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Strategy of 'My System', Lesson 4

We're learning chess strategy from the classic My System by Aaron Nimzovich. I'm your guide, likesforests. Grab a cold one, pull up a chair, and enjoy. :)


§1.6 - How to Manage the Center

Today I'm trying something interesting. I'm blending concepts from Fine's Ideas Behind the Chess Openings and Nimzovich's My System... I think they work well together.

 

Pawn Formations

According to Fine, White's ideal pawn structure in e-pawn openings is:

Ruy Lopez Formation
  • White has more central space
  • White has outposts on d5 and f5
  • Black's d6-pawn cramps his bishop and fixes his c-pawn

After 1.e4 e5, White achieves this by playing d2-d4 to eliminate Black's center pawn. Black then plays ...d7-d6 to restrain White's central pawn.

In contrast, Black ideal pawn structure in e-pawn openings is:

Vanished Center

  • Symmetric
  • No advantage for either side

Black achieves this by playing a timely ...d5 to execute White's center pawn.

 

Handling a Mobile Center Pawn

According to Nimzovich, there are three ways to handle a mobile central pawn:

  1. Execute it - This is the ideal. It corresponds to ...d5 and a Vanished Center.
  2. Ignore it - Pushing ahead with development in spite of your opponent's mobile central pawn requires you to calculate a possible advance every move.
  3. Restrain it - This is the simplest. It corresponds to ...d6 and a Ruy Lopez Formation.

Often all three will occur in a game. We ignore it at first, we restrain it when we have to, and we execute it as soon as we have the opportunity.

 

The Center Game

The Center Game (1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Qxd4) is one of the purest expressions of opening strategy. Let's walk through that example in detail with both authors in mind...


That Black was able to find an easy way to equalize is why most players abandoned the Center Game opening around 1900 or so, well before the heyday of Nimzovich or Fine.



The Scotch Game

The Scotch Game (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4) is an improvement on the Center Game and it's played often today, sometimes even at the highest levels.


Danish Gambit

The Danish Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3) is usually accepted, but Nimzowitsch discusses a playable and interesting way to decline it...


In this case, it was possible to ignore (heck, even tempt!) the advance of White's e-pawn. It was not necessary to waste time moving a pawn to restrain it.



Extra Credit:

 This position arose in tbonius-likesforests, chess.com 20-Aug-2008:

On the surface, this position may look very different than the ones we discussed earlier in this article, but there are definite similarities.

 Questions:

  1. How does today's discussion apply to this position?

  2. What candidate move does it suggest?

  3. Does that move work?



I welcome criticism and even praise if you feel it's deserved. Lesson 5 will be out next Friday... if you haven't already, Add me as a Friend to enjoy it hot off the press!

Comments


  • 5 years ago

    figrock

    Appreciate the info..! Smile

  • 6 years ago

    lapin

    cool, thanks

  • 6 years ago

    ChessWhizard

    Nice

  • 6 years ago

    Dmaster995

    I like.

  • 6 years ago

    normajeanyates

    Re-viewing and reviewing chapter 1 lessons slowly:

    um... Movsesian-Istratescu, Ohrid 2001 is different: *there* even I wouldn't even think of O-O-O  --- in fact c5 just stands out doesnt it - i don't know -- in an actual otb game one thinks nonverbally and nonsequentially --- in a flash--- quite a lot. If someone were to ask me why c5 there I'd say all those threats ... Ive to stop them and this does... (of couse then I'd calculate, except at 3 0 blitz or something.)

    In tbonius-likesforests what stands out in the position - at least for me - is white's king's exposed position and black pieces ready to hit if black tries for too much. The Ns, the B, the semiopen file of the KR - all cry out for castling Q-side to take advantage of all that. To me, in that position O-O-O is bloody thematic - this is not the time for thematic pawn-structure-moves -- shouldn't the human player automatically forward-prune that consideration out -- or at least not consider it first? Isn't considering c5 first *here* a bit paranoid? Just as, in Movsesian-Istratescu, considering O-O-O first - or at all in the given pos - would be wierd, even for me...

    cmon, to me the tbonius-likesforests pos is assymetric - to me, c4 goes on the backburner subconsciously because - excuse me, you are a much stronger player but to me the d5 response to c5 does stand out, so much so as to not even wrire about c5 in an Answer Sheet [unless i am writing a 20-page thesis on the pos.]; If this pos. had arisen in a game I were playing, then I'd surely come to considering ...c5 d5 - but in the end and not in the beginning! I'd start with considering O-O-O.

