Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pawn stuctures

Say you play with white a common variation of the Ruy Lopez:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.O-O Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.c3 Be7 10.Re1 Nc5 11.Bc2 Bg4 12.Nbd2 O-O 13.Nb3 Ne6 14.Qd3 g6

Then you find yourself in this diagram:

diagram 1

Let us suppose the game went on, and that in some way White, by playing one of the Knights to d4 at the proper time, forced the exchange of both Knights, and then afterwards both the Bishops were exchanged, and we arrived at some such position as shown in the following diagram.

diagram 2

Now we would have here the case of the backward c-pawn, which will in no way be able to advance to c5. Such a position may be said to be theoretically lost, and in practice a first-class master will invariably win it from Black.

After a few moves the position may be easily thus:

diagram 3

The Black pieces can be said to be fixed. If White plays 1.Qc3, Black must answer 1...Qd7, otherwise he will lose a pawn, and if White returns with the Queen to a3 Black will again have to return with 2...Qb7 or lose a pawn. Thus Black can only move according to White's lead, and under such conditions White can easily advance with his pawns to f4 and g4, until Black will be forced to stop f4-f5 by playing ...f7-f5, and we might have some such position as the following:

diagram 4

The game might well continue as follows

1.gxf5 gxf5 2.Qf3 Qd7 3.R5c2 Rg6 4.Rg2 Kh8 5.Rcg1 Rcg8 6.Qh5 R6xg2 7.Rxg2 Rxg2 8.Kxg2 Qg7+ 9.Kh2 Qg6 10.Qxg6 hxg6 11.b4 and white has a won pawn ending

diagram 5

This is a beautiful example from Capablanca's book Chess fundamentals.
  • It shows how black comes out of the opening with a bad pawn structure.
  • The light pieces are exchanged.
  • A file is opened in order to exchange the heavy pieces.
  • What remains is a won pawn ending.

It's a totally different way of looking at a chess game.
If you study mastergames, this kind of information is what you need to know.
This kind of strategical knowledge is hard to obtain.

Mousetrapper asked me what I will do with my "old religion" and Nezha asked me about a definite conclusion of CTS.
It's evident that you need great tactical skills to conduct a game as above. At this moment I'm in a tactical sense about 200 ratingpoints higher than my OTB rating actual shows. As said earlier, I feel like a car with a screaming engine but no clutch. At this moment it's not appropriate to continue with more tactical training. I must first fix the clutch.
So to Nezha: yes, training at CTS is very useful and will greatly improve your tactical skills. The missing thing in DLM's system is the application of your skills in OTB play. I belief to have found this missing link in pawn structure based strategy. If I manage to fix the clutch and the rest of my play becomes in accordance with my tactical skills, there might well come a moment in the future I will need more tactical skills. CTS will be first choice by then.


  1. It just so happens that one of the very first chess book i read was Capablanca's book. however, although i understood what he said, for truly he has a simple conversational style, i found it hard to follow his precepts myself. I guess i was always looking for that one shot, that tactically brilliant combination that I almost cannot bring myself to think "quietly" so to speak. I guess in a way we can consider that to be a flaw. But changing ones self is a little hard.

  2. Nezha,
    after 3.5 years throwing the sink to my opponents in every game I'm ready for the quiet work:)

  3. Tempo,

    For the first time since I started training I think you and I are exactly on the same page in how to proceed to new levels in chess excellence - the only difference being that I'm about 10 years behind you in experience.

    It's going to be fun watching you soar to new heights.

    Keep up the good insights. And watch your six - I'm coming up behind you! [grin]

  4. Pretty soon you'll be encouraging people to study the endgame!

  5. Good lecture. Just continue this way and I will not have to buy this book, :)