On the value of doubled central pawns

Apr 19, 2011, 12:05 AM |
In this game, we look at a Be7 French Tarrasch. I had purchased Watson's 'Play the French' and I believe this had served me well in this game. The Be7 line is rather peculiar (or really?) in the French, in that black makes some rather outrageous kingside pawn moves in g5-g4 etc. This uses the e7 Bishop, together with the Q, for support.If one looks at it more rationally, we might argue that this theme is common in several openings. I've used it in the QID (where we have the B similarly sitting on e7), and there are examples in Watson's Chess Strategy book where white sacs the g pawn (which, if accepted by the knight, leads to Rg1 and Rxg7 - assuming that the Bf8 is not there). There is also the notable example of the Keres attack in the Scheveningen where white drives away the f6 knight with g4 (again, relying on diagonal protection by the Q on d1). This same idea features in the QGD exchange (the Botvinnik system) with g4 being played. In all these, the common feature is the knight on KB3 (I switch to descriptive here) that gets kicked out by the g pawn. Having said that, one must of course say that it is all rather double edged, for obvious reasons.
The French version of the bayonet is perhaps the most outrageous looking of all of these. Black's 'inferior' side is the kingside, and it should cause discomfort in every bone within one to play such a move. But we see that black's play flows naturally. The d4 square - which, by the way, is central to several French formations - is severely under attack from teh Nc6, Qb3, and now g5-g4 that drives away one of the protectors. Also, the position is closed, with blocked central pawns, so we don't necessarily have to worry too much about making flank moves.
In the game, I (playing black) had probably erred by not trading pawns on d4, which leads to some fluidity, and a sequence of moves ensue that leads to an exchange sac (nearly forced, by the way) with pawn compensation. Furthermore, black's central pawns become doubled. I had judged this strange formation as being rather favorable to me, if I could hold the pawns. The play then revolves around keeping these pawns. Black's minor pieces hold the balance rather well in this game. A very complicated game results where white fights for rook activity, and trying to undermine the doubled central pawn complex. Apparently, he goes wrong with rook trades later, after which, the black minor pieces become quite strong, and the central doubled pawn complex advances, winning the game for black. Also, for most of the game, white's Bc1 is paralyzed. This was a curiously useless French bishop.