Monday, September 30, 2013

The fork/double attack

It's back to tactics today! Over here are more 8 more (simple) puzzles illustrating the basic theme of forks/double attacks:

Puzzle 1: Let's get started with Black to move

Puzzle 2: White to move

Puzzle 3: A simple decoy is key to White's plans

Puzzle 4: Another decoy sacrifice...for Black!

Puzzle 5: Black to move and exploit an overloaded rook

Puzzle 6: This isn't an error! Now it's White to move!

Puzzle 7: Black to move... not so straightforward this time!

Puzzle 8: White to move and finish things off

Have fun! (:

Friday, September 27, 2013

The story of Iron Tigran: Part 1

The chess public seems to have an uncanny preference for gamblers. Analysts were impressed at the daring attacks made by Alekhine, viewers were awed by Tal's stunning sacrifices. In basic chess lessons trainers show young kids brilliancy games, where the kids seem to get an impression that in order to win quickly, you must sacrifice with style. (???)

You see, it's all about how people get excited by the games. The more exciting the better. That's also why soccer gets so much more publicity than chess (at least as of now!).

Yet many beginners fail to realize that it is not just wild tactical play that will bring you victory. The art of slow, positional play; the subtle skills of blockade, prophylaxis and many other forms of defensive play. It is through good defending skills that many grandmasters manage to save seemingly lost positions.

As such I feel that due credit must be given to one of my favourite chess players who has also influenced me greatly. He is none other than the most famous defending player in chess history-- Tigran Petrosian.

Tigran V. Petrosian, 1929-1984

"Chess is a game by its form, an art by its content and a science by the difficulty of gaining mastery in it. Chess can convey as much happiness as a good book or work of music can. However, it is necessary to learn to play well and only afterwards will one experience real delight." 
– Tigran Petrosian

Petrosian was a Soviet-Armenian Grandmaster, and the 9th World Chess Champion (1963-1969). He was nicknamed "Iron Tigran" for his almost impenetrable defensive playing style, which made him extremely difficult to defeat.


Petrosian was born in 1929 in Tifilis, Soviet Union to Armenian parents. He was orphaned in WWII, and was forced to sweep streets for a living. During these difficult times, he found solace in the game of chess, and used his rations to purchase literature on the subject. Among this was Chess Praxis by Aaron Nimzowitsch, a player which would later have a great influence on Petrosian's playing style.

Petrosian later received his formal chess training at the Tiflis Palace of Pioneers, where he began to develop his solid and positional playing style. He earned the title of Candidate Master in 1946, and moved to Yerevan in the same year. There, he won the Armenian Chess Championship in 1948.

He moved to Moscow in 1949, where his career as a chess player began to improve steadily. He was placed second in the 1951 USSR Championship, and also qualified for the 1953 Candidates Tournament. However, he had yet to prove himself to be a formidable challenger for the World Title at that time-- although he was undefeated in most of his games, his defensive playing style often resulted in him attaining more draws than wins. This, however, was to change when he finally won the USSR championship in 1959. He went on to repeat this stunning feat in 1961.

After the 1962 Stockholm Interzonal, Petrosian qualified for the 1962 Candidates Tournament with other notable players such as Fischer, Korchnoi, Keres and Tal. Petrosian won the tournament, earning the right to challenge then-World-Champion Mikhail Botvinnik in the 1963 World Chess Championship.

Mikhail Botvinnik-- a three time World Champion, having clinched the title in 1948. He lost it to Vasily Smyslov in 1957, but then won it back the following year. Again he lost the title to a wild and rampaging Mihail Tal in 1960, but won the rematch in 1961 to become World Champion again. Now, he was to have another attempt at defending his title.

1963 World Chess Championship, Petrosian (left) vs Botvinnik
Petrosian's cautious playing style was well-suited for match play, and he won the match convincingly with a score of +5-2=15 (5 wins, 2 losses and 15 draws) to become the 9th World Champion.

He retained the title for a full 7 years, successfully defending his title in 1966 against Boris Spassky. However, he finally lost the title to Spassky in the 1969 World Championship, losing by 10.5 against Spassky's 12.5 points.

