Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pawn Structures and Pawn Chains: Part 6

The pawn chain is not a unique feature of the Advance French-- it is also present in many other closed games, notably the King's Indian.

In fact, many King's Indian games feature a closed position where the central pawn chain divides the board into two, thus provoking both sides to attack on opposite wings (remember what we talked about in July?). Today we will examine such a game, played none other than the great Mihail Tal himself.

The great Mihail Tal

Larsen, Bent vs Tal, Mihail
Eersel 1969

1. Nf3 Nf6
2. c4 g6
3. Nc3 Bg7
4. e4 d6
5. d4 O-O
6. Be2 e5
7. O-O Nc6
8. d5 Ne7
9. Ne1 Nd7
10. Nd3 f5
11. Bd2 Nf6
12. f3 f4
13. c5 g5 (D)

Larsen has quickened his attack by using a slightly different move order. He has omitted the prepartory move b4 in order to attack the d6 base more quickly, and try to open up the c-file.

14. Rc1 Ng6
15. Nb5

White was hoping to provoke 15... a6, after which 16. cxd6 axb5 17. dxc7 Qd7 18. Qb3 gives him a strong advantage.

15... Rf7
16. cxd6 cxd6
17. Qc2 g4

Disregarding the knight on b5, Tal strikes back in his typical manner. A more cautious approach would have been 17... Ne8 before playing 18... g4

18. Nc7 gxf3
19. gxf3 Bh3 (D)

By advancing his g pawn, Black seeks counterplay on the kingside in order to counter White's kingside activity. He is ready to sac his pieces in exchange for a powerful attack on the enemy king.

20. Nxa8 Nxe4!

This move probably took Larsen by surprise; he had been hoping for 20... Qxa8 21. Nf2 Bxf1 22. Bxf1, where he will then be able to establish a powerful bishop on h3. Had he forseen Black's move, he would have been more cautious and played 20. Ne6 instead.

21. fxe4 Qg5+
22. Kf2 Qg2+

Of course, Black could have drawed with a perpetual on Qh4+, but Tal was not satisfied and wanted to play for a win.

23. Ke1 Nh4 (D)

24. Be3?

Confused by this sudden change of events, White missed the strong continuation 24. Nf2!, where after 24... Nf3+ 25. Kd1 Nd4 26. Qc3 White fends off the attack. Now, little can be done in the way of Black's attack:

24... Qxe4
25. Bf2 f3
26. Bxh4 Qxh4+
27. Nf2 fxe2
28. Qxe2 e4
29. Rg1

29. Rc7 loses to Bxf1 30. Kxf1 Rf5, while 29. Rc4 loses to Bxf1 30. Kxf1 Qxh2

29... e3
30. Qxe3 Re7
31. Rxg7+ Kxg7
32. Rc7 Bd7
33. Rxd7 Rxd7
34. Qxa7?

In trying to save his knight, White has placed his king in danger. More stubborn would have been 34. Qc3+ Qf6 35. Qg3+ Kf8 36. Nd3, activating the knight.

34... Re7+
35. Kd1 Qc4
36. Qb6 Qf1+
37. Kd2 Re2+
38. Kc3 Qc1+
39. Kd4 Qe3+
40. Kc4 Rc2+ (D)

The same method of play against the pawn chain, coupled with the kingside attack, brought Tal success. And now to wrap up this entire series, I will summarize the basic points to take note when playing with or against the pawn chain:

  • As the attacker, your pawn chain gives you much space in the centre, while the forward wedge controls vital squares within the enemy camp. Thus, you should utilize these squares to bring in your pieces for the attack. As the enemy's central pawns are blockaded, you can also seek to make flank attacks on them.
  • As the defender, your countermeasures will be to attack the base of the chain, and bring in as many pieces and pawns as possible for a siege of the base. Should a new weakness appear in the attacker's camp, you can then transfer your attention over to the new weakness, before returning to attack the chain again in the endgame
  • At the critical moment when the chain falls apart, the attacker should attempt to bring his pieces into the centre. If he succeeds, then his pieces will exert suffocating pressure within the defender's position, while the enemy blockaded pawns become exposed and vulnerable. If he fails to do so, then the formerly blockaded pawns will advance with all their pent-up energy, thus changing the nature of the game and turning the tables.
  • Very often, the centre can become closed, in which play will naturally be transferred over to the wings. Both sides will usually seek to make parallel attacks on opposite wings.

This, I hope, will aid you in your efforts both with and against the pawn chain in future games.

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5:

"Understanding Pawn Play in Chess" by Dražen Marović

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