Thursday, September 25, 2008

The influence of the King

Any pawngame without kings can be evaluated to the end. There are mainly two parameters for a pawn:
  • What is the distance to the promotion square
  • Are there impediments on the road to the promotion square
The weapons of the pawn are:
  • Restraint
  • Blockade
  • Zugzwang
  • Sacrifice
What happens when a king enters the arena? What is the influence of the King?
When there are two kings on an empty board the result is a draw. This means that the influence of the king is derived from how he effects the parameters of the pawns:
  • Attack: can he free the road to promotion of his own pawn?
  • Defence: can he impede the road to promotion of the enemy pawn?
This gives the king clear goals to head for. The power of the king is that he can make multipurpose moves. He can head for two (or more) goals at the same time.
The most famous example of all is of course Reti's position:

Diagram 1.

White to move and draw.

When there would be no kings on the board, this would be a clear win for white. It is very important to take note of this advantage for white (which I hadn't realized before).
When evaluating the kings you must first have a clear picture of the potential targets of both the kings and the pawns.

  • Attack: de black pawn can promote on its own.
  • Defence: the black king is already in the square of the white pawn and he must keep it that way.

The white king has two targets.
  • For attack: the key square d7, where the total path to promotion is protected.
  • For defence: the square of the h5 pawn. Notice how big that target area is.
Multi-purpose moves.
Multiple goals add a whole new element to the battle. White has 4 moves at his disposal:
  • c7 (serves 1 goal)
  • Kg8 (1 goal)
  • Kh7 (1 goal)
  • Kg7 (2 goals)
Black has 5 moves at his disposal:
  • Ka7 (0 goals)
  • Ka5 (0 goals)
  • Kb5 (0 goals)
  • Kb6 (1 goal)
  • h4 (1 goal)
The goals of black and white are mutual complementary by nature. Every attack (pawn promotion) has a defense attached which is mandatory. The one who makes a move which serves more goals than his opponent, comes one step closer to the realization of one of them.

Let's see what happens if we make a quantum leap and extrapolate this conclusion to the whole game.
In the startposition both players have 16 goals each. 8 attacking goals (pawn promotion) and 8 defensive goals (prevent the opponent's pawn promotion). If the game is not decided by accidents, like winning material or mating (winning) the king, one of the pawns will have to do the job. The pieces are circling around the pawns either assisting them or impeding them. Every multi-purpose move that you make (in relation to the 16 goals) while the opponent makes single-purpose moves, will bring you closer to the realization of one of the goals.
The value of each piece movement must be seen against this background. Thus fullfilling the words of Philidor which always seemed incomprehendsible to me until now.

There is more to say about the king and pawn, but I must digest this unsuspected conclusion first.

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