Opposition in Chess

How to play for a win in chess endgames? Use the opposition.

When you know all about the opposition, you will be able to make your king as strong as possible.

The opposition is a very important weapon in the fight for three adjacent key squares in the king and pawn endings.

If you're able to win the opposition, you'll win the fight for the key squares.

Normal Opposition

In the next diagram you see the initial position when we talk about the opposition.

You are white. The black king prevents you from reaching any of the three marked squares. You prevent the black king from reaching them too.

Is there a way to advance?

Yes there is! You have to make sure your opponent has the move in this position. When your opponent has the move, he can't continue defending all three squares.

After 1....Ke7; you can play 2.Kc6, reaching a marked square. This way you'll make progress.

The rule to remember is: if you don't have the move in the above diagram, you have the opposition.

You could also remember this as follows.

If you are the one to make the last move to reach an opposition position, you have the opposition.

Why is this so important?

I'll give you an example.

White to play. Can he win?

Without the knowledge of the opposition, you'll have to calculate at least four lines (starting with Ke5, Kd5, Kd4 and c5). This involves counting a lot of moves until the end of each line.

However, if you have knowledge of the opposition (and key squares), you'll find the right move with ease.

Let's find the answer together.

First you have to find the key squares. Because the pawn hasn't crossed the middle of the chessboard, there are three of those.

Now you know where the key squares are. You only have to reach one of them to secure a win.

How do you reach a key square? Use the opposition.

If you play 1.Ke5, you'll have the opposition.

Black has to defend the key squares, so he has to play 1...Kd7 now.

You'll have to take the opposition again playing 2. Kd5.

Black defends the squares again with 2....Kc7.

And you take the opposition again with 3.Kc5.

Now we have the initial position and you have the opposition.

As you've seen in the beginning of this page, black can no longer defend all of the key squares. He has to move to one side or the other (3.Kd7 or Kb7), giving white the chance to occupy one of the key squares.

And after 4. Kb6 a key square is occupied and the win secured.

If you're unsure about the win here, play the two variations untill the end.

Variation 1: 4....Kc8; 5.Kc6 (opposition), Kd8; 6.Kb7, Kd7; 7.c5 (and now c6, c7 and c8Q will follow).

Variation 2: 4....Kd8; 5 Kb7, Kd7; 6. c5 (and again c6, c7 and promotion will follow):

Distant Opposition

If there's more distance between the Kings, there's still the same idea.

If there's an odd number of squares in between the kings, the one who doesn't have the move has the opposition.

To reach a target square in this position, you'll have to have the opposition.

If white has the opposition, black has to move. So black tries Kc7.

How do you reach a key square? Use your knowledge of the opposition.

Therefore you'll play Kc5 (Ke5 achieves the goal too, but taking the opposition immediately is by far the easiest).

By now, you know you'll reach a target square, don't you? After 1..... Kd7; 2. Kd5 Ke7 (or any other move), one of the key squares is reached.

As a test, just to show yourself you've mastered the distant opposition, solve the next puzzle.

White to move, take the distant opposition.

It should by now be easy to solve.

Let's look at it together.

You have the opposition if you were the last one to move into an opposition position.

What is an opposition position here? It has to be a distant opposition, so there have to be an odd number of squares in between the kings (the kings have to be on the same color).

White can reach only one dark square on the d-file and that is d2.

So Kd2 is the right answer here.

Side Opposition

When the normal opposition occurs on a rank, it usually is called the side opposition.

Ofcourse here's distant opposition as well.

Diagonal Opposition

The next position shows you the diagonal opposition.

And a distant diagonal opposition.

In the diagonal opposition you'll have to calculate a bit.

When taking the opposition, you'll have to make sure there is an odd number of squares in between the kings.

Virtual Opposition

When kings connect on a rank, file or diagonal, you now should be able to determine who has (or can take) the opposition.

But what about situation where no such connection exists. What should you do?

Take a look at the next position.

I wouldn't have a clue if I didn't know the next rule.

Rule: you will gain the virtual opposition if you move the king to a square that builds a rectangle (or a square) in which each corner is the same color.

Because black is on a white square, white has to move to a white square too.

The square e2 is the only one to make a rectangle with four white corners.

Now try this for yourself.

In the next position, take the opposition with the white king.

I hope you were able to solve this quickly now?

If you struggled a bit, read the previous part on virtual opposition once more.

For the solution, see the next diagram.

Return to Chess Endings from Opposition

Return to Chess Insights from Opposition