Giving Up A Fianchettoed Bishop To Win A Pawn May Not Be Worthwhile

I’ve been having a student study the classic game collection anthology by Irving Chernev, “Logical Chess: Move by Move”. Although there are flaws in this anthology, I still believe it is very instructive, if supplemented with close discussion and correction where appropriate: in fact, many times my student has asked good questions that provide an opportunity to refine or correct what is explained in the book. Here is one of the games in the book where questions were raised: game 12, Pitschak-Flohr, Liebwerda 1934, featuring a Reverse Dragon in which Chernev made it seem as though Black had the upper hand the whole way, when in fact, in some critical positions, White could have played better, illustrating the power of the fianchettoed Bishop.

The first missed opportunity

The first poor choice for White was when he failed to open up the center and unleash the power of the fianchettoed Bishop on g2 at no risk. This was after Black’s 11…Qd7, when White could have played g4 and then d4, resulting in both Bishops aiming at Black’s Queen side. Chernev did not mention this possible continuation for White.

The second missed opportunity

The second poor choice was subtle, occurring after White had given Black an opportunity to win the h3 Pawn with 13…Qxh3. White immediately regained a Pawn by giving up the fianchettoed Bishop by exchanging it for a Knight on c6 and then taking the c6 Pawn. Chernev does correctly indicate that White should have retained the Bishop, but suggested a defensive move Bg2, giving the impression that White needed to be in defensive mode.

But the reality is that by giving up his light-squared Bishop for the sake of winning a Pawn, Black was actually giving White good chances for an attack on Black’s Queen side. White could have played actively with 14 Nc5 Bxc5 15 Rxc5, securing the Bishop pair while retaining pressure against Black’s Queen side as well as the e5 Pawn, and plan to regain the Pawn only under advantageous conditions. In fact, Black has to play accurately or else face grave danger. Passive play will allow White to launch a ferocious attack against Black’s Knights and Pawns on the Queen side with ideas such as a4 or b4 aiming for a5 or b5, along with bringing the Queen over and doubling the Rooks on the c file, for example. Regaining the Pawn immediately was not as important as generating active piece play.

Granted, Chernev’s point in this game was to illustrate Black’s King side attack, but the instructive nature of this game was diminished by its not being as thoroughly one-sided as most of the other games in the anthology.

Franklin Chen

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About Franklin Chen

Franklin Chen is a United States Chess Federation National Master. Outside his work as a software developer, he also teaches chess and is a member of the Pittsburgh Chess Club in Pennsylvania, USA. He began playing in chess tournaments at age 10 when his father started playing in them himself but retired after five years, taking two decades off until returning to chess as an adult at age 35 in order to continue improving where he left off. He won his first adult chess tournaments including the 2006 PA State Game/29 and Action Chess Championships, and finally achieved the US National Master title at age 45. He is dedicated to the process of continual improvement, and is fascinated by the practical psychology and philosophy of human competition and personal self-mastery. Franklin has a blog about software development, The Conscientious Programmer and a personal blog where he writes about everything else, including his recent journey as an adult improver in playing music.