Monday, November 26, 2007

What to do with your pawns?

At the moment I'm working my way through the blitz (3 min) games of GM Henrik Danielsen for the second time. It gives a good insight how a grandmaster thinks when he has no time to think:)

I can follow the tactics quite good. Sometimes he has looked one or two moves further, but most of the times it concerns relative easy to spot tactics. He is quite accurate and fast. But the gap between him an me doesn't seem totally unabridgable in this area. As I said earlier.

What is miraculous though is that he instantly knows what to do with his pawns. Partly this can be attributed to the fact that he is very well versed in his openings. But in the middlegame he is very fast too. Here I notice a very wide gap between him and me. It is quite obvious that his pawnplay makes his life much easier. How to improve in this area?

The general idea of the LeningradDutch and the Polar Bear is that you develop your pieces behind your pawns and that you shoot through the holes in your pawnshield. In this way you can hardly expect that you cross the middle of the board. But when that happens, the enemy position often seems to collapse, while the why remains a mystery.

When a pawn makes contact with an enemy pawn, there are the following options:
  • You neglect the contact or reinforce your pawn.
  • You push the pawn.
  • You take the enemy pawn.
What are the criteria for the choice?

I haven't decided yet if I like the positions from the Leningrad or not. It is too early to say. I'm used to gambit play. The aspect that I like the most of a sacced pawn is the open lines it creates. It no longer stands in the way. The fact that it speeds up my development is useful, but not paramount. With a positional approach, you don't open lines by saccing usually but by trading pawns.

With the Leningrad you keep the tension. When the dam breaks your pieces flood into enemy territory. I want to learn to play that way. Only after I learned how to conduct such game, I can decide whether I like it or not.


  1. I think he knows what to do with his pawns because he knows the “pattern” of the Leningrad system very very well .He play also the Dutch Leningrad with Black. And as I said in my previous post he is a specialist in that opening – the Bird Leningrad - Like tactical drill repetition is the key...

  2. BlogX,
    that definitely plays a big role. Yet I have the impression that his pawn-skills go beyond the opening. But I'm not quite sure.

  3. Most of the time the "right" pawn structures of an opening have something to do with the resulting endgame. So I assume that you are right with your impression that his pawn-skills go beyond the opening.

  4. CT,
    it seems that it goes further than that. He opens up files and diagonals only if he knows that either:
    He has the supremacy over that line or the resulting trade is good for the endgame.

    When the center is more or less closed or at least safe he switches into attack mode and starts to sac pawns.

    I try to ape his style, but I have trouble to keep the opponents pieces out. Besides that it takes me minutes to decide while he knows it a tempo most of the time.

    This must be a vast area where I can improve.

  5. "Most of the time the 'right' pawn structures of an opening have something to do with the resulting endgame."

    Studying endgames provides real insights into pawn structures. But a structure that's weak in the endgame might be strong in the middlegame. And studying openings only teaches you the most common formations and thematic pushes.

    I think it's an interesting area of study. Hopefully you'll post some good articles on the subject. ;)

  6. Dynamic Pawn Play in Chess by Marovic is an amazing book. You should check it out. He also has a book Understanding Pawn Play in Chess but the material there is in many other sources. Dynamic Pawn Play is the next step.