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LCB, Issue #020 --, Leave Trails of Destruction With a Rampaging King
January 01, 2013

Rampaging King in a Reign of Terror

Lapoc Chess Board, Issue #020 -- Leave a Trail of Destruction With Your Rampaging King

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Last month we concentrated on Knight endgames. The Knight proved himself a tricky customer. He likes closed positions with lots of pawn chains to hop, skip and jump through. These same pawn chains can neutralize the long range powers of some of the other pieces.

In such endgames, stronger units can come out the wrong side of a bruising encounter with a wild horse or two. We saw three games involving some of the very best masters. These games showcase the abilities of the Four Horsemen in fine style.

This month we move our attention from Knight to King. A lot of talk around the King involves ideas to protect him from attack. However in the endgame he becomes a powerful attacking unit and is usually an absolutely necessary part of a winning endgame. We will look at some grandmaster games demonstrating the importance of a King on the front foot compared to a King found hanging back.

The King who wins the race to the coal face of the battle is often the ultimately successful one. We will finish up this month's look at the benefits of aggressive King play by looking at the middlegame King Walk.

Trail of Destruction by Rampaging Kings

Your King is a Fighting Piece

As the game reaches it's conclusion, the Kings are drawn into the battle. They can now roam the board in safety with most of the heavy artillery removed from the game. In fact it is an imperative that the King becomes a central player in the fight.

He may join his remaining comrades, perhaps a rook, in a mating net. Alternatively, if neither side still has enough pieces to put together a mating attack, it becomes a battle to promote the first pawn. This would clearly swing the result in the successful side's favor.

We are generally concerned with the endgame right now. But for completeness on this theme we will show two striking examples of aggressive King play in the middlegame. It's remarkable to see a King marching boldly up the board through territory heavily populated by enemy forces to help force a mate. These two games are intended to illustrate that it is not always necessary to wrap your monarch up in cotton wool. He can be one tough hombre.

Zukertort - Blackburne

We start with a game that is now 125 years old. It was played in London between Johannes Zukertort of Germany and Joseph Henry Blackburne of Britain. Zukertort had lost the first World Championship to William Steinitz the previous year. Blackburne was British Champion and a World Top 10 player.

As they reached move 30, the German was a pawn down. But that wasn't Zukertort's biggest problem. Blackburne's King was within touching distance of the center. The White King on the other hand was marooned on his home rank.

This was the deciding factor in this 1887 game as Black was effectively a piece up. His King continued to advance and the White pieces got tied down defending their embarressed King. With a powerful passed pawn also at Black's disposal, material concessions swiftly followed and White threw in the towel.

Rubinstein - Tartakower

Akiba Rubinstein meets Saviely Tartakower in a Polish derby in Marianbad, modern Czech Republic in 1925. A Bishop and Rook vs Bishop and Rook endgame emerges from the lively opening and middlegame exchanges.

Rubinstein (White) finds himself up a pawn and what's more it is a passer. It will be difficult to push it all the way to Black's home rank. The Black Rook and Bishop are equal to anything their opposite numbers can throw at the position.

The outcome will rest on which King can reach the battle first to tilt matters in the favor of his side. The White King races out of the blocks and easily beats his counterpart to the coal face. The end is swift as three pieces easily overpower two.

Tal - Lisitsin

Latvian Mikhail Tal came up against Russian Georgy Lisitsin in this 1956 clash. The game was played in the Russian's home city of Leningrad. The Magician of Riga needed a King on the warpath to secure the win.

The Royal Charge began on Tal's (White's) 25th move. Black was a pawn up but his pawn structure was compromised. Both sides had a Rook, Knight and Bishop that could cover each other's every move. White needed a flexible unit that could move around the center and mop up the weak pawns. The King was the ideal candidate.

Once again the King that got to the center first would be the one to seize the day. Black allowed his King to remain at home, a mere spectator. Within a couple of moves the White King was ruling the center and the outcome was clear. The pawns began to tumble and White went from a pawn down to a pawn up, two of them outside passers! Game over.

King Walk in the Middlegame

Even though we're mainly looking at the endgame right now it's no harm to look at this theme being played out in the middlegame. Bravado from the King is one thing in the endgame when most of the heavys have been taken out. Getting sure of himself in the middlegame is quite another surely!

Let's just reinforce the idea that the King has an offensive side to his game just like any other piece. And how better to do that than show the leader charging out into battlefield filled with powerful and dangerous enemies to play a key role in the demise of his opposite number?

It's important to recognize that a middlegame King Walk isn't always or even often advisable. But every now and then the position will call for it. You just need to know when it's on and when it's not. Here are two fabulous examples of successful middlegame King Walks.

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