*** New! King’s Indian’s & Benoni’s Structures ***

I’ve been working on this for quite some time.

All major pawn structures covered. Plans explained for both sides. Very detailed, easy to grasp; an ideal material for beginners. The package comes in two parts: a Word file, and a Chessbase file that contains model games.

Covered structures:

  • Mar-del-Plata
  • Plans with g4 for White
  • Symmetry
  • Fiachetto King’s Indian Structure
  • 4 Pawns Attack ( without d5 and with d5 leading to Benoni )
  • Sämisch-like Benoni Structure
  • Fiachetto Benoni Structure
  • c4-e4 vs d6 Structure

Prize: $15

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Thinking Outside of the Box

Ivanchuk, Vassily – Aronian, Levon, Linares 2007


What is thinking “outside of the box”? Before I answer to that question, we should analyse this position first.

Black has just taken on c5 with his R. He has an isoliani which can easily reconstruct into the hanging pawns if White takes on c5 at some point. Having in mind the simplicity of the position, we can easily conclude that White enjoys a permanent slight edge mainly due to fact that Black hasn’t got any dynamic potential left.

How to continue? We can start calculating 17.Rxc5 which will get us to the following crossroad ( diagram )


If 17..Nxc5 then 18.Nd4 ( diagram )


With a slight edge for White, but the second player should be able to hold this as one weaknesses is usually not enough to win a game.

In case of 17..bxc5 18.b4! would be the key move ( diagram )


This strong move is putting some pressure on those hanging pawns. It’s quite clear that 18..c4? cannot be recommended ( diagram )

The usual rules about hanging pawns apply here as well; the player with the hanging pawns should avoid any kind of blockade.

Here the pawns are being totally blocked, exposed, and totally dried out of any dynamic potential. White has an easy, and effective plan: Nd4-Ne2-Nc3-Bf3-Rd1 with a savage pressure on d5 pawn. In that case Nc3 would be placed very nicely: it would attack the pawn on d5, block the pawn on c4, and support White’s pawn majority. Black cannot allow this scenario to happen.

So, instead of 18..c4, Black should focus on 18…Rc8 ( diagram )


Black simply wants to cover his weak pawns, and get his K to the center.

19. Rc1 Kf8 20.Kf1 Ke7 ( diagram )


And again, White can get the typical position after 21.bxc5, but Black, with only one weakness, should be able to hold that.

This was all “inside the box”: an old stuff, well known to everyone with nothing new to show, something that has been chewed, and rechewed many times before.

Chucky unleashed something different, something really interesting, something “outside of the box”: 17.Rcc1! Rfc8 18.Rd1! ( diagram )

What on Earth was that? White has deliberately abandoned his c-file, just to fully focus on the d-file.

18..Rc2 19.Bb5 Nf8 20.Rab1 ( diagram )

Let’s draw some conclusions: Black has the c-file, which is totally useless…and that’s it. On the other hand, White has a clear plan of pressing the isoliani: Rd2-Rd1-Bb3-Nf4. Notice that Rc2 can be pushed back easily by Ba4. The B won’t be misplaced at all, in fact it will do a wonderful job of both covering c2 square, and pressing the isoliani.

20..R2c7 21.Ba4 Ne6 22.Bb3 Kf8!? ( diagram )


White is having a chance to take on d5: 23.Bxd5 Bxd5 24.Rxd5 Rc1+ 25.Rd1 Rxd1+ 26.Rd1 but after 26..Rc2 Black should be fine.

23.h3! ( diagram )

Very cool! White is not interested in taking the pawn, why would he allow any counterplay?

23..Rc5 24.Kh2 Ke7 25.Rd2 ( diagram )


So, Rd1 is just around the corner.

25..Rb5! 26.Ba2 Rbc5

Hoping to get some play with ..Rc2.

27.Ne1 ( diagram )

White doesn’t allow that to happen.

27..a5 28.Rbd1 Rd8 ( diagram )

This is a huge success for White because Black was forced to abandon his open file. White has everything under control, so he can take his time. The nearest plan involves relocation of the N to f4.

