Pawn levers are something I struggle with. Nigel highly recommends Hans Kmoch’s book Pawn Power in Chess and while I’ve read it and clearly need to do so again. I have found the language difficult but it is worth persevering with.
Nigel has advised me to spend my time thinking about the pawn structure when it’s my opponent’s turn.
When looking at this game with me he said the main thing for White in this structure is to develop the Kingside and control d5.
He (and me – with hindsight!) saw that 16. 0-0-0 is the wrong plan. The correct idea (before 0-0-0!) was to use the c4 lever (with the off chance of a b4 lever). The idea is to weaken Black’s pawns and gain access to his King.
My thinking needs to be Lever led. In his book Kmoch talks about the Headpawn – the pawn furthest forward. This is where our focus should be when looking for levers.
Here is a game that highlights my lack of structural understanding! It was helpful to go through it with Nigel. Below is the game with Nigel’s notes. Nigel explained the big problem of my 10.dxe5 was that it gave Black the c5 square. 10. b5 would have been better.
He showed me two games of Korchnoi’s games (including one against Nigel!) with similar structural themes.
Here is a great game by Capablanca. The game is below along with a link to a video analysis.
Capablanca plays Black in a Queens Gambit Declined.
Useful advice – when playing against hanging pawns it’s generally a good idea to go for piece exchanges.
15…c4 is an instructive move. The video provides Capablanca’s own thinking behind this move.
This was (another) game that made it clear to me that I need to learn a new d4 system and forget about the Stonewall. A strong player easily neutralises White’s initiative.
It was really good to go through the game with Nigel and I found his ideas about an e5 lever very instructive. His line starting 17.d4 is very interesting. I am terribly materialistic and tend not to look for sacrifices but this would have been very nice. I’m working to understand what makes this sacrifice worthwhile. As Nigel says the Bd2 becomes useful, White has control of the open e file and there are possibilities of his Knight coming into an attack on g5.
At the very end I started seeing things and blundered horribly. I was convinced that I couldn’t stop his King coming coming forward to e5 and wanted some lever on the Kingside. Clearly I can stop his King and 39. h5 would have been a dead draw. The marvels of the mind….
I enjoy playing this system against the Kings Indian. White throws all his queenside pawns up the board. I was pleased with the lever 14.a5 but I should have followed up with 15.bxc5 and 16.Qb1 when I would have had potential good outposts in the centre, control of the open b file and a weakness on a6 to work with.
26.g4 is an interesting move in the resulting rook and knight endgame that I will aim to remember. It aims to break up Black’s pawns and give the king a way out.
I had the edge at the end but it was complicated and as we were both short of time I was happy to take a draw.
I didn’t play particularly well however I was very pleased to do so well against such a strong player. I didn’t understand 6…Bd6 and became nervous about both Black’s bishops being pointed against my Kingside. Nigel explained that my fears were unwarranted and I should have played 7.Nc3 rather than 7. Ne5 (Nigel’s comments below). The game went on and I was no worse. Black wanted to win and sacrificed the exchange with 13…Rxf3.
It certainly unbalanced the position and on another day White’s greater understanding of the resulting positions could easily have won it. I was wrong to take his rook with my pawn (I was worried about my pawns being weak and losing more of them). I should have gone for greater activity by taking with the queen and dominating the kingside with Qf7 and then finding a nice home for her on h5. I made more mistakes especially by giving up my bishop for Black’s Knight and inflicting serious dark square weaknesses on myself. (I’m wondering if I’ll ever get the hang of light and dark square weaknesses!). Soon I was no longer better but Black blundered with 26…d3.
This was a game I played in the Yorkshire intercity league, The Woodhouse Cup. I was Black in the London System and managed to gain the bishop pair and a better pawn structure on move 4. This gave me an advantage which I soon lost. A common feature in these Q pawn positions is the Queen face off on b3 and b6. As Nigel says “Normally there’s a battle in such positions to get the other guy to capture on b3 or b6.” I thought it was okay to swap off but I misjudged the advantage the half open file could give White for example with the line 9.dxc5 Bxc5 10.b4. As it was Black’s position is cramped and difficult to play but White blundered with 19.Ra8.
While I enjoyed this game Nigel has advised me to move on from these stonewall openings. Which I understand I need to do, however, finding the time is a problem. Although, writing that I was reminded of something I read recently about removing the phrase “finding the time” from your vocabulary because we can never find the time and changing it to “make the time”. I’m working on a schedule for work, exercise and study. I’m finding it challenging but useful. It’s important to decide what to stop doing as well as what to do.
My opponent said he used to play the Colle himself but had forgotten the lines. He lost time with 6…a6 and then blundered with 10…d4 and rather than settled for a being a pawn down went all in.
Last time I said that Nigel advised studying Karpov – Unzicker in order to understand how to play the position I had.
Here is a Youtube video by Kingscrusher that looks at the game in detail. It’s worth half an hour of your time!
This was a game in our club championship. Ben looked to avoid theory with 1.a3.
Nigel stopped at 9…Qe7 preferring 9…Re8. He suggested that the Queen can become a target on e7 to Nf5 ideas. Re8 may be better to prepare …Nf8-g6 and whether White plays e3-e4 or d3-d4, Black gets some kind of space gaining wedge. If White does neither he is permanently short of space. Nigel showed an example variation 10.e4 Nf8 11.O-O Ng6 12.g3 d4 13.c5 Bc7 14.Nc4 b5 15.Ncd2 a5 which he said starts to look like a Spanish with colours reversed. Black’s space is on the queenside – see Karpov – Unzicker (below) to know how to treat this position.
Nigel didn’t like 11…e4 – “Dissolving the Duo is a big deal!”. My thinking was solely focused on playing e4. To try and get some sort of attack going. Seeing the Karpov game will hopefully open my thinking to more possibilities.
This is 2 minute video of the Karpov – Unzicker. Karpov’s Ba7 is particularly instructive.