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Strategy of 'My System', Lesson 6

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. :)


§2.1 Introduction to "Open Files"

The rook is the most difficult piece to bring into play. In the starting position, it's hemmed in by its own pawns... and opening lines for a rook is not as simple as for the bishop.

Three Scenarios to Aim For:

Green Open Files Neither side has a pawn on the file.
Yellow Half-Open Files Your side doesn't have a pawn on the file.
Red Rook Lift You have pawns on the file, but your rook is in-front of them.

 

§2.2 How to Open Files

Files don't magically open themselves. You have to struggle to open them.

A. With Pieces

Put your pieces on good squares, especially central squares, so your opponent will be tempted or obliged to trade them off and thereby open new lines of attack.

Fernandez Velasco-Peinador Tamargo, Santa Olaya 1999 reaches a classic position. Black should play 6...Bb6!. Instead he plays 6...Bxe3?! which opens White's f-file. White later played d3-d4 to open the d-file. With two excellent rooks, White launched a devastating attack.



In Alic-Dedijer, Neum 2002, Black played 9...Bc6! and after 10.Bxc6 bxc6 11.O-O-O Qd5 her rook aims at the enemy king and her queen eyes a2 and g2. Sanja Dedijer won four moves later.

In Kortschnoi-Jimenez Zerquera, Leningrad 1967, White played 5.Bg2 to force Black to choose: (a) retreat his knight to b6 and lose a development tempo or (b) capture on c3 and open White's b-file. Black chose Nxc3 and after 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Rb1 O-O? 8.Rxb7! lost a pawn.

B. With Pawns

Nimzovich points out that in both of the diagrams above, Black has weakened his kingside pawn structure. White could use this to force open files and create a dangerous attack. In the first case that might involve h2-h3, g2-g4, g4-g5; in the second case h2-h4 and h4-h5.

In fact, since the two kings are castled on opposite sides, violent pawn advances are exactly what this position calls for and ...h6 and ...g6 may prove to be decisive mistakes.

Vukovic's Art of Attack covers in detail how to exploit such weaknesses.


Question: Which pawn should White advance first if he wants to create an open file?

Answer: Before attacking a pawn weakness, you must fix it. Thus the only principled idea is 1.h5! fixing the h6-weakness followed by 2.g5 and Black can't keep the position closed. If 1.g5? h5! and White can't make any progress. 1.f5? also leads nowhere due to 2.f6 g6, 2.g5 h5, and 2.h5 f6... all these lines support our general rule of fixing a weakness before attacking it.

 

§2.3 Why to Open Files

The primary reason we put rooks on open files is because we want them to penetrate to the 7th rank. Achieving that is often worth a pawn. If that can't be achieved, then controlling the open file may even be completely worthless. It's important to remember this.


Black's control of the b-file is unquestionable. And yet, it's completely useless because White doesn't allow the rooks to penetrate into his position.

In future articles we'll look at how to overcome obstacles to contolling a file, exploit when we're able to penetrate to the 7th and 8th ranks, and study some exciting games.


I welcome criticism and even praise if you feel it's deserved. Lesson 6 should be out next Friday... if you haven't already, Add me as a Friend to enjoy it hot off the press!

Comments


  • 6 years ago

    ChessWhizard

    Thx, nice tournament examples

  • 6 years ago

    normajeanyates

    concepts from what-is-to-come crowding my brain -- how can doubled yet strong pawns fail to remind one of the concept of a 'pawn mass'? [to those who don't know - they are not the same thing... I can't define 'pawn mass' - I  just know one when I see one I think - maybe likesforests can define it - here or in a message?]

    UPDATE: actually, easy to define - from wikipedia : [pawn mass is aka pawn island] :

    Pawn island: A group of pawns of one color on consecutive files with no other pawns of the same color on any adjacent files. A pawn island consisting of one pawn is called an isolated pawn.

