My Instructive Failures #1: Karpov Counters b5 (Queen's Gambit Declined)
Learning the Exchange Queen's Gambit Declined was an Aha! moment for me. I first read about the opening in John Shaw's "Starting Out: The Queen's Gambit." In his introduction, Shaw bemoans White having to wonder which of all the different variations Black will play after 4.Bg5 but gleefully pronounces "an Exchange Variation player can smugly say: "Don't know, don't care." SOLD!
But there is more, the QGD exchange seemed to have clear and, to me, easily understandable plans. There is the Pillsbuy attack where White plays Ne5 and f4, the Botvinnik plan of Nge2, f3 and e4. Even Queenside castling with a brute force Kingside pawn storm was playable. But the most famous plan, and the one that seemed to embody simplicity itself was the Minority Attack.
What Shaw didn't mention was some of the counter measures that Black has against the Minority Attack. Specifically, my recent bane has been the b5 blockade which stops White from playing b5 himself and rendering White's Queenside play essential obsolete.
It looks as if Black has given himself a conically weak c pawn, but if Black can put a Knight on c4 his weakness is shielded. Also, because White has usually played Rb1, Black will have full use of the A-file when moves like Ra4 combined with a Bishop on d7 can expose the pawn on b4. (Which happened the game I am showing today.)
Sam Collins in his excellent DVD “Know the Terrain Vol 1: The Carlsbad Structure” demonstrates the effectiveness of this of this plan for Black, but doesn't mention any antidote for White. When Andrew Soltis reviews this structure in “Pawn Structure Chess” he only offhandedly mentioned that b5 is best met with e4, and then directs readers to the Supplemental Games without further note.
In my game, I compounded matters in that I went for this Minority attack despite my opponent giving me clear indication that he planned to nail down the Queenside with b5. It's a common amateur mistake to proceed with your own plans irregardless of what the other side is doing. Today, you'll see me fall into the same trap.
To be fair, I did recognize that I needed to play e4 and even achieved a good position which I immediately threw away. A weakness in my own thinking is that the Minority Attack should enough to win on its own. In reality, the bigger picture is that the Minority Attack creates a Queenside weakness which hopefully will displace the Black pieces to a point where White can strike in the center with e4 or with Kingside play--something is something I need to work on.
I had a difficult time finding instructive examples of White's play in this structure as there doesn't appear to be a mainline that consistently leads to the structure in question. Ultimately, I came back to Solits's supplemental games, and found that his example is the best available.
Learning to combine the e4 break with a Minority Attack will be a major step in the right direction in improving my play. What better teacher than Karpov?
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