The many faces of opposition

by Karsten Müller
12/10/2019 – In chess, opposition means that the square around the kings has corners of the same colour. However, all four (or two) corners must have the same colour. Then the side which is not to move has the opposition.

Endgames of the World Champions from Fischer to Carlsen Endgames of the World Champions from Fischer to Carlsen

Let endgame expert Dr Karsten Müller show and explain the finesses of the world champions. Although they had different styles each and every one of them played the endgame exceptionally well, so take the opportunity to enjoy and learn from some of the best endgames in the history of chess.


Advanced opposition

A force to be reckoned with.


Karsten Mueller in ChessBase Magazine

Do you like these lessons? There are plenty more by internationally renowned endgame expert Dr Karsten Müller in ChessBase Magazine, where you will also find openings articles and surveys, tactics, and of course annotations by the world's top grandmasters.

Apart from his regular columns and video lectures in ChessBase Magazine there is a whole series of training DVDs by Karsten Mueller, which are bestsellers in the ChessBase Shop.

Karsten Mueller

Karsten Mueller regularly presents endgame lessons in the ChessBase Video Portal

ChessBase Magazine 192

Analyses by Giri, Anand, Nisipeanu, Huschenbeth, Vidit, Vitiugov, Tomashevsky and many more. Plus videos by King, Shirov and l'Ami, 11 opening articles with new repertoire ideas and training sessions in strategy, tactics and endgame!


Highlights of this issue

  • CBM 191Star analyses
    Annotated games by Anand, Giri, Vidit, Vitiugov, Tomashevsky and many more
  • Benoni forever!
    Tanmay Srinath’s active recipe vs. the Four Pawns Attack
  • The Chinese Dragon
    Igor Stohl proves Black is fine after 10…Rb8!?
  • Who surprises whom first?
    Niclas Huschenbeth dissects his World Cup victory over Naiditsch
  • Attacking ideas vs. the Italian Game
    Mihail Marin shows how White succeeds on the kingside
  • An exciting sideline!
    Imre Hera on 4.Qc2 c5 5.dxc5 Na6 in the Nimzo
  • Greek gift details
    Discover with Oliver Reeh stunning points of the classical sacrifice Bxh7+!
  • Queen sac versus Nakamura
    Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu shows his spectacular success from the FIDE World Cup
  • Carlsen-So 1-0!
    Enjoy Karsten Müller’s analysis of this top-notch endgame (video)
  • Revival in the Petroff
    Erwin l’Ami explains why the “new engines” like White’s position in the line 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Bd3 (video)


Karsten Müller, born 1970, has a world-wide reputation as one of the greatest endgame experts. He has, together with Frank Lamprecht, written a book on the subject: “Fundamental Chess Endgames” in addition to other contributions such as his column on the website ChessCafe as well as in ChessBase Magazine. Müller's ChessBase-DVDs about endgames in Fritztrainer-Format are bestsellers. The PhD in mathematics lives in Hamburg, where he has also been hunting down points for the HSK in the Bundesliga for many years.
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Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 12/16/2019 10:11
Definition of key square: If the attacking king reaches a key square then the attacker always wins (if there is no counterattack). The term knight opposition is a bit problematic. In the endgame it is sometimes used for systems of corresponding squares with the kings in the distance of a knight's move, e.g. white king e4 black king f6 and the side not to move has the knight opposition. In the opening it would probably not be called knight opposition. But of course the new knight geometry in the opening in certain chess960FRC starting positions is certainly worth exploring.
genem genem 12/15/2019 11:12
If the audience needs this article to define the term 'opposition', then the audience also needs this article to define the term 'key square' which the article used. In the traditional chess start setup, there is a large amount of Knight opposition. Many Fischer Random Chess or chess60FRC setups have much less Knight opposition, mainly when both White knights start on the same shade of square as each other: this entire class of interesting opening and middlegame play is forever hidden from us until more chess60FRC games are played with the lower amount of Knight opposition.
rubinsteinak rubinsteinak 12/11/2019 03:56
Karsten, well you made that look easy! Thanks for the analysis.
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 12/11/2019 02:48
Interesting topic! I will see, what I can do. In a nutshell: the h-pawn is less vulnerable for attack by the king and there are many drawn fortress set ups with g- and h- vs h7. With a g-pawn one sample line is: 1.Kg1 Kf7 2.Kf2 Kf6 3.Kf3 Kf5 After the activation of White's king now 4.h4 can come 4...Kf6 5.Kf4 Kg6 6.g4 Kf6 7.h5 Kf7 8.Kf5 Kf8 9.Kg6 Kg8 10.g5 Kh8 11.Kf7 Kh7 12.h6 and White wins. The g-pawn is more vulnerable...
rubinsteinak rubinsteinak 12/10/2019 11:04
Karsten, I enjoy your endgame articles, and I was wondering if you would consider doing an article on a seemingly simplistic endgame with the starting position as follows: white: kh1, pawns at g2 and h2; black: Kg8, pawn at g7; white to move and win. The idea for the article would be to show the winning method white should pursue (and what to avoid), and the what black should do to try to draw. As part of this article you could also include a line in which the starting position is altered by moving the black pawn from g7 to h7. As it turns out, this is a draw, but it's not immediately clear why it is more advantageous to have the h-pawn as black than the g-pawn. Anyway, I thought it might make for an interesting topic.
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 12/10/2019 03:41
That is the same. Rectangle or quadriliteral. But it indeed should in fact be rectangle and not square above.
rubinsteinak rubinsteinak 12/10/2019 02:52
I actually learned this a slightly different way, I think from either Keres or Averbakh. Instead of looking at the square around the kings, you look at the quadrilateral formed by the kings' positions. For example, in the problem given with white having just moved Kb2, in order to take the opposition black looks for a square that will result in a quadrilateral with all four corners of the same color. Black has two choices, d6 and f6. If Kd6, the quadrilateral b2, b6, d6, d2 has dark squares in all four corners, thus black has the opposition because it's white's move. If Kf6, the quadrilateral b2, b6, f6, f2 also has four dark squares, and black does have the opposition, but cannot maintain it because white controls one of the squares inside the quadrilateral, namely f4.
Karsten Müller Karsten Müller 12/10/2019 09:48
Indeed opposition in general is an advanced concept. Normal opposition, e.g. white king e3 black king e5 is easy. With Black to move White wins the fight for the key squares d4,e4 and f4. This is now generalised. On the same file with white king e1 and black on e7 with Black to move White also wins the fight for the key squares d4,e4 and f4. And here the rectangle has only 2 corners. This is generalised to any position of the kings and in general the rectangle can have 4 corners. For example white king d2 black king f6 is virtual opposition. In the above example Black always has to take the right form of opposition to draw.
Johannes Fischer Johannes Fischer 12/10/2019 09:18
Hi, I think in the original text an "s" was missing in "...around the king(s)". It is still a complex explanation but hopefully the plural makes it clearer.
psamant psamant 12/10/2019 08:25
That was complex for an amateur! "opposition means that the square around the king has corners of the same colour" probably means as that of the square of the opposite king. What does this statement mean mean and why? Can one of your articles explain?