Even after losing his title Petrosian remained a formidable opponent, and his solid defensive style made him an extremely difficult player to beat. He won the USSR Championship again in 1969 and 1975, and achieved victories in many other tournaments such as Lone Pine 1976 and the Keres Memorial 1979. Petrosian also represented the Soviet Union in several Chess Olympiads from 1958 to 1978, winning 9 team gold medals, 1 team silver medal, and 6 individual gold medals.

Although he again qualified for the Candidates Tournament on several occasions (1971, 1974, 1977 and 1980), he was unsuccessful in his attempt to regain the World Championship title.

In his later life he continued to play in competitive chess, on one occasion beating the young Kasparov in 1981:

Petrosian died of stomach cancer in 1984 in Moscow. On 7 July 2006, a monument honouring Petrosian was opened in the in the street named after him in Davtashen district, Yerevan.

Tigran Petrosian Memorial in Davtashen, Yerevan
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of his birth, the Tigran Petrosian Internet Memorial Tournament was held from 18-23 December 2004, with four teams (China, Russia, France and Armenia) participating. The Chinese Team won the tournament despite having being seeded the lowest.

Playing style

As talked about earlier, Iron Tigran was famous for his cautious and highly-defensive playing style, which emphasized safety over all else. Having been inspired by players such as Nimzowitsch and Capablanca, he was a frequent practitioner of blockade and prophylaxis, and was able to spot and respond almost all threats which his opponents made against him.

His repertoire of openings included closed, positional lines such as the French, Sicilian Najdorf and the English Opening; he was also skilled at closing up the centre, before outflanking his opponents with moves such as b2-b4 or g2-g4. During tournament play, Petrosian would often move the same pieces several times during a single game, often confusing his opponents into making mistakes.

As his playing style often led him to focus more on warding off his opponent's threats than creating threats of his own, Petrosian rarely went on the attack unless his position was absolutely safe. This often led to many of hsi games ending in draws; he usually won due to his opponents making mistakes while trying to attack him. However, this also made it incredibly difficult to beat him; records showed that throughout the ten Olympiads, he only lost one game (to Hubner in 1972), as compared to 79 wins and 50 draws!

Hold your ground!

However, many analysts criticized Petrosian's playing style as dull and boring, in a time when the chess world was marvelling at aggressive and stunning games from players like Mihail Tal. After his matches with Korchnoi in 1971 (which featured several monotonous draws), detractors even began to label him as "cowardly" and reluctant to attack.

However, there were also many who spoke up for him. Botvinnik defended Petrosian's playing style, stating that his greatest strength was in defense and he attacked when he only felt secure. Robert Fischer commented on how Petrosian had "an incredible tactical view, and a wonderful sense of the danger... No matter how much you think deep... He will 'smell' any kind of danger 20 moves before!".

And Garry Kasparov, after losing two matches to Iron Tigran in 1981, felt that "My games with the 9th world champion broadened my understanding of chess. Had it not been for these two defeats, I would possibly not have reached the top in chess."

"Yes, perhaps I like defending more than attacking, but who has demonstrated that defence is a less risky and dangerous occupation than attack? And are there so few games that have found their way into the treasury of chess thanks to a virtuoso defence?"
– Tigran Petrosian

And it is indeed sad that such fine defensive play could be criticized as "boring" by so many! The games of Iron Tigran, in my opinion, is an important legacy which reminds us that chess need not be appreciated solely through aggressive attacks and dynamic positions; the art of fine, positional play and an effective defense against an enemy assault should also be given an equal level of importance in the eyes of the public. As such, Petrosian will continue to be one of my most respected players in the history of chess, and may his games continue to inspire many for the years to come.

In subsequent parts, we will examine a few of Petrosian's games and analyze how Iron Tigran utilizes positional play to take apart his opponents.

"The Giants of Strategy" by Neil Macdonald

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The art of successful defense: Part 3

Defense by Blockade

Die Blockade. Nimzowitsch wrote about the importance of blockade when playing against a passed pawn, which is well known for its destructive nature. Blockade in its simplest form refers to the restraint of an enemy pawn from advancing, usually by placing a piece/pawn directly in front of it. Blockaded pawns, in most cases, tend to come down as vuulnerable targets which become more of a hindarance rather than a benefit for the attacker.

"It is an enigmatic fact that the blockade square tends to become a strong point for yourself and a weak one for your opponent"
-- Nimzowitsch

And thus we will now look at several examples detailing the power of a blockade, and how to use it effectively in defending one's position.

