The Passed Pawn Blockade

In general blockading is a very rich concept. Some opening systems are designed around the concept of blockading. For example in the Gruenfeld Exchange Variation one of Black’s strategies is to blockade a White passed d-pawn and simultaneously try to roll his queen side pawns forward. Meanwhile the following variation of the French Defense demonstrates the importance of blockade in order to limit the activity of the opponent’s pieces: 1. e4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. d4 c5 6. dxc5 Nc6 7. Bf4 Bxc5 8. Bd3 f6 9. exf6 Nxf6 10. O-O O-O 11. Ne5 blockading the e5 square.

In this article, we will deal with blockade in relation to passed pawns only.

Q: Which piece is the best blockader of the passed pawn?

A: Usually a piece whose activity can’t be restricted by the passer is the best one, therefore knights and Bishops are good blockaders and in the endgame the king turns to be a very effective blockader. Though, it is not necessarily true every time.

Here is an instructive example that illustrates the blockade and how to fight against a blockading strategy.

Max Euwe against Herman Pilnik in 1950

Q: How would you proceed with the Black pieces?
A: In the game Black played 12…Nc4 with the idea of …Nd6 which not only improves knight’s placement but also blocks White’s passed pawn.

Q: How should White fight against Black’s strategy?
A: White strategy should be to roll the d-pawn down the board so the first step should be to remove the blockade on d6.

Here are two options:
A) 13.Nb5 which can be met by Nc7!.
B) 13. f4 this is bit deep idea of removing the blockade by rolling the pawn to e5.
One should check both ideas deeply before proceeding and they might also be played later on.

In the game, White played in another way:

13. b3?!

There is nothing wrong with this move but it does not address the key issue of how to advance White’s d-pawn.

13…Nd6 14.Be3 b6 15.Qd2 Re8 16.f4

The idea mentioned above.

16…Nc7 17.Rf2 exf4

In view of the strong hold on e5 that Black gets.

18.Bxf4 Ba6 19. Re1

19.Bxd6 is bad because of 19…Qxd6 20. Rc1 (20. Qf4 is blunder due to the pin along the long diagonal.) 20…Re7! (Vacating the e8 square for knight.)
21.Qf4 Ne8! with a strong blockade on d6 and strong hold on e5. Black has the upper hand here.

19…Qe7

Again with a nice grip over e5 and d6 squares. Black stands better if not winning, here is the rest of the game in case you’re interested.

Ashvin Chuahan