Sunday, October 11, 2015

Exploiting the backward pawn: Smyslov vs Timman, Moscow 1981

For today's article I will focus on simple game, seeing that most of you are preparing for your exams.In this game, Smyslov sacrificed a pawn to create a weakness in his opponent's camp: A backward pawn.

Smyslov, Vassily vs Timman, Jan H
Moscow 1981

1. d4 Nf6
2. Nf3 g6
3. g3 c5
4. Bg2 cxd4
5. Nxd4 Bg7
6. c4 Nc6
7. Nc3 Nxd4
8. Qxd4 O-O
9. O-O d6
10. Qd3 Bf5
11. e4 Be6
12. b3 a6
13. Bb2 Nd7
14. Qd2 (D)

Position after 14. Qd2

Staying clear of potential knight attacks, and protecting the dark-squared bishop at the same time.

14... Nc5
15. f4

White exploits his central space advantage to go for an f5 push.

15... Rc8
16. f5 Bd7
17. f6 (D)

Position after 17. f6

With this pawn sacrifice Black will be left with a backward pawn on d6. This will become the focus of White's plan.

17... exf6

If 17... Bxf6 18. Rxf6! exf6 19. Nd5 White threatens 20. Nxf6+ followed by a destructive windmill.

18. Nd5

When a pawn is backward, the square in front of it is usually weak. White wastes no time
in occupying the weak square. Of course White can recapture the pawn first, but after 18. Qxd6 f5 he cannot play 19. Nd5 straightaway due to his hanging b2 bishop.

18... f5
19. exf5 Bxf5
20. Bxg7 Kxg7
21. Qd4+ (D)

Position after 21. Qd4+

A simple analysis will show that White is better. He has a powerful knight on d5, good control of the dark squares (with his queen replacing the dark-squared bishop), while Black is left with a backward d6 pawn.

21... f6
22. g4

With his central dominance, White is able to go for the kingside attack. 22. Rae1 followed by 23. Re7 looks tempting, but after 23... Ne6! Black obtains some counterplay.

22... Be6
23. Nxf6! Rxf6
24. g5 (D)

Position after 24. g5

The pin is decisive.

24... Bf5
25. Rad1 b5

The last try for counterplay.

26. cxb5 axb5
27. gxf6+ Qxf6
28. Qxf6+ Kxf6
29. Rxd6+ Ne6
30. Rb6 Rc5

The more active 30... Rc2 31. Bd5 Re2 32. Bxe6 Rxe6 33. Rxb5 is still losing for Black.

31. Re1 (D)
1-0

Position after 31. Re1

Followed by 32. b5 and the backward pawn falls. In this game, notice now Smyslov exploited weaknesses in his opponent's pawn structure to gain central and dark-square control, before sacrificing his knight at the right moment to finish things off.

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All the best for your exams!

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