World Champions and the Panov-Botvinnik Attack (I)

  • GM thamizhan
  • | Apr 9, 2009

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.


  • 8 years ago


    Excellent - I wish I could hold my nerve like that in rook endings!

    Took the words out of my mouth... I haven't looked at nearly enough Anand games... I only know the attacking Anand, this game shows the positional, and the really great technical Anand too. Wow. Is he considered a "universal" player? He sure looks like one here.

  • 8 years ago


    greeat article!

  • 8 years ago

    GM thamizhan


          Yeah it is similar with black pieces too. Except black does not always get an opportunity to launch an attack, so instead he can try for active piece play and active threats. But the basic idea is still the same, you have to play for initiative, in the long run if you don't do anything, then the endgame will be worse for the person with IQP.

  • 8 years ago


    I found this instructive as I play the QGD/Tarrasch Defense and I often end up with an QP as Black. How much of this IQP theory (specifically the four ideas listed after the first "pawn skeleton" diagram) applies when it's Black that has the IQP in the Tarrasch?

  • 8 years ago


    Very nice lecture. I find it very instructive to study games with a specific theme to look for.

    Thank you!

  • 8 years ago



  • 8 years ago


    Grandmasters show how to bring their pieces to victory in seemingly innocuous positions. Great handling of the minor pieces by both Tal and Vishy

  • 8 years ago


    Many times I have found myself getting into these positions and situations

    and have found and lost my way both as black and white. the clarity of your

    posit is grand...thanks. I hope I can retain and use these useful ideas to

    CRUSH my opponents...just kidding (?) .  Look forward to your next offering.

  • 8 years ago


    Great article... i have used this idea once or twice... nice to know the deeper theory of IQP.

  • 8 years ago


    I have never seen this idea.

  • 8 years ago


    Thanks for the lesson! Apart from the clear explanations, I think it also helps not to have too many variations in the move list - otherwise it can become confusing.

    Well done!

  • 8 years ago


    Great teaching!!!

  • 8 years ago

    NM ih8sens

    Wow!  You just did what Nimzovich and Silman couldn't do!  You actually got bonehead me to understand exactly what white should be doing when he has an IQP.  I like the bishop retreat to provoke a kingside weakness little motif there.  Fascinating.  The other game was great too but if anyone's good at trading down to an endgame it's Vishy :)

  • 8 years ago


    Excellent - I wish I could hold my nerve like that in rook endings!

  • 8 years ago


    Wow this is a very good illustration of a point nailed down. And very easy to read too. Please  post some more of this type. You sir definitely has a talent to teach. Thanks a lot for the post.

  • 8 years ago


    Very instructive and Tal is always worth watching, particularly when he has a sacrificial attack brewing! However the second game was by far the most informative. The subtlety of using the F6 knight for the blockade instead of the more intuitive 20. Ne7-d5 was awesome for rapid play.

    By the way it was Philidor who said "Pawns are the soul of chess."

  • 8 years ago


    Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience

    Very clear and usefull comments

  • 8 years ago


    nice games!

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