Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Dangers of an Unprotected King.

When your king is unguarded, you can easily lose your game even if you are way ahead in material. Extra rooks, bishops, and pawns do not mean squat, if your opponent has an open-door attack on your king. The following game is no exception:

(Black to Move)

I was actually playing white during this game, and after a series of poor moves I found myself a whole knight and rook down. The only thing going my way is the total lack of protection for the black king and the menacing pawn at f6. Can I use these to pull off a win?

The answer should be no. Black's most logical move is 1... Kh7. This leaves the game still largely in his favor. The queen can menace the king on the kingside, but black can escape mate. Of course, 2. Qh6+? is out of the question (2... Kxh6). Any other checks (ex. 2. Qh4+) allows black to get behind the f6 pawn (2. Qh4+ Kg6! saving the game). Even the dubious looking 1... Qxf6?! is better than most of the alternatives. A queen for a pawn is a dreadful exchange (2. Qxf6 will of course follow), but it will elimate the f6 pawn and white queen threat and will leave black with still an arsenal of pieces. The move actually played 1... Re8?? (a blind attempt to guard the knight) instantly leads to a mate in two which indeed ensued. 2. Qg5+ Kh7 3. Qg7# (2... Kh8 3. Qg7#).