Happy doubled pawns
Some time ago I played a training game with one of the members of my chess study group.
I was very surprised to see that he played a setup that I had seen before from the hand of IM Rob Hartoch many years ago. Or so I thought.
Something like this for black :
I remember that position from years ago (1985?) when I was playing in the Dieren Open, the dutch open chess championship, a yearly event with hundreds or amateur chess players, as well as professional chess masters.
IM Rob Hartoch was there playing every year it seemed, and around that time the tourney had a paper tourney bulletin with chess games from the master group.
I remember that one day I was glancing through the tourney bulletin, and I was kind of shocked to see that Hartoch had played this line with the doubled e pawn as black, and he easily drew that game.
I was amazed because I never saw that line or setup before, and the pawn setup looked so ugly, that I found it hard to believe that white didn't get an advantage easily.
Years later I played white in various blitz games against the same setup from black, and I could very often not manage to break the black setup, and sometimes I had to be careful not to lose !
The weak looking doubled e pawns can be very powerful, and do actually control quite some squares in the center, of which square d4 is quite important for black, and also the control over the f4 square is often a huge bonus.
The idea of black is to have the black king in the center, close to the doubled e pawns, and then get play over the half open f file, bring a black knight to f4, and when the time is ready start to push the kingside pawns.
A while ago I talked about that setup with a National Master that I happen to know (we analyse every now and then), and he said that this setup was analysed thorougly in the past, and annotated in magazines, and one suggestion was to bring the white knight to h3, and then to d3 to put more pressure on the black e5 pawn.
However, I just found out that there's a big difference from what Hartoch and others played, and what was played in the training game.
The training game went like this :
But that is not what was in my "blurred" memory !
In the training game the black knight is already on c6, and that is a bit worse for black I just realized.
Looking up that very position, it shows very few games in several opening databases, and a very good score for white (60 to 70%).
The position in my memory from many years ago turns out to be this :
And for that one line, the databases show more than 700 chess games with white winning 25% and more than 50% draw!
A huge difference !
Let me end with a nice game of Rob Hartoch I just came across.
A game with different opening, and with white, but ... so what ?