Checkerboard 6 vs Checkerboard 5
Friendly Game 2013
Position after 1. gxh7+

With his last move White hopes to break into the enemy kingside by opening up the h-file for his queen, which is excellently placed on g3. Black, however, is aware of the dangers of opening the file, and continues:

1... Kh8!

Die Blockade! With the advancing pawn blockaded it now becomes more difficult for White to break through the kingside, and the Black king now uses the enemy pawn as a shield against possible attack.

The position was eventually simplified into an endgame that concluded with a draw.


Sometimes, if a blockade is so strong that it render's the enemy's advance immobile, then it will be worth executing even if at the cost of material.

Tigran Petrosian, the 9th World Champion, shows us how sacrifices can be made to achieve an effective blockade as shown in the following example:

Reshvesky, Samuel vs Petrosian, Tigran
Zurich Candidates Tournament 1953
Position after 25. Rfe1

At first glance Black's position looks demoralizing. White has an enormous advantage in space as well as more centralized pieces. He threatens to advance his prospective passed pawns with d4-d5, and also a kingside pawn avalanche that may create even more problems for Black. Black does not seem to have any good solution to his predicament... or does he?

1... Re6!!

"An absolutely secure blockade may very well be worth a pawn sacrifice. Previous theory only recognized the connection between a sacrifice and an attack"
-- Nimzowitsch

Only that in this case, it is an exchange being sacrificed, rather than a pawn. With the rook vacated from d7, Black can now maneuveur his knight to the d5 square via Nc6-Ne7-Nd5, where it can carry out a successful blockade of White's central pawns. From d5, the knight also attacks the pawn chain base at c3, and may even support a possible pawn advance on the queenside.

You may ask-- if the goal of 1... Re6 is simply to make room for the knight from e7 to d5 so as to blockade the d pawn, then why not Petrosian just move 1... Ra7, thus negating the need for a sacrifice?

Neil Macdonald, in his work "The Giants of Strategy", has the answer to this: "Petrosian is dissuading his opponent from building up an attack on the g-file with moves such as 26. h4, 27. h5 and 28. g3 etc. Nor is it pure psychology of the kind, 'My Dear Reshevesky, why should you bother with a slow build-up on the kingside when I'm offering you the exchange for free?!'. It also has some technical merit as the rook might play a part in the defence of the king if allowed to live, say with ...Bd3 and then ...Rg6. In contrast, after 25... Ra7 there is nothing either psychological or technical to deter White from attacking with 26. h4 etc."

26. a4 Ne7! 27. Bxe6 fxe6 28. Qf1

White has no time to exploit the open f-file as Black's queenside pawns are threatening to break through.

28... Nd5 (D)

Position after 28... Nd5

The blockade has been realized; White's pawns have been rendered immobile. In order to reactivate his pawns, White decides to return the sacrifice.

29. Rf3 Bd3 30. Rxd3 cxd3 31. Qxd3 b4!

Rather than let White continue to advance in the centre, Black seizes the initiative and advances his queenside pawns.

32. cxb4

If 32. c4 then 32... Nb6! where 33... Nxa4 will yield connected passed pawns for Black

32... axb4

A draw was agreed on the 41st move. You can view the entire game here:

The art of blockade is a fine one to master if you intend to hone your defensive skills. In these areas, Nimzowitsch and Petrosian are your best teachers.

Defense by king flight

When your house is on fire your first reaction will be to evacuate the area and seek a safer haven. Similarly, at times when the position of the castled king becomes untenable and can no longer repulse an attack effectively, then the only way for His Majesty to survive (other than resigning) will be to flee the position and seek a more secure place on the other wing, where the fire is not so hot.

Yusupov vs Illescas
Ubeda 1997
Position after 11. e4

Black struck with the obvious and well-known bishop sac:

12... Bxh2+? 13. Kxh2 Ng4+ Kg3

Rather than sit back in the kingside and await execution, White decides to evacuate the king over to the queenside.

