Mark Dvoretsky says in his book Strategic Play that studying My System brought him from a first category player to master in just over a year. I almost finished reading the book for the first time and I can imagine why. At the same time I realize that a lot of work has to be done to internalize the matter. One of the problems is that the writings are not very accessible. I mean, what to make of this:
"The point of overprotecting serves the overprotector as a source of energy, from which he may continually draw fresh strength." Without further explanation.
It's obvious that such artistique formulation needs some processing before it will be helpful OTB. I decided to simply start with this reworking. To make matters easy I'm not going to pay tribute for every little piece of information that I steal from Nimzowitsch to integrate it in fabulations of my own. I do it now once and for all:
** Nimzowitsch, you are a genius!! **
Further I apologize beforehand but will not feel quilty about the fact that I am going to commit the heresy to breakdown, rework, interpret his stuff beyond recognition "a la Tempo". Otherwise it's not workable.
It can happen that I will often use the word "ideal". Usually that indicates some unrealistic precondition like "when the opponent is coöperating" or so. It fulfills the same function as if you want to calculate the orbit of a projectile and say "ignore the wind speed". That is to simplify matters.
Let's make a start.
First I will gather some ingredients.
In the opening you want to mobilize your troups as fast as possible. In an ideal world, you just put the pieces where you want them. Alas, in reality they can be driven away by enemy pawns. And so you have to build a casemate first from your own pawns. When you build a shelter with pawns, you open at the same time the mobilisationroutes for your pieces.
Now let's have a look at the ideal casemate.
Blue area = 100% protection against enemy pawns.
Green area = 50% protection.
An impressive area! It indicates the most logical position whereto to develop your pieces.
Pawns as a shelter have a downside. You can't walk through your own pawns. So they limit the activity of your pieces considerably.
The power of two pawns standing abreast is that the pawns can't be blocked. And thus the pawns are mobile. And mobility of a pawnmass is extremely powerfull. The further the pawnshield moves ahead, the more secured space for manoeuvring your pieces have. At the same time you deny your opponent space.
When you decide to make use of the mobility of your pawns and move one pawn forward, the pawns become restrainable.
There are 3 methods of restraint:
- By pawns
- By pieces
- By surveillance
When you move one pawn forward, you create a hole. This hole is important. When you want to take the ideal pawnposition again, you move your d-pawn into the hole. Before you can do that, you have to have absolute control over the hole. In many cases it is called a freeing move, when you manage to move your pawn into the hole, getting a mobile pawnposition again.
Blockade by pawns.
Due to the low value of pawns, this is the most secure way.
In such position there are always two theaters of attack. The main theater is the castled king, when he castles kingside. The second theater is the base of the pawnchain (blue). It is remarkable the f7 is not the base of the chain. When you want to shoot a duck, it is easier when it sits still. The pawn at e6 is sitting very still. You can force it into a weakness by f4-f5. Creating an open f-file at the same time, where a rook can work to attack the weakness. Although it is usually not before the endgame that you get chances to pick the weakness up.
When to attack in the main theater (the kingside)? I add a bit of Vukovic in the story. There are a few preconditions. First precondition: the center is fixed. That's good, since black has to strike back in the center. So the main chances for black lie in an attack on the base of the white pawn chain, i.c. d4 with the moves c5-cxd4, thus undermining the center. So the second precondition for a kingside attack is that the center doesn't collapse when the base is attacked. A means to this is overprotection of the center, more of this later. A third precondition is that black has no real play at the queenside. This third precondition can be overruled when white is ahead in development. If those preconditions are not fulfilled, it is not save to start a kingside attack.
Blockade by pieces.
The downside of blocking with pawns, is that the pawns are standing in your way and limit your piece activity. Besides that, its not up to you when to move the pawns. So that's an argument to blockade with pieces.
Since the pieces are vulnerable for pawns, you have to be more alert though that all preconditions are met.
The black knight can be chased away by c4. In itself that isn't bad necessarily, because that makes d4 weak and d4 lies on an open file thus can be attacked. The only thing is that d5 must be prevented. That is possible by c6. But that's the next paragraph actually. Another method is to prevent c4 before you put the knight on d5 with the prelimany moves a6-b5. The most simple case is that c2 is absent. Again you see how important it is to have an absolute control over the hole. Since the pieces are on open files, black has always enough support available for his blocking pieces theoretically because he can add the rooks to the equation while white cannot.
Blockade by surveillance.
It was a discovery of the hypermoderns that you could keep the center under control from a distance without physically blocking it.
Quite a few openings based on this principle were invented then. The position in the diagram not being among them:) It makes your pieces as black even more active than when blocking the center with pieces. The downside it that white gets extra possibilities too: the pawnsacrifice.
In practice it's often a mix of methods how to blockade. And transitions are in the order of the day. But it's good to know where to look for.
Besides the blockade the liquidation of the center partly or in whole is another method. I will speak about that some other time.