Kindred’s Special: More on Pawns

One of the British Isles great stars is GM Jonathan Speelman who, in the 1988 World held at St. John,  Brunswick, Canada , defeated in blitz play GM Seirawan who remarked at an interview following the loss, “”Frankly, I considered myself the best at blitz in the world.”

Going forward seven years, his skill ever sharp, GM Speelman met in the lst round of the 1995 Moscow Intel Grand Prix, a young man who was, in the coming 21st Century, a most imaginative and creative chess artist to sit down at the board in the semi-post Kasparov era.

G/25  GM Jonathan Speelman  vs GM Veselin Topalov

1.d4  Nf6  2.c4  g6  3.Nc3  Bg7  4.e4  d6  5.Nf3  O-O  6.Be2  e5  7.d5

JS decides on using the Petrosian variation against the KID adopted by VT.

7…Nbd7  8.Bg5  h6  9.Bh4  g5  10.Bg3  Nh5  11.Nd2  Nf4  12.O-O  f5  13.exf5  Nxe2+  14.Qxe2  Nf6  15.Nde4

An excellent outpost for the Knight and a main theme in the Petrosian setup.

15…Bxf5  16.f3  b6

This looks to defuse some of White’s Q-side pawn demonstration that is a key plan against the KID.  VT will counter this demonstration by launching a K-side operation aiming to attack the enemy King. The debate rages on whether the Q-side operation is as good as the hunt for the King on the K-side with victors emerging on both sides plus drawn games. But players who like attacking chess have come to praise the systems that have evolved over many years.

Wait just a second, Kindred! I read comments like don’t advance pawns in front of your King. And what about moving pieces more than once in the opening or deploying a Knight on the rim? And regarding pawn structure, you lock the center with d5.  Ouch!  I did say that here and there didn’t I! Could I say sometimes are meant to be bent in order to fit into an opening plan? General principles are good guides but must be weighed in the context of the position at the moment. That is a key difference between the old school and that of the moderns.

17.b4  a5  18.a3  Nh5  19.Bf2

While blunted and useless on g3, JS improves its position and increases sq/ct that exerts pressure on the dark diagonal and supports his Q-side pawn attack.


Here I answer the earlier query about Knights on the rim (they do look dim lacking sq/ct potential). However, I also said that the edge of the board can be used by the Knight in a springboard type bankshot to a more productive square (in this case f4).

20.Qd2  Qe8  21.Be3  Qg6  22.g4  Bd7

Having won the first game of this match up, VT seems confident and JS has to win this game in order for a playoff to break the tie. Sq/ct is level although these chaps don’t apply my theory per se. Still it is worth mentioning that white does enjoy a 14/12 spatial edge at the moment thanks to his Q-side operations.  22.g4 has slowed VT’s attack a bit while JS is ready to roll!

23.c5  axb4  24.axb4  Rxa1  25.Rxa1  bxc5  26.bxc5  h5

VT cannot hold back and must counterattack to have any practical chances.

27.Bxf4  exf4

This opens the diagonal for the Bishop.

28.c6  Bxg4

Tempo moves are important and the sac leads to sharp play and muddy water resulting around the white monarch wets the appetite and imagination of the young Topalov.

29.fxg4  hxg4  30.Ra7!

The principle learned in MY SYSTEM and games of the great earlier masters like Capablanca confirm the value of Rooks on the 7th rank.


He is willing to give up the c-pawn to not waste tempo defending it and to further his own attack.

31.Rxc7  Be5  32.Re7

With threats like Rxe5 and d6.

32…Bf4  33.Qf2

It is important to keep the Q on the 2nd rank and it blocks the f pawn and keeps an eye on h2.

33…Qh6  34.c7  Ra8  35.Nd1  Kf8  36.Rd7  Ke8  37.Rh7  Black resigns 1-0.

If, 37…Qf8 38.Qb2 is murder with the double threat of Qb8+ or Nf6+

In the playoff game, Jonathan got to play the white pieces and launched the Torre Attack against Topalov’s Indian setup. I shall share with you that battle next time.

Lessons to Learn:

  1. Principles can never be applied without recognizing that openings have their own peculiar sense of purpose. A good illustration is the line 1.e4  g6  2.d4 Bg7, a defense Alekhine called the “JOKE OPENING”. Perhaps that is one reason why the great Capablanca often adopted the fianchetto later in life.
  2. This game illustrates the basic concepts of play for both sides by two artists of the first rank.
  3. Sometimes sacrificial action is needed especially in regards to wasted tempi on moves that tend to weaken coming endgame structure of pawns and pieces. Better to go down fighting than to sit there and let your position deteriorate.

Adios, amigos!


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