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My System Walkthrough (1,2) - The Open File

May 1, 2015, 3:36 PM 0

Part 1: The Elements

2. The Open File


1. Introduction, general comments

The Open file is the cornerstone of "My System". It may be considered the favourite "child" of Nimzowitsch's conceptual imagination.

The main objective of the open file is to occupy the 7th and 8th ranks. To do so one should set up an outpost on the file whilst simultaneously keeping watch on the 7th rank, and breaking down the opponent's resistance on that file. Therefore, setting up outposts are subsidiary to the main goal of achieving the 7th and 8th ranks.

Definition: A file is open when one's own pawn does not block the path of a major piece.

The definition of open-ness and closed-ness is not affected by whether it is attacking a piece or empty squares.

2. How open files occur

A line becomes open when one's own pawn disappears from that line. It can happen with "friendly" exchanges.


Position your pieces centrally and make sure you don't intice your opponent to try a pawn roller



3.The goal of every operation on a file

The idea of operations on a file is to infiltrate the 7th or 8th rank by that file.

If for example reaching the 7th rank by taking the long way round were adorned, this would be a waste of time and not be exploiting the open file that has been made. For example, if the d file were open and the Rook was to journey from d1-d4-a4-a7, this would not likely be directly exploiting the d-file.

Some rudementary operations on a file:

Now with the Black Queen on d7 instead of b8:


4. Possible obstacles to the operations down a file

The Evoluntionary and Revolutionary attacks on opposing pawns...


A joke from Nimzowitsch:

"Heartlessness is not a serious desease, for it causes little pain to those affected."


It can be of great importance the winning of free access in the 7th and 8th ranks. Pawns however, are going to be the natural defenders of thier King and country's territory.


Protecting with pieces is essentially a fallacy, only a pawn can protect over a long period of time. A "protected" pawn, is one that is defended by another pawn.

If we manage to get an offending pawn out of its structure, it will be attacked by many pieces. The advantages are not only the material win, but the breaking down of resistance along that file.

The skill is in first bringing the pieces into attacking positions, and then ensueing the inevitable struggle. The opposition will aim to protect as often as we attack. We gain the upper hand by reducing the ammount of defenders which can be achieved by:

- driving them away
- exchanges
- Cutting off a defensive piece

The attack therefore transfers from the initial target to its defenders.

This endgame thus demonstrates:



Another example:

What we have seen so far can be called evolutionary attack. It is the method of focussing on a point and building up greater forces to attack it.

Lets have a look at a revolutionary example

This game highlights the difference between "evolutionary" and a "revolutionary" attack.

Another example

The idea behind Revolutionary attack is in forcibly clearing a way into the 7th or 8th rank.

What order should you play the above methods of attack?

You should first focus your attacking forces on the offending pawn, and whilst doing so, keep an eye out for oppertunities to put the defending pieces in unfavourable and crampt positions. Often defending pieces get in each others way due to lack of space. After this, then consider if a forceful breakthrough would be advantageous.

5. Restricted advance on a file with the idea of giving it up for another file, or the indirect exploitation of a file - The file as a springboard


6. The outpost

By "outpost", we refer to one of our own pieces (normally a Knight) that is protected by a pawn and is on an open file within the enemy grounds.

Let's first look at the following:

The strength of the outpost lies not so much in its own power but from the power of the rear rank of the open file it is on, and of the pawn that is protecting it.
Therefore, the Outpost must be supported by the Open file behind it be protected via pawn protection from one side.

From Giuoco Piano:


The outpost of a flank file should be occupied by a major piece.
The flank files consist of files a,b,g and h. Files c,d,e and f are central files.


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