Distant Opposition

This instructive pawn ending comes from the game between Edward Lasker and William Ward, played in 1913 in the City of London Chess Club Championship. I’m assuming you know basic KP v K theory: if not I’d recommend Chess Endings for Heroes as a source of this information.

We pick up the position here, as the last big guys have just been traded.

This position is drawn with correct defence, but there are two ways White might win: by getting his king round the back via the c5 square and by moving his king to h5 and following up with g5 at the appropriate moment.

Let’s see how well the combatants coped with concepts such as the distant opposition.

53. g4+ Kg6
54. Kg3 Kg7
55. Kf2

It’s baby knowledge that 55. g5 is an immediate draw, and a quick check will confirm to you that 55. f5 is also drawn, so White correctly chooses to manoeuvre his king, hoping Black will make a mistake.

55.. Kf7

This and Kf8 are the two drawing moves. Look at what happens if he goes in the wrong direction: 55.. Kg6 56. Ke3 Kf7 57. Kd4 Ke6 58. Kc5 Ke7 59. f5 and White wins. Play it out for yourself to confirm this.

56. Kg2 Kg8
57. Kf1 Kf7
58. Ke1 Ke7
59. Kd1 Kd7!

The only move to draw, taking the very distant opposition (5 vacant squares between the kings). Not 59.. Kd6 60. Kd2 Kd5 61. Kd3 (taking the opposition) 61.. Ke6 62. Kc4 (62. Kd4? only draws) 62.. Kd6 63. Kd4 Ke6 64. Kc5 (reaching the critical square) 64.. Kd7 65. Kd5 (opposition again) 65.. Ke7 66. Kc6 Ke6 67. f5+ Ke7 68. Kc7! (and again) 68.. Kf8 69. Kd8 Kf7 70. Kd7 Kg8 71. Ke7 and wins.

60. Kc1 Kc7
61. Kb1 Kd6

Not 61.. Kb7 when the king is outside the square of the g-pawn: 62. g5 fxg5 63. fxg5 and promotes. (Edward Lasker incorrectly thought 61.. Kd6 lost.

62. Kc2 Kc6!

Again the only drawing move: distant opposition (3 vacant squares between the kings). Not 62.. Kc5 63. Kc3 Kd5 64. Kd3 Kd6 65. Kd4 Ke6 66. Kc5 and White again reaches the critical square.

63. Kd2 Kd6!
64. Ke2 Ke6
65. Kf2

Black’s defended accurately so far so White tries his luck on the other side of the board.

65.. Kd5?

The wrong way! Kf7 and Ke7 were the drawing moves. But White misses his chance.

66. Ke3? Ke6!

The only move. It’s important to note that 67. Ke4 f5+ is an immediate draw.

67. Ke2 Ke7!
68. Ke3 Ke6
69. Kf2

Reaching the position after White’s 65th move for a second time.

69.. Kd5?

They say opportunity doesn’t knock twice, but in this game William Ward gave Edward Lasker a second chance to win the game. This time he found the correct plan.

70. Kg3! Ke4

Or 70.. Ke6 71. Kh4 Kf7 72. Kh5! Kg7 73. g5! fxg5 (73.. Kf7 74. Kh6 (74. g6+ Kg7 75. f5! also wins) fxg5 75. fxg5!) 74. Kxg5! Kf7 75. Kf5! (Opposition!) and wins. Knowing when to capture on g5 with the pawn and when to capture with the king is essential endgame knowledge.

71. f5 Kd5
72. Kh4 Kd6
73. Kh5 Kd7
74. Kg6 Ke7
75. Kg7

Black resigned

There are a lot of important basic pawn endings lessons to be learnt here. If you’re not familiar with them, you’ll be well advised to make sure you’re very fluent playing this sort of position. Set up similar positions yourself and play them out against your training partner, teacher or computer. Much more useful for intermediate players than learning opening theory!

Richard James

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Richard James

Author: Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy (www.chesskids.org.uk or www.chesskids.me.uk) and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966. Richard is a published author and his books can be found at Amazon. Richard is currently promoting minichess (games and puzzles using subsets of chess) for younger children through his website www.minichess.uk, and writing coaching materials for children (and adults) who want to start playing serious competitive chess, through www.chessheroes.uk. View all posts by Richard James

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