29.Kg3 Rb5 30.f3 Rc8?

According to my engine, this is a major mistake although it’s a bit hard to understand why. Black should have played 30..Rc5, but after 31. Nd3 Rc7 he is just worse; The N can jump to f4, but White might even consider Nd3-Nc1-Ne2-Nc3 plan.

31.Nd3 ( diagram )


Suddenly Black is having problems with his Rb5.


A tough choice, Black is hoping to get some activity for his pawn.

32.Bxe6 Kxe6 33.Nf4+ Ke7 34.Rxd4 Rc7 35.R1d2 ( diagram )


And White has everything covered, Black is just a pawn down without any concrete play.

35..Rbc5 36.e4 Rc4 37.Rd6 R4c6 38.e5 Rc2 39.Rxc2 Rxc2 40.Rxb6 ( diagram )

And Black resigned soon.

So, in order to think outside of the box, first you need to be sure that you familiar with the content of the box, you need to know every single fiber of the box, and every single texture. Chucky was familiar with this, and he knew that
with the best play Black will get his draw, so he started searching for something else.

This is obviously an advanced concept; comparing the old stuff with something original, trying to figure out which one is better, and making the right choice is an uneasy thing to do. This comes with experience. Just don’t be on autopilot, and keep in mind that every game, and every position has its own life, with its own rules. It’s good to have rules, but rules exist to be broken.

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2 Bs vs 2 Ns

This article will help players to understand how to play against two Bs when you have two Ns. Battle of 2 Bs vs 2 Ns doesn’t occur frequently, but if you are fond of, for example, Chigorin defence ( one of my favorites ) then you should know this stuff.

Lasker, Emanuel – Chigorin, Mikhail, Hastings 1895


This position was covered by Shereshevsky in his fantastic book “Strategy of Endgames”, but we will analyse the position from a different angle.

Black’s last move was 15..O-O. We can safely say that White has a big egde, he has two semi-open files, a very strong center and a pair of long-ranged monsters. It’s a well known fact that unbalanced pawn structures are good for two Bs
thanks to the fact that such structures contain a lot of potential; for example, creating a passed pawn should not be a difficult task if you have 3 pawns facing 2 pawns on one wing. Here White is a bit far away from that, but he can use his pawns to make more space for his Bs.

As we know, Bs like open positions; currently his Bs are not doing a lot, but this can change easily once White sets his pawn on f5 square.

16.Ke2 ( diagram )


Let’s see this position from Black’s perspective…what a grim site in front of us! He is cramped by chains of passivity, without any counterplay, he has nothing to attack, nothing concrete to do. Having in mind White’s positional plusses, the pictures gets even uglier…and yet Black won the game.

Chigorin Defence features one important positional concept; Black is obligated to create and maintain the central tension, usually by playing either ..c5 or ..e5, or both.

16..Rc8! 17.Rg3 c5 ( diagram )


The only way to continue. Black cannot create tension in this position simply because he hasn’t got any strenght
to do that because White’s d4 is well protected, but he can try to block this position.


Is a huge mistake. 18.f5 was doing just fine, and was enough for a big edge.

18..c4! 19.Bc2 f5! ( diagram )


Completely turning the tables! Black’s days of misery are behind him and his future looks really bright. Compare this
position to the first diagram, and tell me what can you spot? Well, the Bs are still inactive, but back then White had a way of employing them, something which cannot be said here. White’s center has lost mobility since c4 and f5 are no longer valid options, the only way to get the pawns going would be f3 followed by e4, but having in mind the potential weakness of pawn on f4, this scenario cannot be seriously considered; after all, pawn on f4 cannot be defended by his collegue.

So, what happened, why was 19..f5 so strong? We know that Ns are fond of closed position, and 18..c4 combined with 19..f5 achieved that, and White is unable to open up this position any more.

But let’s dig a bit deeper, we can spot that Black has created a very nice landing spot for his Ns: d5 square. In this first diagram the square was not particularly attractive, as c4 was just around the corner. Here, well, thanks to 18th move, Black secured the square for his Ns. The only way of regaining control over the square would be f3-e4, but if you rewind the film a bit, you will remember my story about potentially weak pawn on f4.

