The will of a Monarch
Happy 54th birthday to 'King' Nigel Short!

The will of a Monarch

IM vinniethepooh

Is it a bird? Uh-huh. Is it a plane? No way! Who could it be? Check it out, it's The will of a Monarch!

The safety of the king is considered paramount in chess, and we generally avoid bringing it to action until late endgame. But once in a while, that steel king wishes to help its troops, and participate in an adventure like no other.

There's something about these king walks that gets your heart beating fast. I don't know one chess player who would not be amazed looking at these games. These are the ones that makes the game of chess majestic.

Wilhelm Steinitz, the first official world champion, is renowned for his maxim, "The king is a fighting piece!" And rightly so. Daniel Naroditsky mentions in one of his articles, "In a sense, the king resembles a soccer goalkeeper. When the situation is desperate, the goalie abandons his post, lending additional firepower to the offense."

What can be the reasons for someone to march the king up the board?

  • An addition to a mating attack
  • Finding a safe square in enemy camp!

Let's have a look at the probably the most famous king march ever, the king of king walks. Interestingly, when I was writing this article, I had no idea that it is the birthday of the white player today. What a co-incidence! A very happy 54th birthday to the great Nigel Short! Annotations by GM Daniel Naroditsky.

I have seen this game a dozen of times, still I can't help but admire it. Black is absolutely powerless against this epic king walk! White lacked the dark squared bishop to finish off the attack. He just decided that the king will do it's function.

So, such a game must be the first of it's kind? Well then, have a look at this game, played between two relatively unknown players!

I have no words. I'll let you enjoy this beauty for yourself! It would seem White's king is getting hunted down but suddenly... Black's king is hunted, in it's own castle.

"Allowing" your king to be hunted! Geller lures Tal into attacking his king, because ultimately it just helps him that his king has reached f8, both as a participation in attack and the safest place for the king!

That brings us to the next topic which is finding a safe square in enemy camp! In all the games listed below, White's king follows the same pattern of getting the king to h8 where it feels safe because of Black's h7 pawn which restricts its own pieces! Annotations by GM Daniel Naroditsky.

The quality of this game might have suffered, but that in no way takes away the beauty from an exemplary king walk. That 22.Kf4-- it was a statement, a statement about fighting spirit. Hats off to David Navara, such kind of crazy ideas are very seldom seen at the top level.

And now... time to have a look at this game's predecessor! Yes, it has one!

This must be a fantasy? What in the world is the king doing on e5 on the 15th move with so many pieces around? This is the case where both players would be smiling on the 15th move, one thinking "What a king hunt I am playing!" and the other thinking, "Oh, this one is a king walk like no other!

Interestingly, I was able to follow the idea of the 2 games above and place my king on h8 behind Black's h7 pawn in an OTB game once. Although I must admit that there were very few pieces at the time!

I was enjoying myself playing that 46.Kh8! I felt that it must be the safest square on the entire board, but later rejected it as a joke. Turns out it is probably true!

The king is a beast! Just remember that the king does not always demand a layer of protection, and it might decide to bask in all the glory once in a while!