The Power Of White’s Pawn On e6

A position came up during a session with a young student in which I wanted to illustrate to him the power of gambits, because he has a materialist bent and likes to snatch Pawns.

While showing him a gambit, we happened to reach one of those positions in which Black has a Pawn on d5 and White has a Pawn on e5, but Black’s light-squared Bishop is no longer covering e6, and therefore White has the opportunity to push the Pawn all the way to e6. The point is that Black’s dark-squared Bishop is shut in and therefore White can work to develop quickly and launch an attack with, in essence, an extra piece.

I first saw this theme in my youth in the famous game Spielmann-Landau, 1933. It has popped up again and again (often in the Caro-Kann) and I was pleased that the theme came up spontaneously in an even easier context for him to understand.

My little demo

We were just knocking around pieces when I was showing him gambits when an opportunity to get a Pawn to e6, even without a sacrifice, turned up. I had him play Black while I knocked out moves as White: not necessarily the best moves at all, but moves that I felt would illustrate certain themes well for his level of play:

  • The cramping power of the Pawn on e6.
  • The value of quick development even at the cost of a further sacrifice.
  • A final sacrifice to break through for mate.

Just as the games of Paul Morphy and Adolf Anderssen were instructional and inspirational to me when I was young, I thought an improvisational creation together of something in their spirit would intrigue him and stick in his mind. I made sure to point out that in this game, he might as well not have had the King Bishop and King Rook on the board.

The Spielmann-Landau 1933 game

Franklin Chen


Author: 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.