Amongst a variety of strategical and tactical ideas developed by Botvinnik, the one that really stands out is the position with an isolated Queen pawn on d4. According to Kasparov, this kind of position was a true Botvinnik favorite, where he discovered almost all possible methods of play.
Why is this kind of position very important in modern chess? The explanation is simple: you can get an isolated Queen pawn from many modern openings, so you better know how to handle it. This is a very small list of the very popular openings that quite frequently lead to this class of a position:
The list goes on and on, but I hope you got the idea. Kasparov thinks that before Botvinnik, the leading chess players were afraid to get an isolated pawn because they just saw it as a weakness; this 'mythical fear' (Kasparov's exact words!) was probably caused by the next textbook game:
Sure, it is easy to see the obvious drawbacks of the isolated pawn. It cannot be protected by other pawns and therefore it is potentially weak. Also a square next to such a pawn is an excellent outpost for your opponent's pieces (usually a Knight). But Botvinnik managed to break this decades-old stereotype and showed the dynamic strength of the isolated pawn. Here is the list of positive factors to compensate for the weakness of the isolated pawn:
1) You always have the 'e' file at your disposal (so you play Re1 or Qe2 to use it)
2) You have an excellent 'e5' outpost for your Knight
3) You can attack the e6 and f7 pawn-chain that protects Black's King. In order to do it you can push the 'f' pawn or sacrifice your pieces on the above mentioned squares.
The following Botvinnik games demonstrate all these (and many other!) ideas. Enjoy and learn the way Botvinnik utilizes the dynamic power of the isolated pawn!
And here is a special treat: a Botvinnik game annotated by one of the best players in the history of chess! Enjoy Kasparov's comment's (in both English and German!) from his modern classic My Great Predecessors.
I hope the Botvinnik games we analyzed today will help you, my dear readers, to find the right plans and combinations next time you have the isolated pawn in your own games.