(Colorado Chess Informant - July 2002)
NM Todd Bardwick
Learning how to take advantage of and play against a backward pawn is one of chess’s most important positional themes. One of the most common backward pawn themes occurs out the opening when black has to suffer with a backward d6 pawn.
The player with the backward pawn often strives to push the pawn in order to trade it off for an enemy pawn who isn’t as weak. By definition, the square in front of a backward pawn is also weak, since it can’t be supported by a friendly pawn. Often times this square is actually weaker than the square the backward pawn is sitting on and should be secured first. Once this is accomplished, your forces can either come to bear on the backward or attack elsewhere while your opponent is tied up defending the backward pawn. Here are two of my favorite teaching positions where white demonstrates how to punish black’s backward pawn.
Boleslavsk-G. Lissitzin (Moscow 1956)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cd4 4.Nd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 Nd4 10.Bd4 Qa5 11.Kb1 e5 12.Be3 Be6 13.a3 Rfd8 14.Nb5 Qa4
(White sacrifices a pawn to secure the d5 square.) Bc4 16.Nc3 Qb3
17.Bc4 Qc4 18.Bg5! (Very nice! By eliminating the f6 knight, white
owns the d5 square forever.) 18…Qe6 19.Bf6 Qf6 20.Nd5 Qh4 (White
may be down a pawn in material, but has a huge advantage with the good
knight vs. the bad bishop. With the players castled on opposite sides, white’s plan is
to storm the black king with pawns in order to open up lines for his
heavy pieces. 20…Qh4 is an attempt by black to block this plan. If
21.g3, then black intends 21…Qh3 and white must find a way to chase
off the black queen in order to continue to advance his pawns
successfully. If white
offers a queen trade in this line, black will happily accept as the
white queen is critical to white’s mating attack in the future.)
(Excellent! This backward maneuver is point of the pawn sacrifice.
Now with the white queen hitting h3, g3 can be played and white’s
kingside pawns will be marching forward.) 22…Rac8 (Black has
two plans…trade pieces to ease white’s kingside attack and attempt
counterplay on the queenside against the white king. Note that this is
closest black ever gets to the white king.) 23.g3 Qg5 24.h4 Qh6 (24…Qg3
loses the queen to 25.Rh3. Note
that …Qh5 cannot be played now or in later positions due to the knight
fork on f6.) 25.g4 g5 (Praying for white to play 26.h5 locking up
the kingside. There isn’t much choice for black at this point
though…white threatens g5, Nf6+, and h5 leading to a winning attack.
Note once again the power of the knight on the square in front of the
backward pawn…if black tries …Bg7 at some point, an unwelcomed
visitor hops to e7!) 26.hg5
Qg5 27.Rh5 Qg6 28.g5! (28…Qh5, 29.Nf6+) 28…h6 29.Rh6! (29…Bh6,
30.Ne7+) 29…Qg5 (29…Qg7, 30.Nf6+) 30.Rh5! (Wow! Of
course, again if 30…Qh5, then 31.Nf6+.
White has successfully opened both the g and h files for his
heavy pieces. If black tries 30…Qg3, white finishes him off nicely
with 31.Qh1!, threatening 32.Rh8+ and 32.Rg1, so …) Black Resigns
This second position arose from a Lenningrad Dutch in the first round of the 1994 Denver Open.
Yuval Laor (1897)
Todd Bardwick (2235)
Position after 20…b4
Once again black suffers with a backward pawn on d6, but he threatens to give white a backward pawn on b3. White’s plan is to lock up the queenside and attack the backward d-pawn and Black wants the queenside open so he can counterattack there. Most critical square on the board: d5 (the square in front of the backward pawn). Knowing all this, what should white do?
played 21.Bf6! (not only
getting out of the pawn fork, but gaining more control of d5 by
eliminating the knight that attacks it! Even though black’s bishop has
total control of the a1-h8 diagonal, it is all dressed up with nowhere
to go. The bishop would be strong if the a or b file were open so that
the bishop could support a rook invasion.
In this case, however, the knight is stronger than the bishop. Black is actually positionaly lost at this point…the d5
square belongs to white forever and black will always be tied down to
defending the d6 pawn.) 21…Bf6
22.Nd5 Qb7 (This only
encourages white’s next move. The black queen would help put up
stiffer resistance by heading for the kingside.) 23.a4
(Now black’s queenside counter play is stopped forever.)
23…Rbe8 24.e3 Ne7 25.Kg1
Nd5 26.Rd5 (White wants the d-file open, not blocked with his own
pawn.) 26…Rd8 27.Rfd1 Kf7 (Yuval
played this move quickly and seemed pretty happy. He must have thought
that he could batten down the hatches and that I wouldn’t be able to
make any progress and be forced to settle for a draw. Now lets stop and
evaluate the position again. Black really can’t do anything but
shuffle his pieces back and forth; there is no queenside counter play,
his defenses are tied to the d-pawn, and he definitely wants to keep the
kingside closed. White’s rooks are well placed on the open file and
the queen can join them in a move. The only white piece whose position
can be improved is the knight. White
eventually wants to open the kingside and expose the black king. But
what is the hurry? Black can’t do anything to improve his position, so
lets put the pieces on the optimum squares before opening the position.
Hence…) 28.Ne1 Qc7 29.Nd3
how white has improved the position from the original diagram above.
The white pieces head toward their optimum squares before they
29…Be5? (This loses quickly tactically. Without the blunder, White will win soon with some sequence of Nf4, Qd3 …tying black’s major pieces to the d-pawn…then comes the pawn break on the kingside with some combination of h4-h5, e4 and/or g4 depending on where the black pieces are placed at the time. Black will feel like he is playing defense against the St. Louis Ram offense as he is outmaneuvered on the kingside by white’s quick striking, active pieces.) 30.Nc5 Ree8 31.Nd3 Ke7 32.Nb4 Resigns
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