23 October 2016

Superior Pawn Structure?

According to Ketevan Arakhamia Grant, who annotated this game for Chess Informant 124, White has the upper hand in this position.

Black to move
After 29.b3

The game was played in the first round of the 2015 Women's World Championship in Sochi, Russia. Her opponent  was Thanh Trang Hoang, who played the French Defense.

Black has a passed pawn and apparently has White's queenside pawn majority stopped.

What accounts for the assessment that White is better?


  1. Great question.

    First, White's pieces are better than black's, which currently have a little trouble moving. Black's Rook must babysit the c5 knight, Black's bishop must babysit b5 (to stop a strong Nb5-d6).

    Next, White has a good grip on d4, which is a great square for White's knight or king. With d4 (and also d3, d2 and d1) under control, Black's passed pawn does not currently mean much.

    And finally, each side has onr weak isolated pawn, but Black's b4 pawn is just weaker than the e5 pawn, as only the knight can defend it. If that pawn falls, White will have dangerous outside passed pawns.

    I think I might begin 1.h4 here, just to open up a new front that I may be able to tickle on the kingside. Note that 1...Nd7 doesn't look good yet due to 2.Rxc8 Bxc8 3.Nc6 (or perhaps 3.Nb5) followed by Kd4.