# Is a "Strong King" handicap really as powerful as is claimed?

Wikipedia quotes an analysis by GM Harry Golombek (from Golombek’s Encyclopedia of Chess, Crown Publishers, 1977, p. 218. I do not have access to the source) where he lists possible handicaps, in order of increasing severity.

The last item in the list is "Strong king", where the king is given the ability to move up to two squares in any direction. It appears further down (that is, a bigger handicap) than "Queenside odds" where the stronger player gives up a queen, rook, knight and bishop.

I can understand that this is powerful because a strong king is harder to mate (AFAIK, even K+Q can't mate a strong king. Not only does he have more escape routes, the normal king can't get too close to the action) and in general is hard to put pressure against.

But seriously, more powerful than Q+R+B+N? Is this a mistake? If not, where can I find an analysis that supports this claim?

Edit: I've played a few games of this with friends. The jury is still out on the exact strength, but my estimation: This is probably on the same ballpark as queen odds, but nowhere near QRBN.

• It's not exactly the same thing, but the fact that this variant is playable gives a hint of how strong a double-moving king is. Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 22:15
• @FedericoPoloni I'm not sure how comparable that variant is. I've played it a few times, and a big part of white's king's power is the ability to capture a piece on the first of its moves, even if it is defended, and then escape from check with the second. It doesn't look like that's possible with these odds. Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 15:06
• Can the king jump or not? Commented Apr 4, 2020 at 10:55
• @hkBst: I think not. Commented Apr 4, 2020 at 18:17

It depends on how we measure the effectiveness of a handicap. Here's what I mean by that:

If we are trying to increase the likelihood that the weaker player wins, queen-side odds are more effective than the strong king, because the weaker player has so much offensive potential in queen-side odds (and the stronger player doesn't have much defense).

If we are trying to decrease the likelihood that the weaker player loses, the strong king is more effective than queen-side odds, because the weaker player has so much more defensive potential in a strong king. Checkmating that king is one heck of a job.

• In the first case you lower the potential of the stronger player to win and increase the odds of a draw and a win for the weaker player. In the second case you also lower the potential of the stronger player to win. Again the odds of a draw or win for the weaker player are increased. There does not seem to be any difference between the two cases you try to distinguish. Commented Apr 4, 2020 at 11:00

A strong king has a few less moving possibilities than a queen and a knight combined, so its strengh would be close to that, maybe a little less

• To clarify: The strong king cannot move like a knight. His possible moves are a subset of queen moves. On the other hand, having your king (the piece that should be mated to win the game) stronger is more beneficial than just having a piece with the same moves, since it's easier to avoid mate threats. Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 0:48
• Oh! In that case, I don't consider that any more than a queen's advantage. Yes, it is true that some endgames will be drawn because of its escaping capabilities, but truth is that, in most won endgames, the stronger side can promote fifty queens is he wishes. Anyway, this is no longer the 18th century so who really cares? Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 6:57
• I think handicap play is a very interesting field of study. And now that computer players are crushing all opposition in normal play, I think there should be a greater focus on researching and training the fine art of handicap play. Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 11:17