Is a doubled c-pawn worth a Bishop? Peter Lane Contents
- Doubled c-pawns and the Bishop pair in the Nimzo-Indian
- Doubled c-pawns and the Bishop pair in the French Winawer
This is one of the great themes of the Nimzo-Indian and French Winawer. We will look at it in both contexts: First, the Nimzo-Indian.
This method, developed by Huebner, forces the exchange before White can escape by castling. Black then creates a blockade on the dark squares.
7. bxc3 d6 8. e4 e5
9. d5 Ne7 10. Nh4 h6 11. f4
Black exchanges White's remaining Knight, leaving White with two Bishops but in a closed position where Bishops lack scope.
Black is not tempted by [11...exf4 12. Bxf4 g5 13. e5 Ng4 14. e6! Nf6 15. Bg3 => with a strong attack]
12. Nxg6 fxg6 13. fxe5 dxe5 14. Be3 b6 15. O-O O-O 16. a4
Another Black weakness but the last opportunity for White to develop any activity. And if White cannot or does not attack b6, it is not really weak!
17. Rb1 Bd7 18. Rb2 Rb8 19. Rbf2
Perhaps White would have been better sticking to pressure on the b-file.
19...Qe7 20. Bc2 g5 21. Bd2 Qe8 22. Be1 Qg6
Impertinent note from typist: when I first came across this game as an example of weak pawns I was confused - whose pawns are supposed to be weak? The answer really is White's, because his Bishops are hemmed in, and can neither easily defend the White weaknesses nor attack the Black ones - hence the Black weakness are more apparent than real.
23. Qd3 Nh5 24. Rxf8+ Rxf8 25. Rxf8+ Kxf8
With the Rooks off White can only wait and defend.
26. Bd1 Nf4 27. Qc2??
27... Bxa4 0-1
What does our noted theoretician, Nimzovitch himself, have to say about this?
We can now make a few comments about Spassky's play:
Firstly, White obligingly pushed d4-d5 blocking the game, whereas any attempt by Black to exchange on d4 would open the position for the Bishop pair.
Secondly, the Knight's development on f3 impedes the push of the f-Pawn
Thirdly, the rapid blocking tof the position by fxe5 and a2-a4 worked against the Bishops.
Lastly, a continued assault on b6 was needed to constrain Black's deployment in some way.
Let us consider an alternative system of development based upon the Deferred (Closed) Saemisch Variation, a sometime recommendation of Keene, and a game with an interesting strategic point.
White loses a move playing a3 to force the chosen formation.
5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 O-O
(too early? - DR's notes from the Express and Echo)
7. Bd3 d6 8. Ne2 e5 9. e4 Qc7
White leaves the f-pawn free to advance; Black's reply avoids the pin on g5.
10. O-O Nc6
(Black is playing normal Nimzo-Indian moves, but White's opening (with Ne2 rather than Nf3) is too dangerous for normal methods. ...Ne8 and f5 was called for - DR)
11. f4 Bg4?
[11... cxd4 12. cxd4 Nxd4 13. Nxd4 exd4 14. Bb2 Qb6 15. Qc2 and e5]
Anyone else want to call this a losing move? Note that Black threatens to exchange on e2, and take at d4. If White takes dxc5 and fxe5, c4 and e4 become vulnerable to the Knights. Otherwise White must play d5 - but doesn't this lead to a blocked position with White's Bishop ineffectual as we saw before?
12. d5! Ne7 13. f5!
Isn't the first commandment, "Bishop like open spaces, Knights like closed positions"? - But White controls so much of the board, can you find a good square for a Knight? Note that fxe5, "opening the position", woud have been a serious error, allowing ...Nd6 and ...Ba6.
13...Nd7 (else Bg5) 14. Qe1 Bxe2 15. Bxe2 f6 16. Qh4!
Now Black sees the idea!
16...Rfd8 17. Rf3 Nf8 18. Rg3 Nc8?
Dropping a vital Pawn, but:
[18...Nd7 19.Qh6 g6 20.fxg6 hxg6 21.Rh3;
A) 19...g5 20.Bxg5 fxg5 21.Qxg5 Neg6 22.fxg6 Nxg6 (22...hxg6 23.Rh3+ Kg8 24.Bg4) 23.h4;
B) 19...Ng8 20.Bxg7+;
18...Kf7 19.Bh5+ g6 20.fxg6+ hxg6 (20...Nexg6 21.Rf3 Qe7 22.Bg5 Nd7 23.Raf1 anyone fancy Black?) 21.Rf3 Ng8 22.Bxg6+ Kxg6 23.Rg3+ Kf7 24.Qh5+ Ke7 25.Rg7#]
19. Qxf6 Rd7 20. Qg5 Qd8
The 'interesting strategic point' is that while the Knights still always require outpost squares in blocked positions, the Bishops can work around all but the tightest blockade to find a diagonal (unless they are required for defence of pawns attacked by active enemy Knights - DR).
[11... Na5 12. Bg5 h6 13. Bxf6 Qxf6 14. Qa4]
12. Bg5 Ng6 13. Nh5 Bg4 14. Nxf6+ gxf6 15. Bxf6 Bxd1 16. Bxd8 Rexd8 17. Rxd1 Nf4 18. Bf1!
Hanging on to the Bishop! 18... Kf8 19. g3 Nh5 20. Bh3
The ideal structure for Black actually looks quite different to the Huebner, with f7-f5 in place of d6/e5, and an assault on e4, i.e. forget about blocking the Bishops, and instead fight for chances in a more dynamic set-up.
[10. Ne2! Nb8!? 11. Nf4 Nc6! 12. Nxe6!? "Discuss..."]
[10... Qa4 prevents c4 11. Nf3 Ne7 12. Ng5 Kd7 13. h4 Nb8 14. Rg1 Nbc6 15. g4 Na5 16. Rb1 Nc4 White's King's-side counterplay is not enough: -+ Atkinson-Cooke 1965]
11. Ne2 Nc6 12. O-O Na5 13. Nf4 Nc4 14. Qe2 O-O-O 15. Nd3 h6 16. a4 a5 17. Nb2 Qc6 18. Nxc4 Qxc4 19. Qxc4 dxc4 20. f4?? Ne7 21. Rf3 Nd5
11... Nb8 12. Nh3 Nc6
makes good use of the Queen on d3
[13. Nf4 Na5 and Black has achieved a favourable blockade]
13... dxc4 14. Qxc4 Qd7
15. Be3 Na5 16. Qb4 Qc6 17. Nf4 Ne7 18. c4 Nxc4 19. Rc1 b5 20. Nxe6 Nd5 21. Qc5 Qxc5 22. Nxc5 Kf7
The Pawns are not good or bad in themselves, only in how they determine the relative strengths of the opposing pieces.
Silman's 'Re-assess your chess' advises:
When considering an exchange of Bishop for Knight, ask yourself:
- is the position open or closed?
- Will there be support points for the Knight(s)? and if
- can the Knight(s) get there?
- does it matter if they do? [i.e. are they away from the main arena of play?]
- what can you do in the meantime with the Bishop(s)?