Heritage in Modern Play, Part 5

  • WIM energia
  • | Nov 8, 2013

World Champion Tigran Petrosian is well known for his positional exchange sacrifices. A less known strategic idea that appeared in several of his games is the bishop exchange for the c3 knight in the King's Indian Defense (KID). In the KID, the dark-squared bishop is one of Black's most valued pieces. Sometimes Black goes a long way and sacrifices the e5-pawn just to free the way for the g7-bishop. When planted on e5 or f4 the bishop usually participates in deadly KID attacks.

Therefore, it is paradoxical to exchange the monster on g7 for seemingly less of a piece - Nc3. The main idea of this exchange is to double the white pawns on the c-file, which will significantly restrict the movement of White's dark-squared bishop. Today's article will cover this strategic idea, which is closely related to bishop restriction methods we explored in the last two articles.

The first example is from a world champion's practice. Petrosian gave up his dark-squared bishop for Nc3 but got equal play with the black pieces. Key ideas to pay attention to:

  1. Bxc3 works if the only way White can recapture is bxc3;
  2. Black must have a pawn on c5, otherwise, if White's bishop gets to d4, Black's position will collapse;
  3. Black has to be ready to meet the g4-break;
  4. White will most likely combine the threat of the g4-break with expansion on the queenside.

David Bronstein played very carefully as White and so the game quickly ended in a draw. The next example shows how a premature g4 can weaken White's position; after an trade on g4, one might end up with a weak pawn on f4 and Black's knights will have an excellent outpost on f5, from where they can threaten the e3-square. This square is very important because the movement of Black's passed e-pawn can be very dangerous for White. Petrosian outplayed his opponent but did not find the final tactical idea and let Dutch GM Jan Hein Donner escape.

Tigran Petrosian

The next example is from modern play. So far, we saw Black responding to White's plans. But what to do when White is simply waiting and is happy with a draw? In the following game the rating difference between the players is more than 200 points, hence naturally Black wants to create some play to have winning chances. Here we see one of the key ideas for Black in these structures: play on the queenside. Black was threatening a b5-break and tied the white forces on the queenside and then he exchanged his light-squared bishop, which was locked behind the f5-pawn. He used what is a common maneuver in the Dutch Defense: Bd7-e8-h5.

The dangers that Black can face if playing in gambit-like style are shown in the following game. Korobov sacrificed his e-pawn to get the e4-square for the knight. However, it turns out that the knight is not really safe on this square as it can be undermined with the g4-break. Since White has not yet played g4, he solidified with the g3-move and got a position with an extra pawn.

Anton Korobov

The last position is from one of the KID lines analyzed by Viktor Bologan in his excellent book King's Indian: A Complete Black Repertoire. This position is different from what we considered so far as there is no white pawn on f4 to block the range of the dark-squared bishop's movement. With his g5-push, Black effectively takes away the f4-square from the bishop and thus limits its range. This g5-move is essential in most of the lines analyzed in this type of position.

Next week's article will be once again about classic heritage in modern play.



  • 3 years ago


    Great article!  I love the idea of exchanging the valuable attacking piece to constrict the opposition's movement ... very much in keeping with Petrosian's reputation!  He's one of my favorite players, so I'm very pleased to see one of your articles focusing on his play!

    Very interested to read your next article!  Even though I regularly follow your articles here on chess.com, this series in particular has been a lot of fun to follow!  Know that your work is very much appreciated! Smile

  • 3 years ago


    What a wonderful analysis! It is so interesting that black will sometimes exchange the black squared bishop even though it is a key defender and attacker. It seems like the only times that this is a good idea is when we have reached the exf5 gxf5 f4 e4 structure? This may be a good rule to follow. There is nothing more satisfying than surprising an opponent with a dynamic and unexpected move like Bxc3, much like a perfectly placed drop shot when everyone on the other team is expecting a spike.

    In my own limited understanding of these structures, the engine likes f3 for its prophylactic nature. When white does not play exf5, in general the King's Indian kingside launch is generally geared around playing f4 and then g4, which will create clear weaknesses after g3, mainly the g3, h3, h2, g2 squares, and black wins enough space to find good squares for his pieces (Rg7, Nh5, Ng5, Nh4- even Bc8- are all good and stong attacking pieces), but in the exf5 gxf5 f3 structures it is not so easy. Black has only the open gfile to work with, but they definitely cannot deliver mate by simply attacking g2. It is then very hard to come up with a constructive plan because the knights lack good attacking squares (especially if white puts his knight on d3, like we are seeing in most of these positions), and the normal fluid pawn structure has a much harder time making breaks. After f4 black surrenders the e4 square and the b1-h7 diagonal and permanently pacifies his dark squared bishop, and after e4 white is able to favorably open the center. h5-h4-h3 is a thought, but it is very slow and white can often stop it with a simple move like Kh1 or even h3 himself- the backward gpawn is not so important. While black does have some good plans (my general sense is black should aim to play h5, get the bishop to h6 to exchange the dark squared bishops, and only then proceed with f4 and use the f5 square for his knights and light squared bishop), he lacks the usual attacking prospects in the King's Indian. Just my 2 cents, probably about what it is worth.

  • 3 years ago

    NM Petrosianic

    i think i love u for the KID analysis... platonically of course!  Innocent

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