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The Tale of g2-g4? & g2-g4!

  • GM Gserper
  • | Jan 20, 2013
  • | 16071 views
  • | 35 comments

One of the major strategic rules of chess is "Keep your King safe!". It is precisely due to this rule that a very common pin from many openings which start with 1. e4 e5 is especially dangerous. For example this one:

We've all had a similar experience during our chess beginnings. The result of the pin is very painful for Black.  Due to the unavoidable capture of the Nf6, Black's kingside structure is going to be ruined. But what should you do if your Knight is pinned--how can you break the pin? One common way to do it is to push the 'h' and 'g' pawns (h3 followed by g4 for White and h6 followed by g5 for Black).  Most inexperienced chess players do exactly that and as a result their King gets exposed.  Talk about a medicine being worse than the illness. The next classical game is a good example of what happens in this case:


Chess coaches (me included!) warn their students about the consequences of such a weakening of your own kingside.  But let's see what hapenned in another classical game:

And one more classical game:

But wait, there is more! 

So, what's going on here? Did Capablanca refute the rule of keeping the King safe, or are these games a major exception?  Or maybe it is the situation described by the Latin phrase: "Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi" ? Actually, the explanation is very simple.  In all of Capablanca's games his King was very safe and by pushing the 'g' pawn in front of his King he achieved a big strategical advantage in all of his games. In two of them his opponent's Bishop was entombed and in the game against Marshall it was actually a signal for an attack against his opponent's King. So, the g2-g4 move is not better or worse than any other chess move, but if played in a wrong situation, then the consequences of your mistake will be magnified by the weakness of your King.  

My advice is: playable, but proceed with extreme caution!

Comments


  • 16 months ago

    capakarpova

    fischer also had many games featuring the same motiffs with g4 push.    botvinnik said that you can not play chess properly unless you study capablanca's games.   And Botvinnik rarely complemented other players but he had a lot of respect and admiration for capa....   capablanca was possibly the greatest talent in the entire history of chess....   bobby fischer quote....

  • 18 months ago

    sreenatha

    Nice article....

  • 18 months ago

    manubeatsthemall

    great article!

  • 18 months ago

    antigurem

    i become interesting with g2-g4

  • 18 months ago

    Jamalov

    the very painful pin may be avoided with 6...h6 or Bb4

  • 18 months ago

    Zenden271195

    It completely follows the strategy concepts of chessplaying: a tatical move must have its point at the ending position (when it goes to the endgame). Amayzingly well described when g2-g4 is played according to the right tempo.

  • 18 months ago

    TravisWilliams3

    ""I think this was pitched a bit below my level" lmao"

    Depends what level the guy's at.  Break it down by rating.   A player around 800 probably doesn't understand why g4 is dangerous, because he, and others of similar strength cannot reliably take advantage of an improper g4 push.

    When you climb into the 1200 range, players should be able to describe the advantages and disadvantages of a g4 push, but probably can't do a good job of justifying if the position warrants making the move.  The article seems mostly geared towards players around this range.

    A player around 1500 is the one who risks the most with a g4 advance.   He has a good enough grasp of positional dynamics to understand some of what's at play, but not everything.   Also, it's likely his tactical ability isn't able to see such a pawn push through to it's conclusion, so he's going to have to get part-way through and guess.  Something that's likely to hurt more than help, as the g4 advance is bad in far more positions than it's good.

    A player in the 1800+ range should have a solid grasp of the positional features not just of the push itself, but of what (closed central, kingside control, etc) makes such a maneuver justified.   There's still a very real risk of him mis-reading the position or playing a g4 at a time when it's not tactically justified, but in general, this article is going to be beneath his level.

    And by the time you reach Master level, the g4 push is like an old habit.   You don't even NEED to evaluate the move, your pattern recognition is good enough that it's instinctive as to if you should play it.   The difference between a player at 2200 and 2500?   The latter's instinct will be much more accurate, and he'll be able see all the tactical complexities with breathtaking speed.  


    So sure.   If the guy's at say 1700+, he's probably not going to get much out of this article, since what he needs is a more in-depth examination of the specific signals that justify g4, as well as practice with the tactical themes.

  • 18 months ago

    mrdaddychops

    I thought he would mention this vicious gambit
  • 18 months ago

    TajDavis

    "I think this was pitched a bit below my level"   lmao


  • 18 months ago

    Sebashtian

    I will never be able to this gambling...high level. Interesting and enriches our poor game strategy. Crazy Cuban Genius ! Thx. Laughing

  • 18 months ago

    EduardoML10

    I think g2 g4 it's a risky move, obviously Capa blanca has another level of game and he could play it!

  • 18 months ago

    2fat2fly

    I Try to make it a part of my Games!

    Nice Articel, Thanks

  • 18 months ago

    manalgcor

    I agree with TravisWilliams3 comments, BUT one more thing needs been said, which is the key here, IMO.

    You can see that Chigorin sacked Nxg4!, and got  a decisive attack, whrereas in all of Capablanca games his opponent just removed the bishop to g3 or g6, to suffer a more constrained position.

    So, in most cases, the rule is: "g4 (or g5) is a right move, unless Nxg4! (or Nxg5!) is the right answer".

  • 18 months ago

    anadahalli

    nice one :)

  • 18 months ago

    Jamalov

    in "a very painful pin" sequence would 6... h6 cancel out white's threat with Nd5?

  • 18 months ago

    TravisWilliams3

    What in the postion indicates that pushing g2-g4 is actually completely safe (like Capablanca)?

    There's really only one thing you need to look for.  "How well can my opponent exploit the weakness I'm creating".

    In particular, how well can he play on your kingside.   You'll notice for example that in all 3 of the Capa games, the center was closed and his opponent didn't have a way of opening it.   Furthermore, in 2 of the 3 games (the ones where the bishop gets buried) playing g4 effectively buries all the opponent's kingside activity.   Even Marshall wasn't able to make anything of his kingside pieces because they were ill positioned to target white's weak kingside squares.

    Contrast this with the Chigorin game where Mikhael has the advantage in kingside force, and the push does nothing but create open lines for black to use!

    Really it sounds obvious... but if the g4 push makes it impossible for your opponent to play effectively on the kingside and he already can't play in the center.... it's probably a good move for you to make!

  • 18 months ago

    brutalwizardofEngmar

    Nice article. When I get my game to Capablanca standards, I'll play g2-g4! For now, its a no no!

  • 18 months ago

    roy_manuel

    it really depends on the situation but its a good advice, master the game I suggest 

  • 18 months ago

    Estragon

    Great article, thanks!

    Of another case of Capablanca apparently ignoring established principles, Edward Lasker said, "Capablanca doesn't follow rules, he makes the rules!"

  • 18 months ago

    lovechess4U

    This is a awesome collection But I consider this as an ideal situation ...hats off

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