Hanging Pawns 2

Finally, the long-awaited second part of Hanging Pawns trilogy. We will present another example of counterplay on b-file and plans for undermining on the hanging pawns. The 3rd and final part will display the huge attacking potential that sometimes goes with this kind of pawn structure.

One feature added after readers’ feedback. You can now replay the lesson in your browser or download PGN file for your own game viewer. Enjoy.

Akiba Rubinstein – Aron Nimzovich

Karlsbad 1907

A position very similar to Bertok – Fischer from previous lesson. Again, Black is pushing c4 to nail b2 pawn on its starting position. Possible drawbacks were mentioned before – White gets d4 square for its pieces and Black can be vulnerable to e4 breach. Still, playing c4 here makes perfect sense because White will be busy defending b2 pawn and he won’t be having time to reach d4 with the Knight.

16… c4 17. Be2

It takes away desired e2 square for Nc3, but White wants to organize counter-pressure against backward d5. 17. Bc2 with idea Ne2-d4 Rab8 18. Rb1 a5 19. Ne2 Qb4 20. Nd4 Rb6 with Ne4 and Rfb8

17… a5

17… Rab8 18. Rc2 Bf5 19. Rd2 is holding. a5 is always useful move for Black in similar situations, idea is Qb4 and if White takes, Black will recapture with the pawn.

  1. Rfd1 Qb4 19. Rd4 Rfd8

Premature is 19… Qxa3 20. bxa3 Rab8 21. Bf3 Rfd8 22. Rcd1 because even if with doubled pawns, White has eliminated his only weakness and is ready to press strong against d5. White will also get b-file while Black Rooks are tied for defense.

  1. Rcd1 Rd7 21. Bf3 Rad8 22. Nb1?

A mistake which drops bind on d5 and allows Black to regroup. Better was 22. Kf1 h5! with idea g5-g4 to kick the Bishop off the long diagonal and release one of the pieces tied for d5 (22… g5 23. g4). Had pawn g3 been on h2, White would be able to prepare g3-Bg2. Small details can be of huge impact.

22… Rb8 23. R1d2 Qxa3!

23… Rdb7 might be too slow because Knight goes back to c3 24. Qc3! Qxc3 25. Nxc3 Rxb2 26. Rxb2 Rxb2 27. Bxd5 Nxd5 28. Nxd5 Rxa2 29. Rxc4 g6 30. e4 and White keeps some chances.

  1. Nxa3 Kf8

But no 24… Rdb7 25. Nxc4 dxc4 26. Rd8+

  1. e4 dxe4 26. Rxd7 Nxd7 27. Bxe4 Nc5 28. Rd4 Nxe4 29. Rxe4 Rxb2 30. Nxc4 Rb4 31. Nd6 Rxe4 32. Nxe4 Bxa2 and Black won this endgame.

Mikhail Botvinnik – Max Euwe

AVRO 1938

  1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. b3 Nf6 4. Bb2 Be7 5. e3 c5 6. cxd5 exd5 7. Be2 O-O 8. O-O Nc6 9. d4 b6

This is the first crossroad. Black can continue with 9… Be6 and allow isolated d5 pawn. This is completely different (and probably more complex) field and we won’t dive in it for the time of being. The other possibility is b6 like in the game, which allows White, if he wants, to creat hanging pawns in Black’s camp. It is important to emphasize that none of the two solutions can be considered as “better”. Each of them can drive the game into different strategy waters, and which plan to choose depends solely on player’s preference.

  1. Nc3 Bb7 11. Rc1 Ne4

A very useful move in similar positions. Queenside Knight (on c3) is usually the worst enemy of the hanging pawns (pressing d5, supporting e4, possible Na4), and Black wants to eliminate it.

  1. dxc5 Nxc3 13. Bxc3 bxc5 14. Qd2 Qd6 15. Rfd1 Rad8 16. Bf1

Black pieces are well developed and he has no problems with supporting hanging pawns. With his last move, White wants to relocate Bishop to g2 and attack on d5 once more. We will see that Black has sufficient counterplay. Other possible plan was Ne1-d3 with idea to attack c5 pawn, but Black can defend. For example 16. Bb2 Nb4 17. Ba3 a5

16… Qh6 17. g3 Bc8 18. Ne5

  1. Bg2 Bg4 with nasty Qh5 next. White is forced to reductions.

18… Nxe5 19. Bxe5 Bg4 20. Be2 Qh5 21. Bxg4 Qxe5 and game was drawn on move

Viacheslav Ragozin – Aleksandar Tsvetkov

Chigorin Memorial 1947

Now examples of undermining the hanging pawns. This method is justified only if you can achieve active pieces’ play after the opponent accept the sacrifice.

  1. b4!

White wants d4 for his Knight.

14… Nbd7

14… cxb4 15. Nd4 wins tempo and with next Nf5 and Nd2-b3, White pieces would be holding wonderful attacking positions. Black decided to develop one piece instead of taking the pawn.

  1. bxc5 Bxc5 16. Nb3 Rfc8 17. Nxc5 Rxc5 18. Qb3 Qb6 19. Bd4 Qxb3 20. axb3

White has pair of Bishops and possible control over the “a” and “c” files, while Black is left with weak pawn d5 and passive Bb7. White went on to win the game.

Robert Fischer – Boris Spassky

World Championship Match 1972

Another game from Fischer’s practice and good example on timely e4 strike.

  1. Nxe6! fxe6 20. e4! d4

Now Black’s pawn structure has to be compromised. 20… Nf6 21. exd5 exd5 22. Bf3 is a dream position for White, because besides necessity of defending hanging pawns, Black also has to worry about the weak a6. White gets strong attack after 20… c4 21. Qh3 Qf7 22. Bh5 Qe7 (22… g6 23. Bg4!) 23. exd5 exd5 24. Rfe1 with Bg4 or Re6 next.

  1. f4 Qe7 22. e5 Rb8

22… Nb6 23. f5! (threat is f6) exf5 24. Qb3+ wins a piece.

  1. Bc4 Kh8 24. Qh3 Nf8 25. b3 a5 26. f5 exf5 27. Rxf5 Nh7 28. Rcf1

White has established firm advantage and Fischer went on to win on move 41.