I'd always assumed that Capablanca's rule was nearly as well-known as how the bishop moves, but after playing through a game from the German Bundesliga, it occurred to me that good old Capablanca's pearls of wisdom could be like the Orthodox Queen's Gambit Declined - so old that it has been forgotten and may as well be new.
Let's test if you know and understand Capablanca's Rule already, by making your move in the following two theoretical positions from the King's Indian Defence, Mar del Plata Variation:
Now let's try a more modern example:
Okay, how did you go? If you didn't get them both right on the first try, don't worry - by knowing Capablanca's Rule you can immediately come to the right continuation. Speaking of which, this is Capablanca's Rule:
When you have one bishop left on the board, place your pawns on the opposite colour squares to your bishop.
I can hear the protesting from each corner of the world - 'But Max, the positions contained two bishops for each side, how can we apply this rule and still avoid a schism in our chess church?'
Well, you may have noticed that in both games, we were playing to exchange off one set of bishops - and by looking at what colour complex our pawn chain and the opponent's pawn chain was on, we could determine which set of bishops we would rather exchange. In this King's Indian structure, Black dreams of trading the dark-squared prelate because his central pawns are fixed on dark squares, whereas White goes gooey-eyed at the prospect of exchanging the light-squared bishops, because their pawn chain is fixed on the light squares!
Just to demonstrate that this motif is not limited to closed positions, let's see how you go with the following position, now that you know what you're aiming for:
This one was easier, wasn't it? Anyway, we've filled our quota of opening positions for today - let's see the game that was the original inspiration behind this post:
Of course, this rule does have its exceptions, but I find them to be quite rare indeed - no wonder I mention Capablanca's Rule at least twice a week in my chess lessons! To recap, my advice is to treat your bishops with care - look at the pawn structure to determine which bishop you would rather keep on the board/exchange. You might also think about it in reverse, when judging a pawn break - will the arising structure be good for my remaining bishop, or his for that matter?
Have you recently played a game where you or the opponent had your bishop and pawns working in harmony, or maybe one with a 'Travers bishop' (locked in on its initial square by its own pawns)? Go on, post it below in the comments!