Lesson 7 - An Important Endgame Concept in Chess: The Opposition
"In the ending the king is a powerful piece for assisting his own pawns, or stopping the adverse pawns."
- Wilhelm Steinitz
After hiding cowardly during the opening and middlegame phases, the kings must take things in hand and get active if they want to honor the sacrifice of their fallen soldiers during the peak of the battle. Each player must then rush to use their king in supporting the rest of their pieces on the board, most of them being pawns, in order to have an option over the victory. An epic battle will occur between the two Kings and, usually, the winning king is the one having won the opposition.
Other than being another chess term to learn, the opposition is a phenomenon that is possible because of the rule stating that a king can never place itself in check. Let me use the below diagram to show you the strength of this phenomenon.
Diagram 7.1 - The Opposition
Looking at the position above, we see that the kings are facing each other and that the d5, e5 and f5 squares are not accessible for both of them. None of the kings can advance toward the other: this is an example of opposition. In this position, the player with the move is disadvantaged since he must move his king and, because of that, will give the control on one of the highlighted squares to the opponent's king. The opponent will then be able to go forward on his next move. It is said of the player who played the last move in this position that he "won the opposition". Winning the opposition allows a player to block the access to important squares targetted by the enemy king, thus preventing the opponent to improve its position. Let see below a concrete example showing the advantage provided by the opposition to a player.
The endgame above is just one (simple) example among many others using the opposition. I thought it was important to present you this concept in order to make you grab some ideas that will be addressed in the next lessons and commented games. Just so, the opposition is referenced in the game below. I recommend you to go through the game and read all the comments. This endgame illustrates nicely all the content we saw together on the endgame phase. For those of you wanting to go a step further in your study, you can go through the variations (you can go though them on the chessboard by using the links) which present extra endgame concepts.
I hope I gave you the desire to learn more about endgames with this introduction. There are so many other endgame tricks to talk about... but unfortunately, I could not explain all of them within this short lesson. Anyway, I still have much work to do myself to master only the first half of them so...
In my opinion, before devoting important efforts to learn difficult concepts, a beginner must start with studying the different checkmating patterns first. That's the most efficient way of improving your skills in the endgame phase.
That concludes this tutorial... please take the time to complete the exercises available on the next page.
I do not recommend it, but you can also skip the exercises and go directly to the next tutorial to learn the checkmate patterns.