14... Qd6+ 15. f4 exf3+ 16. Kxf3 Ndf6

If 16... Nh2+ then White escapes with 17. Kf2 Nf6 18. Nce4 Nfg4+ 19. Ke2 Qh6 20. Rf4

17. Nde4 Nxe4 18. Qxe4 b5 19. Bd3 f5 20. Qf4 Qe7 21. Ke2 g5 22. Qf3 f4 23. Kd1 Nxe3+ 24. Kc1 (D)

Position after 24. Kc1

The evacuation is successful. White has consolidated his position, and retained his extra material while Black has opened up many weaknesses in his position. Not surprisingly, White later went on to realize his advantage.

Of course, we can see that the evacuation cannot be completed by the king alone; throughout the course of the flight the other pieces were there to interpose or support his defense.


In our last part we will take a look at an important aspect of active defense: Defence by counterattack.

Part 1:
Part 2:

"My System: 21st Century Edition" by Aaron Nimzowitsch
"The Giants of Strategy" by Neil Macdonald
"How to calculate Chess Tactics" by Valeri Beim

Saturday, September 21, 2013

How to attack: Part 5

Before I leave y'all off to prep for your exams, I want to finish off my "How to attack" series with a sample attacking game taken from the recent FIDE World Cup held in Norway, Tromso. In this game, notice how White utilizes the mating focal points, the open f-file, and the a1-h8 long diagonal to attack his enemy.

Gata Kamsky vs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov
FIDE World Cup, Tromso 2013

1. e4 c5
2. Nf3 e6
3. d4 cxd4
4. Nxd4 Nc6
5. Nc3 Qc7
6. f4 d6

The main line continues 6... a6, a prophylactic move against 7. Nb5/7. Bb5

7. Be3 Nf6
8. Qf3 a6
9. Bd3 Be7
10. O-O O-O
11. Kh1 Bd7
12. Rae1 b5
13. a3 Rab8
14. Nxc6 Bxc6
15. Qh3 Rfd8
16. Bd2 d5
17. e5 Ne4 (D)

Black now probably thought he had the advantage due to his protected outpost on e4. But now he is in for a surprise...

18. f5!

In order to maintain his advantage for the attack, White decides to sacrifice his bishop.

18... Nxd2

Some analysts argue that Black could have survived by declining the bishop sac: For example after  18...exf5 19.Qxf5 Bf8 or Rf8 (19...Nxd2?? 20.Qxh7+ Kf8 21.Qh8#) with a unclear position for both sides.

Now, White is quick to launch his assault against Black's castled position:

19. fxe6 Ne4
20. exf7+ Kh8
21. Nxd5! Bxd5
22. Rxe4 (D)

22... g6

22... h6? 23. Qf5 and the passed pawn proves too much for Black to handle.

23. Ref4

White now has the f-file under his control.

23... Kg7?

This move only hastens defeat for Black. Analysts suggested 23... Qc6, while Fritz prefers 23... Qxe5.

24. e6

Creating a protected passed pawn on the 7th rank. Black's situation is critical.

24... Rf8
25. Qe3! (D)

White makes preparations for his Queen to invade the a1-h8 long diagonal.

25... Bc5
26. Qe1 Bd6
27. Rh4 Be7
28. Qe3 h5
29. Qd4+ (D)

Seizing control of the long diagonal. White now aims for the g7 square.

29... Kh6
30. Rxh5+ (D)

Final position after 30. Rxh5+

30... gxh5 leads to 31. Rf6+ Kg7 (31... Bxf6 32. Qxf6#) 32. Rg6+ Kh7 33. Qg7#, while 30... Kxh5 leads to 31. Qxd5 g5 32. Rf3 in preparation for Rh3+ and Black has no defence to be found.

A very instructive attacking game which utilizes the concepts of files, diagonals and focal points involved in the assault.


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

And with that, I end off my series of articles on attacking skills. All the best for your exams! (:

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The art of successful defence: Part 2

Defense by overprotection

Imagine you're trying to attack a focal point in your enemy's camp. You know there's 100 enemy units guarding that point. What can you do to capture the point?

In terms of chess, the best way will be to send 101 units to attack it. That is, if you DO have 101 units.

But what happens when the square you're trying to attack is covered by so many enemy pieces that it is almost impossible to overrun it?

Take a look at the following position:

Nimzowitsch - Systemsson
Copenhagen 1927
Position after 21. Nf3
The most striking feature of this will be White's e pawn, which is wedged deep inside Black's camp. Normally such a pawn will be weak and vulnerable to attack (since it lacks support from a pawn chain base) but in this case, the pawn is practically invulnerable to capture. Every one of White's pieces guards the e5 square, which is more than necessary to guard against Black's threats.