Finally, we can draw the conclusion: two Ns can fight back only if they can occupy good squares which cannot be
controlled by opponent’s pawns and which are controlled by our pawns. The last thought is pure gold; a N has to be
guarded by a pawn, otherwise a B will be able to kick the N out.

One can object and say “I don’t know, I’d rather skip 19..f5, as it creates the weakness on e6.” A partial credit for that,
the move is a commiting move but pawn e6 is not a weakness! In order to turn e6 pawn into a weak pawn, White has
to attack it, but can he really do it in this position? If so, how?

So, only by attacking one can highlight minuses in opponent’s camp and turn opponent’s pawns or pieces into
weaknesses, but until that happens, weakness doesn’t really exist! I might have an isoliani but does it really matter
if you are not attacking the pawn? I might have a bad N that is about to get trapped but who cares when I’m about to
mate my opponent?

Plus, in this concrete position Black had no choice, his choice was:

  • to play something else and allow to get squashed after White’s f5 or
  • to play 19..f5 and enjoy himself.

Unless you are a guy with suicidal tendencies, the choice should not be too difficult.

20.Bc1 Rf7 21.Ba3 Rc6 22.Bc5 Ra6 23.a4 Nc6 24.Rb1 Rd7 25.Rgg1 Nge7 26.Rb2 Nd5 27.Kd2 Ra5 28.Rgb1 b6 29.Ra3 g6 ( diagram )


White is totally disoriented and pretty much desperate, as he is unable to open this position up. On the other hand, Black is having a wonderful time: he has anchored his N on d5, and one of his Rooks is taking care of White’s temporary activity on the Q-side. Just compare this position to the position before 18..c4, since then Black has played normal chess, nothing fancy, nothing tricky, and yet his position has improved dramatically.

Since White has dwelled into passivity, Black should start thinking how to improve his position even more; going
back and forth never works because your opponent will not do the same, you constantly have to work on improving your position.

30.Rb5 Ra6 31.Bc1 Nd8 32.Ra1 Nf7 33.Rbb1? ( diagram )


And here we have to stop because the next move is a food for thought, and is out of scope of this article, so we will discuss it some other time…

Now let’s see what happens when Black goes astray, when he fails to set up a good blockading construction.

Palac, Mladen – Bukal Vladimir, Valle d’Aosta, 2002


Black is a pawn up but he is pretty much in bad shape; in order to prove that his extra pawn is worth something, he has to roll his Q-side up the board, but seeing this huge pressure down the b-file and h1-a8 diagonal, we can say that the plan will never succeed, ever. Not even then! Black is totally unable to deal with the pressure, in order to move ..b6 he has to move his N on c6 first, but how to do it when White will start pressing down the c-file soon? Perhaps solving the problem of pawn c7 first, and then focusing on moving Nc6 and eventually ..b6? Not happening, this would mean that Black will neglect White’s central mass which will allow him to play e4-e5-d5 totally pushing Black off the board. The only way to save this shafted position would be making the block on either e4 or d5 square, but we will see that Black has no time for it.

14..Rfe8 15.Qc1 Qe6 16.Rd1 ( diagram )


Black cannot play 16..Nd5 hoping to continue with 17..f5 because Qc5-Rb5 plan would put a monster-like pressure on d5.

16..Ne4 17.Be1 ( diagram )


Now the fork is the threat.

17..Ne7 18.f3!

Of course not 18.Qxc7? Nd5 19.Qc2 f5 with a fine position because Black has managed to establish a strong central

18..Nd6 19.e4 c6 20.f5 Qd7 21.Bg3 ( diagram )


Total triumph of White’s strategy, it’s impossible to advise Black.

21..b6 22.f6! Ng6 23.fxg7 Kxg7 24.e5 Nb7 25.f4 ( diagram )


With an overwhelming position, Black lost soon.