    Human's just can't play by considering all legal moves. I suppose we have different ways of choosing which move to consider first --- a lot of it is different intutions; different ways of thinking...

    None of us who tried this, I am sure, considered say a6. It just got eliminated - intuitively - didnt it - and rightly so. I'd say that for the same reason ie intuition (I mean intuition is the reason) O-O-O gets eliminated without a thought in Movsesian-Istratescu, while  c5 (due to the intuitive d5 counter) goes on the backburner while O-O-O leaps to the eye - or at least my eye - in tbonius-likesforests. ..c5 d5 does get looked at, but only in a game, not in answer-to-a-question, and only for last-3-minute checking (say if I spend 15 mins on that move).

    May be I have a fascination not only for for O-O-O, but also for NOT capturing e.p., for pushing a pawn forward rather than going PxP with the same pawn --- ie I consider certain crude categories of 'unexpected' moves first in certain situations (and not at all in most, there I am just like any chess player otherwise I'd be below novice...). Zwischenzugs are another weakness of mine - mistaken zwischens where strightforwrd recapture would be clear and better...

    Finally, in chess, actually I intuit first, then think, then move. (Thats why I am bad at 3 0 blitz and horrible at lightning). [Not that my intuition is all that hot..] - anyway it is better than 'moving. then thinking. then intuiting ...' :)

  • 6 years ago

    normajeanyates

    general note on gwfhegel's post - as blunderprone has already said, Nimzo et al were pioneers. Now pioneer work is often clumsy, has mistakes, and considered more universal by the pioneer than is found later. That's how science works ...

     

    Nevertheless, it is much more easy to polish up and emend pioneer work than to actually do pioneer work.

     

    While on this topic, Nick di Fermian wrote in MCO-14 : (p. 528) "The ultimate chess theoretician, Aron Nimzovich, left a legacy of chess ideas, some strange, some brilliant, and some bad".

     

    Take the Nimzovich defence 1.e4 Nc6 - not exactly unsound, but not so great [though I have played it not infrequently when I was young - surprise value].
    The Nimzo-Indian defence OTOH - great idea.

  • 6 years ago

    likesforests

    gwfhegel> In section 1.6, you vary from Nimzo's example in the Danish...

    Yes, when I find controversial or obsolete examples, I modify them or replace them with fresh examples that better illustrate the strategic principles.

  • 6 years ago

    gwfhegel

    In section 1.6, you vary from Nimzo's example in the Danish. After 7. Nf3 Nimzo says, "White has here six tempi as against two or one and a half, for the Knight is not better placed at b6 than f6, and the move ...c6 was really not  whole tempo, since no move of a central pawn is here in question."

    John Watson in Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy calls this assessment "really egregious," (p. 15) giving the line 7....Nxc4 8 Qxc4 d5 and Black has the two bishops and is ready to catch up in development.  Watson's Secret's of Modern Chess Strategy critique's Nimzo's ideas extensively.

  • 6 years ago

    likesforests

    normajeanyates - The number of games I have lost due to fondness for O-O-O... :(

    Identifying the weakness is the first step to overcoming it, right? At least that's how it's supposed to work! Some bad habits die very hard.  (:

  • 6 years ago

    normajeanyates

    I was pointing out a weakness of mine - perhaps everyone has some [maybe at deeper levels]  - so it was perhaps sort-of-serious. The number of games I have lost due to fondness for O-O-O... :(

    "Good tactics beats good strategy, but it's the blending of the two that is our aim." - fully agree. That's why I am part of the audience :)

  • 6 years ago

    likesforests

    normajeanyates> re the orig diagram: I had an advantage because for me O-O-O is the first move I consider

    Hehe! In all seriousness, I think ...c5 should've crossed the mind of anyone solving this, and only been rejected due to 14...c5 15.d5 Nxd5 16.Nxd5 exd5 17.Qe2. It's thematic in a pawn structure like this (Caro Formation) and usually Black equalizes if he achieves it.

    Wikipedia> "Themes for Black: Weakness of the d4 pawn, c6-c5 and e6-e5 breaks. The latter break is usually preferable, but harder for Black to achieve."

    E.g., in Movsesian-Istratescu, Ohrid 2001 Black played ...c6-c5 drew two moves later.

    Good tactics beats good strategy, but it's the blending of the two that is our aim.

  • 6 years ago

    normajeanyates

    re the orig diagram: I had an advantage because for me O-O-O is the first move I consider (if legal) in ANY position! Ever since I learnt the rules of chess, long castling looked 'magical' to me - the fascination for O-O-O has mellowed but not faded...