This, my fellow Black Knights, is what is known as the concept of overprotection.

Protecting more than what is necessary
Overprotection was introduced by Aaron Nimzowitsch in the early 20th century, as part of the hypermodern school. The main idea behind this concept is one of defending critical squares; rather than rushing pieces over to defend squares which are being attacked by the opponent (and exposing yourself to tactical traps), why not pile up a reserve of defense beforehand to preempt any enemy plans?

In the case of our previous example, we can see that White's e5 pawn is so well protected that Black cannot muster enough forces to put sufficient pressure on it. This striking case of overprotection left such a deep impression on both the players and the audience that it was later dubbed the "Immortal Overprotection Game"

You can see the entire game here; Nimzowitsch has provided ample commentary for you to understand what is going on:


What we have seen earlier is an extreme case of overprotection; it probably won't happen that often in your own games. Thus, I want to show you another game featuring overprotection in a more realistic scenario:

Three Swedish Amateurs vs Aaron Nimzowitsch

This game was also annotated by Nimzowitsch himself in his work "My System, 21st Century Edition". I will adopt most of his annotations over here.

1. e4 Nc6
2. d4 d5
3. e5 f6
4. Bb5

Nimzowitsch suggested 4. f4

4... Bf5
5. Nf3 Qd7
6. c4 Bxb1
7. Rxb1 O-O-O (D)

8. cxd5

If 8. c5 then 8... g5, and a fight for the e5 square begins; for example after 8. c5 g5 9. Qe2 (threatening 10. e6) Qe6 10. h3 Nh6 with an unclear position for both sides.

8... Qxd5
9. Bxc6 Qxc6
10. O-O e6
11. Be3 Ne7
12. Qe2 Nd5 (D)

White is on the verge of creating a weak, isolated pawn on either d4 or e5. To compensate for this he has a prospective outpost for his knight on c5. On the other hand, Black has already set up an outpost on d5, and now he starts to build up a reserve of defensive strength about this square.

13. Rfc1 Qd7

The first steps towards overprotection of the e5 point.

13. Rfc1 Qd7
14. Rc4 Kb8
15. Qd2 Rc8
16. Ne1 Be7
17. Nd3 Rhd8
18. Qc2 f5 (D)

The overprotection of the centre is complete. Black now chooses to pass the attack, which is not easy to conduct.

19. Rc1

Nimzowitsch: "Without question 19. b4 should have been played here, with the intention of 20. Nc5 Bxc5 21. bxc5. The question now arises: Is Black's position strong enough to bear weakening? Two moves in particular come under consideration in answer to 19. b4, namely 19... b6 and 19... b5"

If Black now chooses to reply with 19... b5, the continuation follows 19... b5 20. Rc6 Kb7 21. Nc5+ Bxc5 22. Rxc5 Nb6 with the intention of 20... c6, after which Black stands strong on the light squares.

If Black instead decides upon 19... b6, then 20. Nc5! will follow, but after 20... Bxc5 21. bxc5 c6 Black still stands in a good stead. He, however, must not accept the knight sac with 20... bxc5? for there will follow 21. bxc5+ Ka8 22. c6 Qe8 23. Ra4 Nb6 (D)

And now the striking blow 24. d5!! followed by an unstoppable attack: 24... Rxd5 25. Rxa7+ Kxa7 26. Qa4+ Kb8 27. Bxb6 cxb6 28. Rxb6+ Kc7 29. Rb7+ Kd8 30. c7+ Rxc7 31. Rb8+ Rc8 32. Rxc8+ Kxc8 33. Qxe8+ and White wins.


Back to the text move (19. Rc1), we can see that Black's overprotected e5 point serves as a strong outpost for his knight, from which it exerts significant pressure over the centre. White will have a very tough job in trying to overcome the defences on this square.

Both sides now start their operations on opposite wings: Black on the kingside, and White on the Queenside.

19... g5
20. Nc5 Bxc5
21. Rxc5 Rg8
22. Qe2 h5
23. Bd2 (D)

Grabbing a pawn with 23. Qxh5? allows 23... g4 followed by 24... Rh8 where Black will seize the initiative.

