Kenilworth Kibitzer

A blog for members of the Kenilworth Chess Club.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Dead Man's Pawns

#10  Taimanov-Keres (click here to view on

This game, though slightly flawed, gives us a look at some possible strategic choices when hanging pawns are on the board.  (For those that want a refresher, here's parts 1, 2, and 3 of my primer on hanging pawns).   In this situation (White to move), I would judge the position to slightly favor Black based on the following: several minor pieces are missing which favors the side without hanging pawns, Black's heavy pieces are already in position to put pressure on the pawns, and the blockade at c4 is begging to be put into place.  The factors in White's favor are the slightly poor placement of Black's queen (ideally it would be fighting for control of e4/e5/f4) and his freedom of movement on the kingside which provides ground for counterattack.

Bronstein:  The classic starting position for an attack against the hanging c- and the event White continues passively, Black has several attacking options:
a) Nc6-a5-c4, blockading the c-pawn and pressing on the a-pawn;
b) rook maneuvers on the c- and d-files;
c) undermining the d-pawn by means of ...b6-b5, ...a7-a5, and ...b5-b4.
Black's final plan will depend quite a bit on White's counterplay: whether he settles into a bunker defense, or carries the play to the center with c3-c4 and d4-d5, or attacks the black king.

20. h3    Rc7
21. Re4!?  Na5     (White is gearing for a kingside attack, Black focuses on the c-file)
22. Nd2  Qd5    (22. Ne5?  Nb3 and 23....Nc5 wins the exchange)
23. Rg4  f5          (Bronstein notes the 'primitive' threats 24. Rxg7+ KxR 25. Qg3+ and Qxc7 or 24. Ne4)
The play has become more dynamic, which if nothing else is a psychological victory for White.
24. Rg3  
24. ....  Rdc8
Bronstein prefers the dynamic 24. .... e5!?  immediately nuking the center, with 25. Qxf5 exd as ultimately favoring Black; a better move, though surely not by much.
25. Re3   Nc4
26. Nxc4 Rxc4
27. Qd2   Qc6?!   (an inaccuracy - trading the e-pawn for the c-pawn but better done by R8c6 first [Bronstein])
28. Re1  Rxc3
29. Rxe6  Qc4
30. Qf4    Rc1      
Now on the defensive, Black looks for a way to simplify toward a draw - a clear sign the previous 10 moves have not been kind to him.

31. Qxf5  Qxd4
32. Rxc1  Rxc1+
33. Kh2   Qd7
Here Bronstein notes that White is for choice here because of his superior king safety - really the only differentiating factor, but under time pressure more than enough to bring a decisive result at times.
34. Qe4  Rc8
35. f4     Rf8
36. Qe5   Qd2
37.  f5     
37. ....  Qa5?       Under pressure, Black goes toward a dubious rook endgame (....Rf7 was better)
38. QxQ  bxQ
39. g4?
But White returns the favor, spending a badly needed tempo on defense, when Re5 is close to winning.
39. ....  Rb8      1/2-1/2

In summary, from a slightly advantageous position against hanging pawns, Black was induced to allow weakness in his kingside through some dynamic play from White, and Black slid into an inferior position in a sharpened position.  White did very well to change the nature of the game from defensive to tactical, and Black did not sense this shift in time.  A good example of a possible way to handle the hanging pawns. 


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