# Pawns, Greed, Pins, and the Center

• IM Silman
• | Jul 4, 2012
• | 10098 views
• | 23 comments

IMPORTANT: [At the end of the puzzles, you should click MOVE LIST so you can see my instructive notes and variations. If you are having trouble solving a problem, just click SOLUTION, and then MOVE LIST. Even if you solve everything, DO click MOVE LIST or you might miss an important bit of prose.]

DON’T FORGET THE CENTER

In the test position, Black has to choose between two logical moves. What are they and which one is best?

PIN THEM AND WIN THEM

A possible line from the game M. Elisman (1586) – A. Taylor (1880), Northshore Chess Center (90 minutes for game), 2012.

IS GREED GOOD IN CHESS?

Here White played the surprising 27.cxd5. Should Black recapture with 27...exd5 or should he take the Knight via 27...Rxb6?

THERE’S A PRICE TO PAY FOR EVERY PAWN PUSH

Mr. Robitaille said: “I’m not sure if his defense is a common one, but I felt as though I could easily push my pawn forward one more square (to d5) and make it a true thorn in his side.”

White, a beginner, didn’t know any openings, so after 1.d4 Nf6 he pushed his d-pawn to d5, taking us to the diagram. What’s wrong with this move? Aside from eating up a tempo (he could have brought out a new pawn or developed a piece), and aside from the fact that Black can batter this pawn with moves like …c7-c6 and/or …e7-e6, this advance of the d-pawn loses control over two squares: c5 and e5. One pushes their pawns to gain space and to free the pieces behind them. But one needs to show some care: every time a pawn is pushed, it actually loses its ability to control various squares.

Think about this. When the pawn stands on d2, it has the potential to control 12 squares: c3, c4, c5, c6, c7, c8, and e3, e4, e5, e6, e7, and e8. Once the pawn is pushed to d4, that potential suddenly dwindles to 8 squares (the d-pawn has permanently lost its potential to control c3, c4, e3, and e4). Nevertheless, this is okay since it’s gaining space and putting pressure on the very important central squares c5 and e5. However, even after 1.d4 White needs to be careful. Playing f2-f4 later instantly weakens the e4-square and White no longer has a pawn that can take up the slack.

Understanding the importance of advanced squares, and understanding that there’s a price to pay for every step a pawn takes, will make you a much stronger player by giving you a taste of what people mean by “weak squares,” and will also allow you to begin the long journey to truly understanding the mystery of pawns.

LESSONS FROM THESE EXAMPLES

* A strong, unassailable pawn center is a fearsome thing that gobbles up space and often leaves the defender's pieces passively placed. If your opponent is trying to build such a center, don’t allow it, or tear it down. If you are trying to build such a center, do everything you can to make it indestructible!

* Just because your opponent confidently offers a piece for two pawns and a check doesn’t mean it’s sound! Your job is to challenge everything the opponent tosses at you since, more often than not, he’ll be wrong!

* In chess, greed is often good. If someone offers you something, your first thought should be, “Can I get away with taking it? I really want to!”

* The simple but powerful pin is a basic tactical tool that every chess player needs to master.

* There’s a price to pay for every step a pawn takes, and understanding this is extremely important for a chess player's development.

HOW TO PRESENT A GAME FOR CONSIDERATION

If you want me to look over your game, send it to askjeremy@chess.com

I need your name (real or chess.com handle), your OPPONENT’S name (real or chess.com handle), both players’ ratings, where the game was played, and date. If you don’t give me this information, I won’t use your game! BTW: I’ve noticed that many people are reluctant to give me their opponent’s name. This is very strange! Showing the names of both players is the way chess games are presented in databases, books, magazines… everywhere! Permission from the opponent isn’t necessary. If permission was necessary, everyone who ever lost a game wouldn’t allow their name to be on it!

• 8 months ago

i like your picture

• 3 years ago

Mr. Silman, I have truly been enjoying your articles in the problem format. It helps me so much more in terms of understanding a position, by trying to solve for the solution. I also always read the move list section to fully understand the problem. May I know however what would happen in the first position if 7. ... Nxe4 was played followed by 8. d5 Nd6 attacking the white bishop instead of Na5. This may avoid the b4 pawn fork later on. Thanks in advance for any help  on this variation

• 3 years ago

Really clear article.  I hope you will start video lessons for the beginner/intermediate (around 1400 rank).

• 3 years ago

thats good

• 3 years ago

a beautiful article!!!!

Please keep it up I absolutely in love with this format AND content!

• 3 years ago

• 3 years ago

great thanks...but pawn center sometime becomes burden..i want to know more about it..plz post about it..

• 3 years ago

very nice examples!

• 3 years ago

SILMAN!!! I just fount the move list button! This article just got SO much better

• 3 years ago

baller98 asked: "In the first position, why not ...Nxe4?"

At the end of the puzzles, you should click MOVE LIST so you can see my notes and variations. Trust me, I won't do these things without instructive prose and explanations. If you are having trouble solving a problem, just click SOLUTION, and then MOVE LIST. Even if you solve everything, DO click MOVE LIST or you might miss an important bit of prose.

• 3 years ago

Scrumbies!!

• 3 years ago

• 3 years ago

Thanks! Great article.

• 3 years ago

Baller98 - he explains why not Nxe4 but I think you have to click the button on the diagram that says "FEN/PGN" in order to read it.

• 3 years ago

In the first puzzle/diagram, why not Nxe4?

• 3 years ago

Agreed, villagecool!

• 3 years ago

Very good article!

(Silman, please make sure that the next time it's Black to play, the board is flipped. )

• 3 years ago

brilliant article. simplicity at its most efficient or effiiciency at its simplest. either way you are a true asset to this site.

• 3 years ago

thanks..

• 3 years ago

Great! Silman your new and improved type to write your articles are just purely awesome! So much easier for foreigner to follow and I also find your your renoved articles more instructive.