  • 6 years ago

    likesforests

    Thanks Blunderprone, those are some real gems and I will definitely spend some time going through them today or tomorrow.  :)

    In this month's Chess Life, Soltis actually has an article called "Pawn Worth" discussing exactly that point. He says that often people quote Philidor's ("Pawns are the soul of chess"), but Philidor wrote in L'analyse du jeu des Echecs that, "Pawns, especially central ones, lose part of their strength by advancing to the fifth rank." His views are echoed by Steinitz and contrast markedly with those more modern pioneers Nimzowitsch, Tarrasch, and Rubinstein. Rubinstein is in fact quoted as saying, "A pawn that has advanced to the sixth rank plays the role of a piece."

  • 6 years ago

    Blunderprone

    Nimzovitch and R. Fine were correct in the remedy of handling a mobile pawn center. More important was the correct realization that pawns needed a lot more respect than they previously got. In the middle of the 19th century such ideals were not realized or taught becuase pawns were a mere nuisance to getting your pieces developed and were considered more a liability. Visionaries like Marmeduke Wyvill, who I covered in the London 1851 series, was notorious for knowing how to play a mobile pawn mass back in the days when pawns were viewed as a nuisance but not a threat. In this game http://blog.chess.com/Blunderprone/london-1851-wyvill-vs-loewe-round-12

    a positional battle turns upside-down by move 19 when Wyvill realizes an unchecked pawn mass.

     

    In this game: http://blog.chess.com/Blunderprone/london-1851-loewe-vs-wyvill-round-11,  He sacrifices a knight to release a powerful mobile pawn force.

     

    Perhaps cautionary tails like these from history, prompted Aaron and Reubin to find new respect for the pawn. Seriously, up unitl the turn of last century, the pawn beyond the 4th rank was considered a liabilty... only when you had a CLEAR run to queening was it considered safe to venture forth. Pioneers like Wyvill and Steinitz showed how connected pawns can be just a vicious as pieces.

  • 6 years ago

    normajeanyates

    exactly. So let us put it this way: general principles have to be followed up by precise calculation... [that phrasing makes it more general than just 'tactics']

  • 6 years ago

    likesforests

    normajeanyates> likesforests missed my prologue-point - tactics trump everything

    Guilty! But perhaps we can learn from it:  the restraining side is particularly vulnerable to an advance at the very moment he seeks to execute. And it's not enough to simply calculate whether the advancing pawn can be safely captured. We must look at what new lines are opened by both the advance and the capture.

  • 6 years ago

    normajeanyates

    :(    

    :)

    :( |: I missed all of likesforest's "Answer 1"!

    :) |: [but then likesforests missed my prologue-point - tactics trump everything : what use is an ideal centre and good bishop if you overlook threat of mate-in-1?]

    <excuse-emoticon-here> |: Plus I was multitasking! [I set up the pos. on a physical board and was mulling over it amidst a lot of running around]

  • 6 years ago

    likesforests

    GotGoose> Is c5 the answer?  I would play it because it is a standard freeing move in that kind of restraint pawn structure.  It also breaks up white's space gaining d pawn.

    That's the natural move, but like me, you missed the tactical refutation. :)

    cunctatorg> I am out of time but let's complicate things: ignoring by 1... 0-0-0 seems bad because of 2. Ne5 and 3. Be3 but what about ignoring by 1... 0-0 2. Be3 or restraining by 1... Nd5 2. Ne4 and 3. c4 ? Q & not-A...

    If you saw ...c5 didn't work and planned 1...Nd5 followed by 2...c5, that makes some sense. Restraint was already accomplished, so it's time to execute. But 1...Nd5 2.Nxd5 cxd5 3.c4 dxc4 4.bxc4 and we haven't been too successful at eliminating White's central pawns. Granted, ...Nd5's refutation doesn't land Black in as much hot water as ...c5.

    1...O-O 2.Be3 Qc7 is completely sound, but doesn't address White's d4-pawn. This is maybe a good line if Black is aiming for a draw (Rybka considers White better so this happens to be one of its favorite lines after 12hrs analysis by a tiny margin).

    normajeanyates> answer 1) white has nimzowitch's ideal pawn centre [refelected to be on the quuen side].
     So black can ignore it (developop), or liquidate it (or threaten to) or restrain it.
    Or combine the ideas.