    [I was trying to come up with a definition such that posession of one is advantageous... of course you can only do it by appending to the definition 'such that the posession of one is advantageous'. I mean, a 'Q-side' majority ie a potential outside passed pawn - one can easily come up with endgame positions where a 'Q-side' majority it is useless to have, and there is a win, but by foregoing the QSM.]

    Let me make something clear: I greatly appreciate these lessons/seminar-talks/presentations - I don't keep saying it because specially during the first lesson too many people just posted praise and no other content - in fact some posts had, apart from praise, content which on careful reading showed they hadn't read the lecture! [reminded me of the 'first' and 'fourth' and 'easy' that one sees on dailypuzzle]

    Anyhow, I think I should put in my word of appreciation in public. [I already did so in private - almost at the start!]

    Great lectures.

    And - off-topic but not on-site and on-chess: I will go over the Bogart-Bacall game (annotated and posted by likesforests) - from Ms Bacall's point of view - to look at where she made strong moves and where she erred ... :)

    (This computerchess tourney at ficgs is tiring me out - it is of course not as simple as just let an engine run on a move... if it were there'd be no point playing...)

    So I am painstakingly storing these lectures by  copying text, pix, pgns, pgns etc - incl those in relevant responses - and arranging them [apart from 'save webpage' which only does part of the job of course] - one never knows when a good internet resource will disappear...

  • 6 years ago

    normajeanyates

    likesforests>but I often see players opening files without asking themselves whether they can control them and use them to penetrate into their opponent's position.

    Now that is excellently put. and I heartily agree. (IMO your previous phrasing gave the impression that putting a R on a (semi-)open file was no use unless it could reach the seventh. Now that advice would be wrong and dangerous to the weaker players...)

    [open files if and only if you can] "control [the (semi-)open] files and use them to penetrate into their opponent's position."

    That comes out really well, and is sound advice! <of course in chess for all general rules one can come up with have exceptions [1] - but this is an excellent general rule...>

    [1] "if you see a mate in 1 and verify that it is indeed mate in 1, deliver the mate." Possible exception to this general rule - um...how about opp. pointing gun at you, saying - "dying to win, eh?";) (But cant think of an exception to this on chess-grounds)

  • 6 years ago

    Hammers

    you give up your time for us thankyou well done

  • 6 years ago

    likesforests

    normajeanyates> Opening files - primary reason is to get to 7th - just like the object of chess is checkmate... true but as content-free as '2=2'.

    Maybe it's common sense, but I often see players opening files without asking themselves whether they can control them and use them to penetrate into their opponent's position. In fairness, the "Why" contains only one diagram and eight lines of text, compared to the "How" section which contains twelve diagrams and twenty-five lines of text.  ;)

    normajeanyates> I think stress should be given to more-frequently-feasible-things one can do with Rs on semi-open files.

    Thanks for the honest feedback... I'll keep it in mind. We're only through about 25% of chapter two, and then there are the example games.

  • 6 years ago

    normajeanyates

    Opening files - primary reason is to get to 7th - just like the object of chess is checkmate - but I think stress should be given to more-frequently-feasible-things one can do with Rs on semi-open files. In a nutshell: you can move them along the file to suitable squares; and make plans that use this fact.

    see: 'GM shirov's first lecture' (i think thats what it is called) on fics lecturebot. (first and only, and it was Shirov wasn't it.) This topic is precisely what that lecture is all about (what to do with open and semi-open files).

    And hence I cannot agree with the following [though the maybe...even... fudge-factor makes it impossible to logically disagree but that interpretation taken rigorously would make it content-free too:]

    "The primary reason we put rooks on open files is because we want them to penetrate to the 7th rank. Achieving that is often worth a pawn. If that can't be achieved, then controlling the open file may even be completely worthless."

    The above is not true, or true but as content-free as '2=2'. Take your pick.

  • 6 years ago

    Dmaster995

    Nice.

