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Thursday, January 06, 2005
Pawn Play in the Opening
foregoing pages, namely, rapid development of pieces, and
consequently the avoidance of the loss of a move in any shape or
Before treating of the various systems of openings, I will say a
few words on the principles of PAWN PLAY.
Each opening is characterised by a well-defined pawn formation,
and concurrently a certain method in the development of the
pieces. Naturally the formation of a pawn skeleton is not an
independent factor, but must be evolved with a view to
facilitating the favourable development of pieces. But when
considering the form of a pawn position and that of the pieces,
we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that pawn formation must
necessarily be the dominant consideration in our mind. Pawn
formation is of a more permanent character than that of the
pieces, in consequence of the latter's greater mobility. When we
have made a rash move with a piece, to which our attacking
disposition may have tempted us, we may still have a chance of
retrieving the position by timely retreat. Once a pawn has moved
it cannot turn back, and only after the greatest deliberation
should we embark on changes in our pawn formation in order not to
disturb the balance of this "static element" of the game. But we
shall see that the pawn skeleton which was formed in the opening
often weathers the storm and stress of the middle game, and
frequently preserves its character right up to the end-game. I
will therefore make pawn formation my starting-point in an
attempt to show the way through the maze of the openings on the
basis of general strategical principles.
If our pawn skeleton is to promote the freedom of all the pieces,
we must not build it up with the narrow view of developing minor
pieces only, but must consider from the very first in which way
it will enable the Rooks to get into action. We can unite these
tendencies in making the CENTRE OF THE BOARD the main field of
action for all our forces. This means for both sides K4 and Q4,
and also in a lesser degree QB4 and KB4. We shall get a clear
insight into the positional advantage of having command of the
centre later on, when discussing the middle game. At present I
will only touch the subject in a general way, explaining it in an
elementary form, which will be sufficient to develop an
understanding for pawn strategy in the opening. In the course of
further deductions, after the grasp of this difficult stage of
the game has become stronger, I will go into details which will
allow the subject to be stated in a more precise form.
Placing the pieces in the centre is of value, because there they
have more mobility than near the edge, which, of course, limits
their range of action, and also because from the centre a
concentration of forces on a given point can generally be
effected in the quickest way.
In most cases two centre squares become inaccessible at once,
through the opponent placing one of his pawns in the centre;
therefore it would seem a good plan to lure that pawn away, and
this is rendered feasible by playing P-K4 or P-QB4 when the
opponent has a pawn on his Q4, and P-Q4 or P-KB4 when he has a
pawn on K4. In the following we will consider such manoeuvres as
could apply either to White or Black, from the point of view of
White, to whom the initiative is, as pointed out above, a sort of
birth-right. Naturally, should White lose a move, as, for
instance, 1. P-K4, P-K4; 2. Kt-KB3, Kt-QB3; 3. P-QR3? the
position is reversed, and Black is bound to obtain the initiative
which is White's birthright.
The pawn moves mentioned above also have the tendency of giving
the Rooks an opportunity for action. A Rook standing behind an
advanced pawn may support its further advance, or, if the pawn
should be exchanged, might get an open file.
The damage we wish to inflict on our opponent we must, of course,
try to avoid ourselves. Thus we will not easily give up a centre
pawn unless we can obtain some other advantage in doing so. This
advantage may be, that in exchanging the centre pawn we open up
lines of attack for our pieces, or that we are able to place one
of our pieces in a commanding position in the centre of the
The following example may serve as an illustration. Supposing
White plays after
1. P-Q4 P-Q4
His aim is to tempt Black's centre pawn away and to make his QB4
and K4 accessible for his own forces. Black might be justified in
taking the pawn, if he really could hold the pawn thus gained. We
shall show later on that this is not so, and that White can win
it back easily and advantageously. Therefore Black is more
likely to play 2. P-K3. Not 2. ... Kt-KB3; for after 3. PxP,
KtxP; 4. P-K4 would open White's game and drive the Knight away
at once, gaining a move. Supposing, however, Black plays 2. ...
B-B4; should White now think mechanically, "I will take his
centre pawn and consequently have the better game," his deduction
would be wrong. For after exchanging his Bishop for the Knight,
which otherwise would drive his Queen away, Black brings the
latter into a dominating square in the centre.
3. PxP BxKt
4. RxB QxP
Black's Queen cannot easily be driven away from her commanding
position, particularly as White must lose a move to save his QRP.
Meanwhile Black gains time for concentrating his forces for an
attack which wins the Queen's Pawn.
5. P-QKt3 Kt-QB3
6. P-K3 Castles QR
7. Kt-B3 P-K4
and wins the QP, or
5. P-QR3 Kt-QB3
6. P-K3 Castles QR
and P-K4 is again a threat hard for white to meet.
This position shows, that to bring one's opponent's centre pawn
away and to keep one's own, does not under all circumstances mean
the command of the centre, but that the opening up of files and
diagonals for one's pieces towards the centre is an important
moment in the fight for positional advantage.
Considerations of this kind will help to improve our judgment in
many of the various openings.
From Edward Lasker's Chess Strategy
posted by ChessManiac.com Team Member at
Thursday, January 06, 2005
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