23... h4
24. a4 g4
25. a5 a6
26. b4 c6 (D)

It is now almost impossible to drive out the knight on e5, nor can White easily achieve his goal of breaking into the queenside.

27. Rb1 Qf7
28. Rb3 f4
29. Qe4 f3!
30. Rc1

30. gxf3 leads to 30... gxf3+ 31. Kf1 Rcf8 and White will not be able to hold out for long.

30... fxg2
31. Kxg2 Rcf8

Nimzowitsch: "Note with what surprising ease the rooks are brought into action, a further proof, in my opinion, of the enormous vitality of overprotecting pieces."

32. Rf1 g3
33. hxg3 hxg3
34. f4 Ne7
35. Be1 Nf5
36. Rh1 Rg4
37. Bxg3 Qg6
38. Qe1 Nxg3
39. Rxg3 Rfxf4 (D)

Nothing is left of White's attack, while Black has successfully penetrated the kingside. I will now show the rest of the game without any commentary:

40. Rhh3 Rxd4
41. Qf2 Rxg3+
42. Rxg3 Qe4+
43. Kh2 Qxe5
44. Kg2 Qd5+ (D)

Final position after 44... Qd5+
Black's overprotection of his central squares allowed him to slow down White's attack, while in turn giving himself valuable time to launch his own counterattack.

Part 1:

"My System: 21st Century Edition" by Aaron Nimzowitsch

Thursday, September 5, 2013

How to attack: Part 4

It's been a really hectic week, hoping y'all are coping well with the upcoming projects and holiday homework that's coming your way! Really sorry for the long lull; I only managed to find time now to continue on this:

Pawns in the attack on the castled king

In previous articles we have examined how the pieces exploit the occupation of vital squares, ranks, files or diagonals to execute an attack against the castled king. Today, we will look at how pawns can also partake in the assault.

While limited in mobility as compared to the pieces, pawns are equally important as tools in attacking play. They are the ones which can be sacrificed at the least cost to accelerate an attack, perform the menial task of guarding critical squares, and everyone knows about the traditionally destructive role of the passed pawn if well supported by pieces.

Here are some of the many ways pawns can be utilized to form or support an attack:

  • The attacking pawn moves into the castled area (supported by friendly pieces) as a straightforward attacker against the enemy king.
  • The attacking pawn advances into the castled area in order to be promoted, after which it can proceed to attack the enemy king.
  • The advancing pawn is sacrificed to open the file/diagonal for the pieces.
  • The passed pawn on the opposite wing deflects enemy pieces to partake in a blockade, thus draining the defender of pieces needed to protect the king.
  • A well supported pawn in the centre seizes space and controls vital squares needed as jump-off points for the assault
  • Two or three attacking wing pawns partake in a joint offensive against the enemy's king, forming what is known as the pawn avalanche.

And many more.

We have already discussed a few of these ideas-- passed pawns, opening of files, etc.-- in previous articles, so let us take a look at two unique ones: The role of the pawn centre, and the pawn avalanche.

The pawn centre

As we have studied in our series regarding the King's Indian Defense, a pawn centre offers the attacker great space and mobility in the centre. This centre, if well supported, helps to control important central squares which can be used as jumping off points for the attacker's pieces. But on the other hand, if not well supported, the centre can become vulnerable to enemy counterattacks.

Let's take a look at a minature to see how pawn centres play a role in the attacker's plans. The following

1. d4 d6 2. e4 Nf6 3. Nc3 g6 4. f4 Bg7 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 d5 (D)

Tarrasch, Siegbert - Charousek, Rudolf Rezso
Nuremberg 1896
Position after 6... d5
7. e5!

With this move White seizes space in the centre, and deprives Black of the natural developing squares f6 and d6. Note that the pawn centre is also well supported, and not susceptible to attacks by Black.

For the rest of the game, Black's pieces were reduced to passive defence in a cramped position as White launched a kingside attack:

7... Ne8 8. Be3 e6 9. h4 Nc6 10. h5 Ne7 11. g4 f5 12. hxg6 Nxg6 13. Bd3 h6 14. g5 Kh7 15. Qe2 Rh8 16. Qg2 c5 17. gxh6 1-0

Position after 17. gxh6

And just in case you thought the role of setting up the pawn centre traditionally belongs to White... here's another game where Black is the one who attacks with his pawn centre. Ironically, the same player who crushed his opponent with the pawn centre in the first example is now the victim of the centre in this game!

