The Opposition is a special zugzwang used in pawn endgames to force a draw or stalemate or to push your pawn through and convert it to a queen. It occurs when only a king and a king and a pawn are left on the board. In chess a king can’t put himself in check so if two kings are squaring off the king that must move first will be the one that yields ground to the other king, this is the basis of The Opposition. The best way to understand it is to see it in action so here is the classic example of The Opposition, Gligoric vs Fischer in Yugoslavia 1959:

chess notation

Place the white king on c4 with a white pawn on b4. Place the Black king on c8. Black to play and it is the first move below which enables black to draw.

  1. …   Kb8
  2. Kb5 Kb7
  3. Ka5 Ka7
  4. b5 Kb7
  5. b6 Kb8
  6. Ka6 Ka8
  7. B7+ Kb8
  8. Kb6

To fully appreciate this go through it making other moves for the black king and you will start to get a feel for how the zugzwang opposition is used. You have to study it, it wont just fall into your lap. Here is an aggressive example of The Opposition where black queens his pawn. Place white king on c2 and black king on c4 with a black pawn on e3. White to play.

  1. Kc1 Kc3
  2. Kd1 Kd3
  3. Ke1 e2

These types of situations happen often and every chess player should have good understanding of them in order to avoid or cause them. When figuring out your middle game see how it leaves your pawns and take The Opposition into account, will you have it or will they?

 

Endgames in Chess
Pawn Endgames

Knowledge of Algebraic Notation or chess notation is helpful in understanding opposition.

Opposition defined:
Opposition is the control of squares between two opposing Kings (Diagram 1). Any patzer can master opposition with time and practice. Although the king is the center of most attacks, you must use the king in the end game to checkmate the other king. The king becomes a valuable tool after most if not all of the heavy pieces have been removed. Until the end game the king is likely kept hidden safely, but in the end game it comes out to finish the chores - there's hardly anyone left to interfer! The 64 squares on the chess board are split into two colors, the most important aspect of opposition. Whomever is moving, in some sort of King position, (if they want to keep the opposition) they will move to the same color of square their opponent did. Likewise if they wish to get rid of the opposition (or at least attempt) they will move to the opposite colored square, though then the next player could move to the same colored square most likely (see Diagram 3 for an example of breaking opposition). Opposition has many uses, controlling the board or certain parts of the board (colors, diaganols, etc.), but most importantly to promote a pawn to a higher piece (usually a Queen), (See Diagram 2 for promoting a pawn without any other interference.) It can also be seen in a Zugzwang, which is German meaning "compulsion to move." The following position shows a great example of three squares where neither king can move into children need magic and stories because of a “magic wall" created by both kings “hatred.” I tell my students opposition is, "King Play," suggesting that while playing chess it is important that, "Kings Don't Kiss."


                                 Diagram 1.
                             King Opposition.
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 8
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 7
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |BK |   |   |   | 6
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   | X | X | X |   |   | 5
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |WK |   |   |   | 4
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 3
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 2
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 1
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                      A    B   C   D   E   F   G   H
                        

WK@e4 Bk@e6. It can go to either sides advantage, or to no gain at all depending on the position. In End Game positions the player with pieces that can checkmate are used along with the king to their advantage by pushing their opponent to the side and then the corner if needed. Checkmating with King and a Knight and Bishop vs King is a great example where it is easiest to use the king to push the other king to the side rather than using the bishops. Possibly my favorite self made chess quote, "You should be scared if your opponant has three bishops." Joke Spoiler: (Each person starts with two bishops. Having a third means they didn't get a queen, but instead chose to get an additional seemingly useless bishop to toy around with)

Promoting a pawn with K, P vs. K by using opposition.
Note that the first rule is that the King always stays in front of the pawn. This magic wall prevents the other King from reaching the pawn. If the King tries to go around the other King, the pawn simply follows the “royal pathway” to promotion and turns into a Queen etc. Take this example: Wp@c2 WK@d1 Bk@c8. The first thing the White king should do is get in front of the pawn. After this, and while keeping opposition in mind he will force their opponents King out of the way slowly for the pawn to reach the end square.


                                 Diagram 2. 
                           Promoting the Pawn.
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |BK |   |   |   |   |   | 8
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 7
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 6
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 5
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 4
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 3
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |WP |   |   |   |   |   | 2
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |WK |   |   |   |   | 1
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                      A    B   C   D   E   F   G   H
                        

1. Kd2 Kc7
2. Kc3 Kc6
3. Kc4 Kd6
4. Kb5 Kc7
5. Kc5 Kb7
6. Kd6 Kc8
7. Kc6 Kd8
8. c4 Kc8
9. c5 Kb8
10. Kd7 Kb7
11. c6+ Kb8
12. c7+ Kb7
13 c8=Q+
(Note there are many other variations that will have the same end result, as long as the White King keeps in mind to stay between the opposing King and their own pawn.)

Promoting a pawn with K, P, P vs. K, P - Behind the pawn.
Promoting a pawn from Kp vs K situations and later adding additional pawns to create further complications will help build tactical chess and positional chess playing opposition for players with key ideas. Another preferable example would be: Wk@d5 Wp@d6,a6 BK@d7 Bp@a7.



                                 Diagram 3.
                            Promoting the Pawn,
                            The Luft Position.
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 8
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |BP |   |   |BK |   |   |   |   | 7
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |WP |   |   |WP |   |   |   |   | 6
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |WK |   |   |   |   | 5
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 4
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 3
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 2
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                     |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   | 1
                     +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
                      A    B   C   D   E   F   G   H
                        

In this position King Play (opposition) which was previously explained is used to throw off the King on a valuable square. This exact position is a win for white, but white has to work for it. Grandmasters once looked at this position and called it a draw, "The King is behind the pawn." Currently it is white's move, and what white does not want to move, a zugzwang, wanting instead for it to be black's move.
Play:
1.Kc5 Kd8
2. Kd4 Kd7
3. Kd5 Kc8
4. Ke6 Kd8
5. d7 Kc7
6 . Ke7 Kb6
7. d8=Q+
(Note any other variations show the same information, where Black has to give up his ideal opposition square. The opposition breaks on move 2 for black when he has to move to the opposite color white just moved.) This is called Triangulation. Its the tactic that allows the achievement of the same position in three moves but instead of white to move it is now black to move (or vice versa). By maintaining the basic position but changing whose move it is, it breaks the opposition or changes it in some regard. There is another form of triangulation where one king triangulates by using three moves to return to the original square and the opposing king can't do the same, losing a tempo and the opposition.



Previous chess writeup: Damiano's Defense . Next: Philidor position

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