    Restraining : 1..Nd5 2.Nxd5 cxd5 3.c4 Nf6
    and now WHITE can maybe afford to ignore our 'better centre' with 4.c5,
     or maybe worse still for us white can leave the threat open of liquidating our 'better centre', by 4.Qc2 or 4.Qe2. So :

    black *should* look for something bette
    r.

    Absolutely! One nit... it's Fine's ideal center. My guess is Nimzowitsch wouldn't call it ideal unless White's pawn was mobile.

    Ignoring and threatening liquidation of white's centre: (This actually intuitively came to my mind first so I focused on the 'restraining' thing to get it out of the way first, above.) this takes us to:

    Answer 2)    1... O-O-O.
    Develops, threatens to attack white's a4-pawn one more time by the e1-Rook. Also with black's forces targetting white's K-side, castling queenside gives counterattack opportunities.

    This is a logical way to pressure the d4 pawn and it's sound.

    After 1...O-O-O, how serious is white's threat of taking the h2-b8 diagonal by 2.Bf4? [white can't delay it for then white takes the diagonal by 2..Bd6] But on 1...O-O-O 2.Bf4 unprotects a knight, so 2...Bb4! threatening to win the exchange.

    Black's threat is sustainable: On 3.Qd3 Qa5! forcing the tempo-wasting 4.Bd2; or on 3.Bd2 Qa5! again.

    Black has equalised.

    epilogue to answers: I didn't add 'i think' anywhere because this is the answer sheet to your take-home exam :)

    Thanks, we needed one. ;)

  • 6 years ago

    likesforests

    Here are my Extra Credit answers. I don't claim they're better than others.

    > 1. How does today's discussion apply to this position?

    White's d4-pawn grants him more central space. Black's already restrained the d4-pawn by putting his own pawns on c6 and e6, traded off his bad bishop, and prevented c5 and e5 from being used profitably as outposts.

    > 2. What candidate move does it suggest?

    If restraint has already been accomplished the next logical step is execution. e6-e5 is impossible so thematic c5 is a natural candidate move.

    > 3. Does that move work?

    My game continued 14.c5!? 15.Be3 cxd4 16.Qxd4 Bc5 17.Na4? Bxf4! 18.Nxb6 Bxb6! with an easy win. The pawn break c6-c5 is effective against 15.Be3, 15.dxc5, and quite a few other moves. But there's a serious flaw...

    15.d5!! Nxd5 16.Nxd5 exd5 17.Qe2 - White is down a pawn, but his position is superior owing to his crippling pressure down the e-file. Nimzowitsch points out that sometimes a pawn advance works, even when the pawn is lost.

    So c5 does not work.

  • 6 years ago

    normajeanyates

    Okay here are my answers in small print. If you want to read it use control-mousewheelrotate [or control + ] to expand. Or copy and paste in a plaintext "notepad" / "wordstar nondocument mode" file.

    [I still use wordstar - on windows xp - for cutting/pasting/copying columns etc. - ^KN - column mode :)]

    prologue to answers: Tactics must never be ignored to achieve positional aims - that goes without saying.

    answer 1) white has nimzowitch's ideal pawn centre [refelected to be on the quuen side].
     So black can ignore it (developop), or liquidate it (or threaten to) or restrain it.
    Or combine the ideas.

    Restraining : 1..Nd5 2.Nxd5 cxd5 3.c4 Nf6
    and now WHITE can maybe afford to ignore our 'better centre' with 4.c5,
     or maybe worse still for us white can leave the threat open of liquidating our 'better centre', by 4.Qc2 or 4.Qe2. So :

    black *should* look for something better.

    Ignoring and threatening liquidation of white's centre: (This actually intuitively came to my mind first so I focused on the 'restraining' thing to get it out of the way first, above.) this takes us to:

    Answer 2)    1... O-O-O.
    Develops, threatens to attack white's a4-pawn one more time by the e1-Rook. Also with black's forces targetting white's K-side, castling queenside gives counterattack opportunities.

    Answer 3) Yes.

    After 1...O-O-O, how serious is white's threat of taking the h2-b8 diagonal by 2.Bf4? [white can't delay it for then white takes the diagonal by 2..Bd6] But on 1...O-O-O 2.Bf4 unprotects a knight, so 2...Bb4! threatening to win the exchange.

    Black's threat is sustainable: On 3.Qd3 Qa5! forcing the tempo-wasting 4.Bd2; or on 3.Bd2 Qa5! again.

    Black has equalised.

    epilogue to answers: I didn't add 'i think' anywhere because this is the answer sheet to your take-home exam :) 

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