tata chess image

Endgame Fundamentals: Fortress

By Donny Gray

When you hear the term fortress in chess, exactly what does that mean? A fortress is when the side that is behind in material sets up a position around his king in such a way that it cannot be penetrated by the opponent. Knowing about such a thing can go a long way in drawing a losing position. There are many examples of a fortress in chess and we will take a look at some of them.

Most beginners soon find out that trying to queen with a lone rook pawn is impossible if your opponent’s king is in the way. Very frustrating to say the least!

As long as black stays in the corner, there is no way to win. If white ever pushes the pawn it ends up like this:

1.a7    Ka8
2.Ka6  Stalemate

Now what is very interesting is that even if white had a black-squared bishop he still cannot win! Since the bishop does not cover the queening square he is out of luck.

You can try this one out for yourself. There are zero chances for white to win unless black loses his mind and goes to c8. As long as he stays in the corner, the simple fortress draws. The knowledge that a bishop and rook pawn cannot win if the bishop is the wrong color is very important to know!

Now for a more advanced fortress. The following is a typical rook and pawn fortress against the queen. There are many examples of this but the following shows the basic ideas.