Last week we studied how to fight against hanging pawns. Particularly, we looked at games where White, playing against hanging pawns, tries to first undermine them with e4- or/and b4-breaks and then attack or blockade these hanging pawns. This week we will study methods of play with hanging pawns.
One of the main methods is a pawn break in the center, e.g. d5-d4. This break typically scatters the white pieces enough so that their defensive potential decreases significantly. Moreover, after the d4-break the diagonal h1-a8 opens up and Black's light-squared bishop becomes a very dangerous attacker. As we normally do, we first look at classical examples and then explore the same ideas in modern practice. Let us go to the examples!
When the black pieces are positioned well and control all the important squares, such as e4, it is not easy for White to break through or to ease the defense with piece exchanges. In such positions it is Black who is in control and can afford to maneuver for a while to improve his pieces, as Karpov did in the following example.
Karpov has the advantage of the two bishops and his rooks are well placed behind the hanging pawns. The queen is moving between the e6- and b6-squares, where e6 is a typically good square for the queen in these types of position. Karpov prepares everything for the d4-break after which his pieces become very active and the strong d4-pawn cuts White's position in a half. Black finished the game with a spectacular attack.
Sometimes the d4-break works when the pieces are not fully developed. For example, in the next position Spassky still had his knight on b8, when the d4-push was played. Once again, Black has two strong bishops and threatens the d4-break. It is up to White to decide which rook to put on d1 to prevent the d4-break. The f-rook looks like a natural choice, as the other rook is well-placed on c1. However, there are tactical reasons why Rfd1 is a poor decision and Black proceeds to demonstrate just that.
The next example is from a (women's) Candidates match. All the pieces are still on the board. Black has two bishops dangerously looking at the white king. The knights are also positioned well to attack the kingside. The white pieces, especially the knight and bishop, are out of play on the edge of the board on the queenside. Here, Alexandria pushes d5-d4 to free the b7-bishop and to attack the weak g2-square. Her attack decided the game.
And now a few games from modern times. I especially like Kasparov's maneuvers in the following example, where the position is balanced. Black has firm grip on the e4-square and hence White has a hard time undermining the black center with the e4-break. After some preparatory moves Kasparov transfers his d7-knight to a more favorable position on e6, where it will support the d4-break and potentially jump to f4. Once again, the h1-a8 diagonal was critical for the attack in this game and the g2-square was the most vulnerable. This is why Kasparov placed his queen on a8 to support the attack along the h1-a8 diagonal.
Sometimes the pawn break does not lead to a significant attack. Then Black ends up having a strong or sometimes weak d-pawn. In the following position Black had to work hard after the pawn break to ensure that the d-pawn survives and creates enough threats to sustain the initiative.
The last example is a position where Black is not ready to push for d4. First of all, the h1-a8 diagonal is not weak and White has enough pieces protecting his king. The g3-h2 block cuts Bb8 from directly attacking the king. Qe2 protects the f2-square, and overall it seems White's pieces are harmoniously placed. This time White has an equal grip on the e4-square with the bishop, knight and queen protecting it.
Next week we will wrap-up this series on heritage in modern play.