Kindred’s Special: The Psychology of Pawn Structure

1.d4  Nf6  2.c4  e6  3.Nc3  Bb4  4.Nf3  Bxc3+  5.bxc3

The origins of using the art of chess with psychology was of course championed by Emmanuel Lasker who reportedly played the man as much or more than the board.  But really it was probably much a part of the Anderssen – Morphy match where the good German teacher tried to lure Morphy into attacks that left his position insufficient at the end of the firefight.

The above moves were played in the Carlsbad 1929 Tournament won by Aron Nimzowitsch (AN) versus  Efim Bogolyubov (EB) who had the White pieces.  AN played the immediate Bxc3 simply to set his opponent the problem of the pawn structure c3/c4/d4 that  AN believed was not fully understood by EB. That is the only reason he played it before being forced to do so.  EB loved his Bishop-pair and no doubt considered Black’s reply as questionable.

5….b6  6.g3  Bb7  7.Bg2  O-O  8.O-O  Re8

AN was noted for his mysterious Rook moves but it is quite logical.  It pulls the fangs on White playing e4 because 9.Nd2  Bxg2 10.Kxg2  e5 stopping 11.e4  exd4 12.cxd4  Nxe4 winning a pawn, breaking up the pawn structure and leaving EB with hanging pawns and three pawn islands.

9.Re1  d6  10.Qc2

A wasted move where EB could have continued with 10.Nd2 Bxg2 11.Kxg2 e5 12.e4 with a pawn structure center that gives some compensation for the coming fight.  Most likely EB was visualizing 10…Nd7 11.e4  e5 leaving a position with lots of pieces ready for the struggle.

10…Be4  11.Qb3  Nc6  12.Bf1  e5  13.dxe5  Nxe5  14.Nxe5  Rxe5 15.Bf4  Re8  16.f3  Bb7  17.Rad1  Nd7  18.e4  Qf6  19.Bg2

EB liked his Bishops and probably felt his pair would give good compensation for his slightly inferior position.

19…Ne5  20.Rd2  Re7  21.Red1  Bc6!

This increases sq/ct, limits the Queen action and doubly protects the d7/e8 squares.

22.Rf2  Rae8  23.Bf1  h6

EB seems to flounder without any formation of a plan which indicates a sterile and anemic position.

24.Be2  Kh8  25.Qa3  Qe6  26.Qc1

The a7 pawn is immune because 26.Qxa7  Ra8 traps the Queen. EB tries to redeploy his forces but a clear plan eludes him.

26…f5  27.exf5  Qxf5  28.Qd2  Qf7

AN is focusing on a favorable endgame emerging after a series of exchanges.

29.Qd4  Ng6  30.Bd3  Nxf4  31.Qxf4  Qxf4  32.gxf4  Rf8  33.f5  Bd7  34.Rdd2  Bxf5  35.Rfe2  Rxe2  36.Bxe2  Re8  37.Kf2  Re5!  38.Rd5  g5  39.Rxe5  dxe5  40.c5  bxc5  41.Ba6  e4  42.a4  Kg7  43.a5  exf3  44.Kxf3  Kf6  45.Ke3  Ke5

AN’s King is active in the attack and  EB’s King is restricted to defense of contested territory. It is near zugswang.

46.Bc4  Bg4  47.Ba6  h5  48.Bc4  h4  49.Ba6  Bd1  50.Bb7  g4

White resigns.  (0-1).

I chose this game because it reflects often the type of positions we amateurs often face either in skittles or tournament play, a game lacking a slashing Kingside attack or any brilliant tactical shot.  It is a basically positional struggle with little mistakes that accumulate into a position where exchanges of pieces and pawns lead one side to having a superior if not winning endgame position.

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