  • 6 years ago

    KnightlyKing

    sorry now out of a sudden it showed up...sorry for the mistake..i got much benefit from this lesson..thank you!

  • 6 years ago

    KnightlyKing

    thank you very much for your lesson!but i cant see the last board why sometimes open files are of no use because they cant move into the 7th rank

  • 6 years ago

    greatexcalibur

    Very interesting presentation, likesforests !! I like your colour-and-picture-included-diagram..

    And also, like usual, another interesting and useful lesson! Can't wait the continuation. So, we can eliminate the negative effect of doubled pawn structure.

    Thanks! Smile

  • 6 years ago

    likesforests

    Sas3> Opening files is definitely desirable, when we can exploit it. But it also goes (at least appears to go) against maintaining a good pawn-structure.

    Good point. Yes, sometimes it's a trade-off. With respect to the three examples:

    In Korchnoi's case he isn't saddled with doubled pawns, and the convergence of the bishop and rook on b7 make a payoff more likely.

    In Dedijer's case, the doubled isolanis could've been easily eliminated by playing c6-c5 and c5xd4... if she had nothing better.

    In Fernandez-Velasco's case, the bargain not only gave him an open f-file, but also an extra central pawn! The front, e4-pawn is solidly defended so in this case the doubled pawns are more strength than weakness.

    NM Heisman likes to say, "Oh No, Mr. Bill! Not doubled pawns!" because we amateurs tend to be too focused on their negative aspects. In all three of these cases the negatives are small compared to the positives. Sometimes it's hard to make the right call--I too have trouble with that. I think we will cut down on those cases as we study open files and pawn weaknesses in more detail. We have quite some journey ahead. :)

  • 6 years ago

    likesforests

    boilermaker1234, mauerblume - I'm glad this format works! It's nice to see who we're talking about... and I wanted to limit the number of interactive boards because some folks have had trouble viewing them.

    but - And yes, I meant you!

    Knightguy, AlexCn, narutofanforever, Bodhidharma - Glad you enjoyed.  :)

    hicetnunc - Putting this content into an article is a good idea... I'll think about it.

    chessdadx2 - Your rating's gone up another 100 points since last I checked.

  • 6 years ago

    chessdadx3

    Great tools for us to absorb!! Great job as usual my friend.

  • 6 years ago

    but

    GRAeT

  • 6 years ago

    AlexCn

    Thank-you for posting these lessons

  • 6 years ago

    narutofanforever

    GREAT!

  • 6 years ago

    Bodhidharma

    The adventure continues....lead on, likesforests !!!

  • 6 years ago

    hicetnunc

    That's an excellent lesson, concise, yet conveying very useful concepts with very good examples.

    Congratulations !

    PS : why not move these excellent articles in the articles section ? This way, you could improve your audience even more.

  • 6 years ago

    Heinrich_24

    Wow! I am really impressed by your new designing with pictures and colours!- That`s outstanding here. Except perhaps batgirls posts!

  • 6 years ago

    Sas3

    Opening files is definitely desirable, when we can exploit it. But it also goes (at least appears to go) against maintaining a good pawn-structure. The impact of a 'weakened' pawn-structure is illustrated right here in this lesson (and to my horror, in many of my games!Smile)!

    I've often chosen to capture with a piece, where capture with a pawn could've created an open file. The key questions are "when is it good to open the file?", "when is it good to keep your pawn-structure intact?" and "how to assess the weakness of an opened pawn-structure, so that we know when the weakness will be so bad that we don't want to open that file?".

    The answers still evade me in game-situations. Of course there are 'auxiliary questions' like "if I open the file, can I keep my control on it?" or "will it become a long-term structural weakness?" or an even more fundamental "after opening the file, I am not sure whether I can mount a strong-enough attack that my opponent cannot defend without conceding something!! (indicating lack of knowledge of good attack patterns with available resources)"

    Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself. Especially if you intend to address these in the next lessons! Like many others, I look forward to your lessons! Thank you!

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