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:
||Neither side has a pawn on the file.
||Your side doesn't have a pawn on the file.
||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!