Wednesday, April 11, 2007

When Pawns Lie

I've been slowly reading through Chess Self-Improvement, by Zenon Franco. This is actually a fairly advanced quiz book, so I don't dwell too long on the questions. I'm reading it more as a collection of annotated games.

I was struck by the game Byrne-Vaganian, Moscow 1975. Look at this position:

Now, someone like me would look at this position and invoke the teachings of Silman: in closed positions, you want to play on the side that your pawns point towards. This is because this is the region of the board where you have a space advantage. So, it's pretty clear that in this game White is going to attack on the kingside, and Black is going to try and attack White's weak pawns on the queenside. Right? I mean, that's what the pawn structure is telling us.

However, after White played 16.Bxg6, Black responded 16...fxg6!, and doubled rooks on the half-open f-file. White later had his queen on the half-open b-file (trying to penetrate into d6 via b4) but to no avail. Black won this encounter through kingside play.

To me, it seems there were a couple key reasons for this violation. First, each side had half-open files on the sides where they didn't have their space advantage. Second, the weak white pawns on the queenside ended up being a diversion. Black could still keep a queen and bishop eying the queenside while he concentrated on the f-file invasion, and White's queen got stuck on the queenside trying to either hold the pieces together, threaten the b-pawn, or invade at d6.

This shows that rules have exceptions, and that control of a half-open file may compensate for a spacial disadvantage in that sector.


Joe Erjavec said...

That's a pretty interesting position. I think White needs to play the Kingside, but it appears that Bxg6 was too hasty. Perhaps if White played 16. Be2 instead, he would have had a better position.

Grandpatzer said...

Indeed, Franco gave White's move a "?" and said Be2 or f1 was better. In which case the game may have continued along normal lines.

I think the key was that Black had managed to stay flexible, preparing for queenside play but jumping on the opportunity to defy the rules and play down the f-file. But, if you were black, would you feel comfortable in ignoring the pawns and playing on the king side after Bxg6? I wouldn't have, at least before seeing this game.

I like this game because it's a reminder to think "outside the box" and exercise your own judgement.

Joe Erjavec said...

Well, I think those three Black Pawns on the g- and h-files would be very useful combined with the open f-file. I think this would be a fun game to play from both the Black and White side of the computer. Perhaps I'll plug in the position after Bxg6 and play on from the Black side.

transformation said...

gregory, did you not get my email? wrote you with an important question, and would appreciate word as to whether you got it, and if so, can you please be of assistance, or missed it, let me know if i can kindly resend?
thanks, david k seattle