23 September 2013

Lesson of the Week

King's Pawn Opening

Black's second move in the King's Pawn Opening may dramatically influence the course of the game. After the common moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3, Black must decide how to defend the e-pawn that is under attack. Alternately, Black might counter White's threat with an attack on e4. Some of the possible moves that Black might choose offer White the opportunity for immediate advantage.

Last week, we looked at a model game played by Paul Morphy when he was twelve years old in which his opponent defended the e5 pawn with 2...Qf6. Morphy's effective harassment of the Black queen well illustrates the pitfalls of that choice as Black's second move.

This week, we look at a game featuring another bad idea for Black: 2...Bd6.

White to move

I have seen this position quite a few times in youth tournaments. But, there are very few games in the databases with this position.

Why is Black's move bad? This move blocks the d-pawn, reducing the mobility and coordination of Black's pieces. But, if the bishop can safely redeploy to c7 before White mounts an attack, Black might avoid suffering too much.

Our model game for exploring how White might take advantage of this error was played in 2005 on www.ChessWorld.net. The time control was 10 moves in 50 days with a maximum of ten days for any one move. Both players had plenty of time to find good moves. Even so, the game ended quickly by correspondence standards, lasting one month, 9 Nov 2005 - 9 Dec 2005.

I had White.

3.Bc4 h6

A game between strong masters continued 3...Nc6 4.0–0 Nf6 5.Nc3 0–0 6.a3 h6 7.d3 Re8 8.Nh4?! loses time. White intends Nf5 to attack the bishop, but Black easily stops this plan with a natural move. (8.Be3 was better) 8...Nd4 9.Be3 c6 10.Ba2 Bc7 and Black is okay, although White eventually won. Strzemiecki,Z (2402) -- Kolosowski,M (2439) Warsaw 2012.

4.d3 c5

Black has made another poor move. Although it frees c7 for the bishop, preparing to get it out of the way of the d-pawn, this move both weakens d5 and renders the bishop on d6 vulnerable. 4...Nc6 was a better choice for Black.

5.Nc3 a6 6.a4

I was concerned to provide a square for the bishop to retreat should Black thrust forward the queenside pawns.

6.0–0 was better 6...b5 is not a threat 7.Bb3.

6...Nf6 7.Be3

7.g4! was worth considering 7...Nc6 (7...Nxg4 8.Rg1 Nf6 9.Rxg7) 8.g5 hxg5 9.Nxg5 Rf8± with clear advantage for White.

7...0–0 8.Qd2

Black to move

Every move has a purpose. Does this move create a problem for Black? Does it create an opportunity? What does it strengthen? What does it weaken? These questions may be asked after each and every move.

8.0–0 may have been better for White.


2...Bd6 was bad, but only now has Black made a move that gives White a clear and decisive advantage. What did Black overlook?

8...Ng4 allows Black to remove White's bishop.
8...Kh7 is the only other move that addresses White's threat.


White has a strong attack against the king. How many of White's pieces are participating in this attack?


9...gxh6 loses quickly. 10.Qxh6 Nh7 11.Nd5 Re8
     (if 11...Bc7? 12.h4 Re8 13.Ng5 Nxg5 14.hxg5 f5 15.Nf6#)


10.Bxg7! was better 10...Kxg7 11.Qg5+ Kh8
     (if 11...Kf8 12.Qh6+ Ke7 13.Nh4 takes advantage of the misplaced bishop 13...Rg8 14.Nf5+ Ke8 15.Nxd6+ Ke7 16.Nf5+ Ke8 17.Nd5+-)
12.Qh6+ Nh7
     (12...Kg8 13.Bxf7+ Kxf7 14.Ng5+ Kg8 15.Qg6+ Kh8 16.Nf7#)

As the misplaced bishop falls, White regains the sacrificed material. Black's king has lost its pawn shield. His position is cramped. He is down two pawns. White has a decisive advantage.

10...Bb7 11.Bd5

11.h4! was better 11...b5 12.axb5 axb5 13.Rxa8 Bxa8 14.Bxb5+-.

11...Bxd5 12.Nxd5 Nc6

If 12...Be7 13.Bxf6 Bxf6 14.h4+-.

White to move


Capturing with the bishop forces recapture with the pawn, and leaves Black's king without protection. Black's second move hampered the mobility and coordination of his forces, and now that proves decisive. There is no way to protect the king.

13...gxf6 14.Qh6 Be7

The bishop finds its natural square, but Black is already lost.

14...Re6 15.c3+-.

15.Nh4 Nd4 16.Kd2

This move defends the c-pawn and prepares a rook lift: Re1–e3-g3.

The computer likes 16.c3.


16...f5 was Black's last chance to make White work 17.Nxe7+ Qxe7 18.Nxf5 Nxf5 19.exf5+-.

17.Rae1 b5 18.Re3 f5 19.Nxe7+ Black resigned 1-0

Had Black played on with 19...Qxe7, the game would end with 20.Rg3+ Qg5+ 21.Rxg5#.


A bad move is not always a losing move.
Be aware of tactical threats.
Mobility and piece coordination are vital.

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