Pawn Centre

Dec 28, 2008, 12:00 AM |
4 | Opening Theory

In the early days, having a big pawn centre was thought to be an instant advantage to the player owning it. That was until Nimzowitsch, Reti, and others of the kind entered the chess world. Although those players have long retired from tournament chess (well, obviously, considering that they have already passed away), some of their quotes are still around, and are still true in every aspect today. Take this for instance - Nimzowitsch once said that pieces other than pawns can also be used to control the centre. Most players have heard of it today, but I am sure that there was a huge controversy on that statement during Nimzowitsch's time.

Chess is one of those games that evolve every now and then. As we all know, nowadays, players are known to willingly give his or her opponent a big centre, only to strike back at it sometimes later in the game with pieces and pawns, proving to his or her opponent that his or her centre is more vulnerable than it looks.

Here is an example, taken from the game Gligoric - Smyslov. White seems to have a very strong influence in the centre with his pawns. However, black can easily counter it. (Annotation from  (well, at least that's where I got the ideas from anyway) Better Chess by William Hartson)

So what does this prove? That you should give up controlling the centre altogether? No. Of course not. This sequence of moves only proves that a centre which can be easily demolished is not a centre at all. Imagine if, from the beggining position of the Gligoric - Smyslov, that the pawn on f4 was on f3 instead. Wouldn't that make the white player's life a hell lot easier?

Now that we understand that in order for a pawn centre to be an advantage, it must be solid, we still need to know just what is a 'solid pawn centre'?

A solid pawn centre, to put simply, is a pawn centre which the chance of a counter attack is unlikely. For example, if there is a bishop pinning your opponent's f pawn to the king, and the push of the pawn is neccessary for your opponent if he wants to free up his position, then you can be quite happy because your pawn centre if quite invincible for now.

While on the other hand, if your oppoent simply move his king from g8 to h8, then you must think of a way to somehow solidify your centre even more using the free move your opponent gave to you.

I know that not everyone likes the sound of giving his or her opponent a free hand in the centre, but then, I'm sure that sometimes in your games, you are just going to have to give up the centre. Trust me though, trying to strike back at your opponent's centre is not as hard as it looks or sounds. If you want to have a taste of doing it, try using Pircs as black against e4 and King's Indian Defence against d4.

Cheers, Ogerboy

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