."  In our position we see that Opposition  along the e-file does not matter due to White's inability to acces the e5-square, so we turn our attention to the f-file.  If we imagine that Black's King is on f7 and moved to either side we could Outflank it to the opposite side. In Distant Opposition we can Outflank just as well as as we can with Close Opposition!
J. Drtina, 1907
Below, we see similar ideas in play.  White to play has lost the Distant Opposition, but Black can make no progress either.  If White is able to grab the Opposition by taking advantage of Black's limited moves he will be able to infiltrate along the Major Line, the 7th rank.
Study by F. Sackmann, 1913
 I end our discussion on Opposition with a couple of real-world examples of the Opposition gone wrong and a few challenging puzzles to solidify what we have learned!


In the following Puzzle I want you to only make ONE move with the Rook in order to create Checkmate. The ONE move from your Rook needs to be Checkmate. In a practical game you would just continue with your simple checkmate pattern, but here I want to really grind in the power of Opposition!