Tarrasch, Siegbert - Alekhine, Alexander
Bad Pistyan 1922
Position after 14. Rfe1
Earlier in the game Black sacrificed a pawn to gain extra mobility in the centre. Now, this has paid off with a well-supported pawn centre...

14... e4!

And now we see the restricting effects of the pawn centre-- not only does it restrict White, it also deprives his knight of the f3 square

15. Nd2 Ne5 16. Nd1

White defends to the best of his efforts, but it isn't enough

17. Bxg4 Nxg4 18. Nf1 Qg5 19. h3 Nh6 20. Kh1 Nf5 21. Nh2 d4! (D)

Position after 21... d4
The pawn centre continues on its destructive advance. Black now plans to play d3, seizing control of the vital e2 square and creating a passed pawn.

22. Bc1 d3

Black eventually led a vigorous attack against the kingside, which, coupled with the threats by his passed pawn, proved too much for White to handle. You can see the entire game here:

The pawn avalanche

So! Think it's gonna be great sending a bunch of your infantry over the hilltop to attack the enemy? Hoping that the human wave attack will be too massive for your enemy to stop?

Keep their heads down!

Well that's what White thinks in many variations of the Sicilian, when he sends his f, g and h pawns over for a pawn storm against Black's kingside. The pawn storm, when well supported by pieces, tend to be quite destructive as they have the capability to drive out the defender's pieces, while pawn trades within the castled position open up files and diagonals for the attacking pieces.

However, one must note that due to the limited mobility of the pawns, a pawn avalanche is much slower as compared to an attack by the pieces. Also, the defender can try to set up a blockade to stem the advance of the pawns. Discretion must thus be exercised when one is contemplating on whether to lead the attack with his pieces or pawns.

The following example is taken from a typical Sicilian game, where White's plans are to launch a pawn storm against Black's castled kingside. Black, on the other hand, plans to strike back with a d5 counterthrust in the centre, thus slowing down White's attack.

Tolush, Alexander V - Kotov, Alexander
USSR Championship 1945
Position after 12... O-O
13. g4 Kh8 14. Ng3 b4 15. axb4 Nxb4 16. g5 Ng8 17. f4 (D)

Position after 17. f4
There is already an avalanche of pawns hanging over Black's castled king

17... Bc6?

THis move only helps White to regroup his forces; better would have been 17... Rfd8! in preparation for 18... d5

18. Nce2 Bb5 19. Bd2 d5 20. Bc3!

Black has indeed managed to play d5, but White has been able to make good use of the delay. Now, in addition to his avalanche of pawns, he has also seized control of the a1-h8 diagonal.

20... dxe4 21. Nh5 f6 22. Nxg7! (D)

Position after 22. Nxg7!
If Black now accepts the sacrifice with 22... Kxg7, then the threat is 23. Nd4! Bc4 24. Bxe4 Rfd8 25. Qh5 Kf8 26. Qxh7 with an unstoppable attack. Thus he decides to take on the e2 knight first before accepting the sacrifice.

22... Bxe2 23. Qxe2 Kxg7 24. Bxe4 Nd5 25. Qh5 Rfd8

But now White persists in his attack.

26. Rg1 Bc5 27. gxf6+ Kf8 28. Rxg8+ Kxg8 29. Bxh7+ (D)

With the help of the pawn avalanche White has successfully broken into the kingside. I will now show the rest of the game here without any commentary:

As such, these are just some of the many methods in which the humble pawn is able to take part in the offensive against the enemy king.

When deciding whether to use one's pawns in the attack, one must analyze carefully the positional features of the game itself. He has to consider the fact that the limited mobility of the pawns makes them slow in attack, and thus vulnerable to blockade. It is thus important to note that an attack by pawns-- be it in the centre or on the wing-- must come with sufficient support, for the pieces must be there to exploit any loopholes which the pawn assault opens up in the enemy position.

Because this is what happens when you send infantry over without the artillery barrage

In our next and final part on this series, we will take a look at a good example of an attacking game and how various features of the position make the attack possible.

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

"Art of Attack in Chess" by Vladimir Vuković