IM Michael Bodek: Exploiting the Overprotected King


Many perpetual checks occur when there are not enough defenders around a weak king. However these examples will focus on the opposite: when there are too many defenders around a king, which make it so that it has no squares to which it can run. Though some of the kings will seem adequately protected in the forthcoming examples, their safety is merely an illusion. Enjoy! 

Diagram 1

In this position Black has promoted a pawn and is now threatening mate. How can White’s position be saved?

1. Rxh7+!

After this black will be unable to avoid the checks. Depending on which queen captures the rook, white will check on either d8 or f6
1… Q7xh7

(1… Q8xh7 2. Qd8+ )

2. Qf6+ Qhg7 3. Qh4+ Q8h7 4. Qd8+ Qgg8 5. Qf6+ Qhg7 6. Qh4+ Q8h7

Diagram 2: After 6..Q8h7

Black can only control 2 of the f6 d8 and h4 squares at any given time. Therefore White can draw by giving check on the uncontrolled square.


This motif has been seen many times in practical play. Here, GM Kayden Troff forced a draw with
34… Rxh2+! 

(Checa, Nicolas D – Troff, Kayden W)

Diagram 3: Position After 34… Rxh2+!

35. Qxh2 Qf3+ 36. Rg2 Qd1+ 37. Rg1 Qf3+ 38. Qg2 Qh5+ 39. Qh2

Diagram 4: After move 39. Qh2

Again, there is always one free square from which the queen can give check. Since White cannot control d1 f3, and h5 simultaneously, the position is a draw


In practical play, this motif is very common in queen endgames when a pawn is close to promotion. In this position, even though White is threatening Qh5 mate as well as promoting the pawn, it is in fact possible for Black to save the game

1… Qb8+!

(Position 3)

Diagram 5: Position After 1… Qb8+!

2. e8=Q (2. Qe8 Qf4+ )2… Qd6+

White can never escape the checks

Diagram 6: After move 2… Qd6+

3. Qee7 Qb8+ 4. Qee8 Qd6+ 5. Qfe7 Qf4+ 6. Q8f7 Qb8+ 7. Qee8 Qd6+ 

Diagram 7: After move 7… Qd6+
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Now for a more complicated example from the recent Olympiad. In this position Black has a large advantage and White can only hope for a perputual check. Kf1 followed by Qf2 and pushing the e pawn seems like an obvious winning attempt. However, White can use the same drawing technique demonstrated in the previous examples and check the Black king from b1, d3, and f5 continuously if Kf1 followed by Qf2 is played. Or can he? Michael Adams clearly thought so and made a slight misstep with

137… Qd2

(Lutfi – Michael)

Diagram 8: Position After 137… Qd2

and later drew the game
( In reality though, that drawing technique does not work here. Black can with 137… Kf1+ 138. Kh1 Qf2 139. Qb5+ e2 140. Qb1+ e1=N!! Now White no longer has a perpetual check! (140… e1=Q? Throws away the win. White can draw with 141. Qd3+ Qee2 142. Qb1+ Qfe1 143. Qf5+ Q2f2 144. Qd3+ etc. 141. Qb5+ Qe2 142. Qf5+ Black can escape the checks by playing 142… Qf3+ as unlike in the other variation, he now controls the f3 square. Incedentally, even Nf3 wins as the Black king gains access to the f2 square )

Diagram 9: After move 140… e1=Q

138. Qe4 Ke1+ 139. Kh3 Qd7+ 140. Kg2 Qd2+

Diagram 10: After move 140. Qd2+

141. Kh3 e2 142. Kg2 Qb2 143. Qd5 Qc3 144. Qd6 Qb3 145. Qd4 Qb7+ 146. Kg1 Qb3 147. Kg2 Qa3 148. Qd5 Qc3 149. Qd6 Qd2 150. Qe5 Kd1 151. Qa1+ Qc1 152. Qd4+ Qd2 153. Qa1+ Kc2 154. Qa2+ Kd1 155. Qa1+ Qc1 156. Qd4+ Ke1 157. Qd5 Qa3 158. Qd4 Qa5 159. Kg1 Qf5 160. Qa1+ Kd2 161. Qb2+ Ke3 162. Qc3+ Qd3 163. Qe5+ Kd2 164. Qb2+ Kd1 165. Qa1+ Kc2 166. Kf2 Qd2 1/2-1/2

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While at times it is important to overprotect the king, as demonstrated by these examples, there is such a thing as having too many protectors. At one extreme, there is a king that is mated because it has not enough protection, at the other there is the king that has too many defenders and such has nowhere to run. So even though the motif described is important to know for its own practical value, in a more general sense, make sure that when a piece defends a king, it helps more than it hurts. 



IM Michael Bodek (born in 1991, New Rochelle New York) will arrive at this year’s U.S. Junior Closed Championship riding a wave of impressive recent success. The native of Rochelle, NY will enter the tournament with a personal all-time peak rating of 2528, as a result of his excellent play over the past year.

Before the tie-breaking round in the 2014 National Chess Congress last November, Michael managed a four-way tie for first place in a premier section that included such American chess greats as Grandmasters Gata Kamsky and Sergey Erenburg. Additionally, this past May Michael seized victory in his section of the UT Brownsville International Master-norm tournament.

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