A Sour Central Break

GM Illingworth
Apr 28, 2016, 1:05 AM |

After a long hiatus in blogging, I am back with an interesting concept to share with you - namely, when the central pawn break goes wrong!

But before I delve into this, I'd like to share with you a position from my coaching files - one I must have shown to at least 50 people already! 

From this example alone, we can understand what a difference a well-timed pawn break can make to our position. Indeed, you can find examples of this theme in virtually any master game. 
But my attention was drawn to two games in the current Chinese Women's Championship, where I noticed two players make exactly the same type of mistake, and in the same round to boot! Well, after such a coincidence, how could I not blog about It?
(to see the rest of the game, just click the question mark button)
From this game, we can draw the following lesson - a good pawn break can be played too soon! First make sure that your pawns don't become easy targets to attack once the position opens up from your pawn break, and make sure you have enough pieces developed to support it. In the notes you can see what a difference it made to have even one more piece (the c8-bishop) in the game when ...d5 is finally played.
For what it's worth, the following game is a nice model example from Black's perspective in handling the position after 8...d6:
But I digress - we should check out the other game of interest from the Women's Championship! It features a stronger player by comparison playing as Black (our Australian readers may recall her participation in last year's Doeberl Cup), but the same type of mistake occurring.
Now you will have the chance to guess all White's remaining moves in the game! Note that in some positions there will be equivalent options, but the puzzle feature only registers one 'correct' move, so if you play a move you consider just as good, just press the 'lightbulb' button to continue with the game. Enjoy!
I hope that this post has clarified what makes a central pawn break good or ineffectual, and demonstrated how to punish mistimed pawn breaks by your opponents! 

What games have you played where you or the opponent played a central pawn break (attacking the opponent's pawn with your own) that you regretted later? Post them below in the comments!

Also, if you enjoyed the material and want some quality chess instruction and files every week, check out my coaching page and message me to arrange a chess lesson. I recently became a Grandmaster and I'm also a qualified FIDE Trainer, making my living as a chess professional (i.e. mainly through chess coaching).