To summarise:

  • two Ns can fight back only if they can occupy good squares which cannot be controlled by opponent’s pawns and which are controlled by our pawns; a N has to be guarded by a pawn, otherwise a B will be able to kick the N out
  • one can highlight minuses in opponent’s camp and turn opponent’s pawns or pieces into weaknesses only by attacking, but until that happens, weakness doesn’t really exist
  • going back and forth never works because your opponent will not do the same, you constantly have to work on improving your position.

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Consequences of a Pawn Push

In today’s ( simple ) lesson we will deal with a long-term planning, logical thinking, and understanding.

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e6 7.f3 b5 8.Qd2 Nbd7 9.g4 ( diagram )


This position used to be hot like 10-15 years ago when Kasparov was in his prime, nowdays Black prefers to play the Najdorf-like setup by putting his pawns on d6 and e5 rather than play the Scheveningen structure.

As we can see, Black has a very fluid and firm setup, his pawns are covering all important central squares thus White’s Ns are totally unable to cross the 5th rank. Due to already mentioned flexibility, Black can play both ..e5 and ..d5 at some point; probably he will opt for the second choice as ..d5 would clear the long diagonal for the B and press White’s central bind.

The plans are quite clear, White has just launched a K-side pawn campaign thus he clearly goes for a quick kill. We can say that he left his “slow-motion” mode on bed and wants to mate Black brutally and quickly. The move has a positional background too: White would really like to kick the N away from its natural square because without the pressure on e4 White will have easier time getting his central mass in motion.

Black is on a crossroad and has to make up his mind; the next move will heavily influence plans for both sides.

At this point my student paused my jabbering and asked: “Is 9..h6 a good move?”

Well, here Black has two good moves at disposal: 9..Nb6 and 9..h6. Black should pause and ask his psyche a few questions and determine what kind of position he wants to play.

9..h6 ( diagram )


Black should be fully aware of the consequences of this move:

  • Black wants to keep his N on f6 as long as possible thus in the next few moves he will have to free himself with ..d5. It makes perfect sense to think like that because Nf6 supports the push, he has to justify his 9th move.
  • He should be completely aware that at some point at least one K-side file will open up, so he can kiss his short castle goodbye thus we can conclude that his K will be much safer in the center. Why is that? Check out that little guy on h6, it helps Black to keep his N on f6 for the time being, but at the same time it will help White to open up a file. Once the pawn steps on g5, Black will be unable to ignore that threat – capturing the pawn will not solve the problem, as White will recapture and attack the N for the second time. Unfortunately for Black, White will not stop there, as he might start considering to move his pawn further, directly undermining Pf7 which will shake up Black’s central bind. This powerful positional idea cannot be underestimated; White’s play is not only set to destroy opponent’s K-side, it can be used for the central strategy too.

So, there’s no turning back once the pawn sets his foot on h6, Black has to arm himself with courage.

The second option is 9..Nb6 ( diagram )


A solid approach, Black doesn’t want to loose his K-side, so White will have tougher time opening some files on that wing. We can draw some conclusions:

  • Black is ready to move his N away somewhere else. His central control has diminished a bit but it’s not a big deal, he will get it back quickly. Notice that the other N supports ..d5, so Black has everything under control.
  • White’s g5, which was so problematic in the previous line, suddenly becomes a cat’s cough. Seeing White’s unability of creating a K-side blitzkrieg, at some point he might even consider to castle.
  • Still, White will not stop there, g5 might not be enough to open up some file, but g5, followed by h5-g6, will create some action, however, since all those moves will not be forced ( no light pieces to attack ), so Black should be able to keep the K-side position locked down.

So, what’s the point of all this? If your opponent is significantly stronger on one wing then you should keep the structure of that wing intact. Of course, every rule has many exceptions, but it’s always good to have some guidelines. Take a look at the next example:


It’s Mar-del-Plata variation, Black is playing on the K-side, and White is trying to do something concrete on the other wing. Black should keep his pawns fluid and move them only when there is no choice, White will try to provoke Black to make some weaknesses by playing Nb5, c5, b4-c5, but quite often Black will ignore White’s plans and continue rolling his own plan.

So, keep an eye on the little guys, one little push can change a lot.

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