Improve Your Defense: The Wandering King

Improve Your Defense: The Wandering King

We have been talking a lot about attacking and finding active ideas in your games, but very little about how to defend and put up a good resistance when under pressure. Many players train their tactical skills, but very few know that defense can be trained in a similar way. Perhaps this is the reason why many players are very good in attack, but their position tends to tumble down rather quickly when they find themselves under pressure.

It’s true; in a practical game it is very difficult to find good moves when you find yourself constantly under pressure, but if your train yourself for this you will definitely find it easier to survive. There are players who are very good at this – for example Kortchnoj or Karjakin – but not everybody has a good sense for defense.

We have previously given you a few tips on what you should be looking for and how you can improve your defensive skills, but in this article, we are going to take a look at some concrete defensive ideas.

You can find yourself under pressure in many ways during a game – for example a flank attack, central domination or space advantage for your opponent, but I believe that we can all agree that one of the most frightening attacks is that against our monarch. Even if nothing is really happening, we sometimes start seeing ghosts and go passive without any good reason.

  • But, what if the attack is for real?
  • What is a good way to defend in such cases?

They say that a flank attack should be answered with an attack in the center, but this solution does not work in all cases. In this article, we are going to look at a less popular way of escaping the attack – the king flight.

When the king is no longer safer on one flank, it is sometimes a good idea to hide on the opposite one.

Let’s take the following diagram:

improve your defense

Diez del Corral, J – Petrosian, T, Palma de Mallorca 1969

Black to play

Black is doing fine in this position, but it looks like this won’t be for long, as white is threatening to start an unpleasant attack on the kingside by means of Qf4-g5 followed by h4-h5.

With the h file open, black’s chances of survival don’t look very optimistic. This is the kind of moment where any of us could start panicking, realizing that there is not much counterplay black can play for, while white’s plan seems very simple and difficult to stop. It is very important to keep your calm and cold blood in this type of position and consider well every candidate move.

Petrosian found a very simple answer to this problem – transfer the king to the other flank, where white has very little pieces, while black is well-defended. It will be more difficult for his opponent to regroup his pieces and unfold an attack there. This idea is only possible because the center is closed and the king’s path to the queenside is safe.

The endgame favors black thanks to his better knight versus white’s bad bishop on e3 and his queenside majority. It is interesting to note, though, that the game was decided on the kingside – only that actions were taken against the white king instead. Once the black king reaches b7, there are always ideas of opening the files by means of g5 and f4, when it is white who has to worry about the safety of his monarch.

See how Petrosian employed this idea and eventually managed to win the game:

The idea of a king transfer to the other flank can be very efficient when defending, but it can usually be put in practice only if the center is closed.

There are many interesting games where this plan is used and we invite you to give it a deeper study.

Thank you for reading!

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Updated 12.19.2023


Yury Markushin:
You are very welcome, Ashish! More great articles are coming!
Thank you been waiting for your new post