The Problem With Commital Formations

At club level a very popular approach is to set up a particular formation regardless of what the opponent plays. A triangle of pawns on e3, d4 and c3 is one example, and White might also put a pawn on f4 to produce a Stonewall Attack. The fact that this can also be used as Black against 1.d4 and Flank Openings is often seen as a bonus because there’s less to learn. But there are also dark sides.

The main issue is that a variety of formations are needed to cultivate one’s positional understanding, without this players stagnate. There’s also a practical case for not being too predictable; if someone knows what set-up you’re going to adopt he can lay out his own forces so that they adapt.

Here’s a stonewall formation getting taken apart by the then youthful Vlastimil Hort with White never really getting much play. It’s not that White is lost out of the opening, and I’m sure that improvements can be found. It’s just that it’s a serious handicap, which you can well do without when facing powerful opposition.

Nigel Davies

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About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Besides teaching chess, Nigel is a registered tai chi and qigong instructor and runs several weekly classes.