Confusing positions....

In case you've been offline in the past 24 hours, I have a very important question to ask you. What are the two colors of this dress?

I see a very pale blue and gold.  Yes, I know that's not right....

I see a very pale blue and gold.  Yes, I know that's not right....

If you haven't seen the photo before, check out this article.

As beginners in chess, we learn the importance of the opposition in king and pawn endings.  So we should have no problem quickly evaluating what's happening in these simple endings, should we?  (Reminder: in chess diagrams, the White pawns are moving UP the board, and the Black pawns are moving DOWN the board.)

POSITION 1 - White to play: Black (with the opposition) wins

POSITION 1 - White to play: Black (with the opposition) wins

OK, I admit that the position above makes sense to me.  I tell myself, "The White king got too ambitious in raiding the enemy camp and can't get back in time."  But even after 49 years of playing chess, I still find the following position confusing:

POSITION 2 - White to play: Black (with the opposition) loses anyway!

POSITION 2 - White to play: Black (with the opposition) loses anyway!

Beginner's books lie to us sometimes.  The authors know better, but chess is hard, and our teachers make a complicated story a little bit more simple.  Sometimes the opposition doesn't matter; even when it matters, it's not always the most important feature in king and pawn endings.

So now you should be able to figure out the following position easily, no?  (If king and pawn endings make your head hurt, then welcome to the club.)

POSITION 3 - White to play: Black (with the opposition) draws

POSITION 3 - White to play: Black (with the opposition) draws

Now, if you really want to be confused, consider the same three positions with Black to move.  There is really no substitute for getting out the board and figuring out these positions for yourself.

Things are seldom what they seem

Skim milk masquerades as cream

We'll talk a bit more about these "simple" pawn endings tomorrow, and introduce the concept of key squares.  I'd be particularly curious to hear from the many fine chess instructors in Chicagoland: how do you teach these endings to your students?