Smooth Criminal, Part Three.

Smooth Criminal, Part Three.

| 15 | Tactics

Before we continue the discussion that we started here and here, let me answer a concern some of the readers expressed in their comments. Let me quote one: "The article began with a quote about a passed pawn, and the title is about this quote about passed pawns....but there is not even one example with a passed pawn whatsoever". This is an absolutely correct comment, because by definition a passed pawn is a pawn that has no opponent's pawns on the same file or adjacent files. Believe me I know the definition.

Yet indeed all the examples in my article are about pawns that have no pawns just in front of them but have pawns on the adjacent files. To explain the reason, let me tell you that "My System" was one of my first chess books.  It was a difficult read for a 9-year-old but it was considered a must and you couldn't call yourself a real chess player in the old days of the Soviet Union if you hadn't read the 'Bible' (that is how "My System" was called sometimes). In the chapter about passed pawns (where Nimzowitch introduces his famous  "A passed pawn is a criminal which should be kept under lock and key. Mild measures, such as police surveillance, are not sufficient.") he makes the point that it is not enough just to control the square in front of such a pawn, you need to actually put a piece (preferably a Knight) to completely blockade the pawn.  One of the examples he gives as illustration for the concept is the next game which made a very strong impression on me:

It is not a misprint, Nimzowitch indeed gives a double exclam to the 6.Ne3!! move. He explains the reasons for the move and then concludes: " Even if the whole World plays 6.Nc3 in this position, I still believe that 6.Ne3!! is the best move according to the requirements of the System".  I was so impressed by the magical words of Nimzowitch that I even tried 6.Ne3 in a couple of blitz games against young Vassily Ivanchuk (the fact that I lost those games says mostly that Ivanchuk was a much better blitz player than me and has nothing to do with the strength of this move).

Anyway, the e4 pawn is not a passed pawn and yet Nimzowitch used this game as an example.  I think he used the same reason that I did. The reality is that in majority of the games you don't have a pure passed pawn until the late middle game or even endgame. In most of the opening/middle game positions you have just a pawn that has no opponent's pawns in front of it.  That's why I am mostly talking about the spirit of the famous Nimzowitch quote rather than following the exact definition.  I hope it helps to resolve the possible confusion.

Anatoly Karpov in his prime was probably the best positional chess player in history. Let's see how he treats the "criminal" in his games.

This is a nice little combo where the 'criminal' breaking free could quickly decide the game, except Smyslov missed it too and played 15.Bg5?

The next game was played in the first tournament in which Karpov participated after becoming the World Champion:

The critical moment of the game happened here:

Portisch has spent an hour calculating all the variations. But at the end, even though he saw the main line of the combination, he decided to play what looked like a simpler line, but missed a tricky defense by Karpov:

Of course Karpov learned his lesson from these games and later he became one of the best experts in this kind of position.

to be continued...

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