Strategy of 'My System', Lesson 4

Strategy of 'My System', Lesson 4

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We're learning chess strategy from the classic My System by Aaron Nimzovich. I'm your guide, likesforests. Grab a cold one, pull up a chair, and enjoy. :)

§1.6 - How to Manage the Center

Today I'm trying something interesting. I'm blending concepts from Fine's Ideas Behind the Chess Openings and Nimzovich's My System... I think they work well together.


Pawn Formations

According to Fine, White's ideal pawn structure in e-pawn openings is:

Ruy Lopez Formation
  • White has more central space
  • White has outposts on d5 and f5
  • Black's d6-pawn cramps his bishop and fixes his c-pawn

After 1.e4 e5, White achieves this by playing d2-d4 to eliminate Black's center pawn. Black then plays ...d7-d6 to restrain White's central pawn.

In contrast, Black ideal pawn structure in e-pawn openings is:

Vanished Center

  • Symmetric
  • No advantage for either side

Black achieves this by playing a timely ...d5 to execute White's center pawn.


Handling a Mobile Center Pawn

According to Nimzovich, there are three ways to handle a mobile central pawn:

  1. Execute it - This is the ideal. It corresponds to ...d5 and a Vanished Center.
  2. Ignore it - Pushing ahead with development in spite of your opponent's mobile central pawn requires you to calculate a possible advance every move.
  3. Restrain it - This is the simplest. It corresponds to ...d6 and a Ruy Lopez Formation.

Often all three will occur in a game. We ignore it at first, we restrain it when we have to, and we execute it as soon as we have the opportunity.


The Center Game

The Center Game (1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Qxd4) is one of the purest expressions of opening strategy. Let's walk through that example in detail with both authors in mind...

That Black was able to find an easy way to equalize is why most players abandoned the Center Game opening around 1900 or so, well before the heyday of Nimzovich or Fine.

The Scotch Game

The Scotch Game (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4) is an improvement on the Center Game and it's played often today, sometimes even at the highest levels.

Danish Gambit

The Danish Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3) is usually accepted, but Nimzowitsch discusses a playable and interesting way to decline it...

In this case, it was possible to ignore (heck, even tempt!) the advance of White's e-pawn. It was not necessary to waste time moving a pawn to restrain it.

Extra Credit:

 This position arose in tbonius-likesforests, 20-Aug-2008:

On the surface, this position may look very different than the ones we discussed earlier in this article, but there are definite similarities.


  1. How does today's discussion apply to this position?

  2. What candidate move does it suggest?

  3. Does that move work?

I welcome criticism and even praise if you feel it's deserved. Lesson 5 will be out next Friday... if you haven't already, Add me as a Friend to enjoy it hot off the press!

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I love endings and helping others learn to play. I placed 5th in my section at the World Open, won a recent U1600 with a perfect score, and aim to one day be a chess master. :)