World Champions and the Panov-Botvinnik Attack (I)

| 18 | Opening Theory

As we had mentioned last week, today we will be taking a look into the Panov-Botvinnik attack against the Caro-Kann defense. We will discuss some of the important positions and the different main variations of the opening like the previous week. We thought about some suggestions last week on flipping the board, We think it is important for a player to understand the ideas of both sides of an opening in order to gain the right perspective. Hence, we have decided to show some example games that display the strengths and weaknesses of both sides. For this purpose we will stick to the convention of having the winning side on the bottom always.

Before we go into any of the opening moves, we would like to talk about one of most important aspect in chess, Pawn Structures. It is also referred to as Pawn Skeleton, not without a proper reason. Pawn structures mostly form the basis of all strategies and ideas on a chess board. We can think of the simple analogy of the human body. There can be no proper movement in our body without the bones or the skeleton. If we try to flex our body in a direction that is not supported by our skeleton, then our bones will simply crack! This is what happens on a chess board too, if one tries to ignore the pawn structure and play with random ideas, one's position will crack  too.

Anyways, the reason we are talking about pawn structure today is because the opening that we are going to study is based one one of the most important pawn formations called the Isolated Queen Pawn, which we will continue to refer to in the article as IQP. Moreover, IQP has been a very popular topic for study as it arises out of many top level openings such as Queens Gambit Accepted, Queens Gambit Declined, Sicilian Alapin, Nimzo Indian and many more. So, let us take a look at this pawn formation first to get some ideas about the opening.


The IQP is one of the common pawn structures arising out of the Panov-Botvinnik attack, therefore let us discuss some basic ideas for both sides based of this pawn structure...
1. White definitely has a weaker pawn structure, so an endgame would not favor him, hence he should try to keep his pieces on the board and try to initiate an attack on the black king.
2. White has more space for his minor pieces and better control over the center.
3. Black on the other hand should favor exchanges and prefer an endgame. His lack of space can be neutralized slowly by exchanging more pieces. 
4. In most cases, white's better co-ordination of his pieces and strong central control will give him the upper hand after the liquidation in the center with d5.
Now that we have seen some of the basic ideas of IQP, let us take a look at the games that can give us a better grasp of these ideas.
When black does not defend properly against white's ideas it is bad enough, but one can only imagine how much worse it can get if you do not hold yourself against Mikhail Tal!

We have seen what happens when white can achieve his ideas. He completed his development, kept his pieces intact and launched a strong attack on the kingside which pretty much looked impossible for black to defend.
Now let us look at what happens when black succeeds in his ideas. Keep in mind that the next game is actually a rapid game! Our current world champion Vishwanathan Anand slowly outplays the young Rajdabov.

We believe that this game is very subtle yet very important as it emphazises what normal piece exchanges and endings would do to white. It is clear that white has to always be active and keep creating threats. If he becomes idle, black can slowly take over.
Next week, we will continue to investigate these crucial positions.

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