Kindred’s Special: The Mighty Pawns

Oddly enough chess writers and games by both amateurs and the era-elite players show a great respect for the lowly pawn sometimes accorded the lackluster but romantic name “peon” suggesting it has little import in the social circles of both minor pieces (Knights and Bishops) and major pieces (Rooks [Castles] and Kings and Queens. So that some semblance of power for exchange purposes when such captures came up, a numerical number was given each to give an evaluation of the pro and con of such exchange offerings. To further clarify such captures, even exchanges was expressed as an “exchange”; the writers felt it important to differentiate between minor and major piece exchanges or where a major piece was involved. Thus, the term “the Exchange” referred to a major piece, the Rook or Queen being involved with either a pawn or minor piece of Knight or Bishop in trade.

Thus, for many years a bit of debate popped up now and then over the valuations.  For myself, it always seemed to me to have an artificial taste when giving or getting the standard formula common in the books–pawn 1,  Knight 3,  Bishop 3, Rook 5, Queen 9 and King 0 as related for exchange purposes only.  My explanation for arriving at my own viewpoint and evaluation has been given elsewhere.  Personally, I think it more appropo and possessing much clearer understanding of the reality of positions arising where pawns and pieces meet in conflict to utilize my assessed valuation:  Pawn 2, Knight 6,  Bishop 8, Rook 14, Queen 22, King 6.  The point of these numbers refer to freedom of movement as means for determining their real strength in open positions. It always seemed to me that the old view was simply too sterile to what existed in the position.  If one examines the book view long established, the whole remains as a piece of wood!   My thoughts go more to the dynamics of pieces and pawns on the board; how they effect squares overall and inidividual location should determine such consideration when examining the fruits of an even exchange or sacrifice having sufficient power to be weighed as feasible.

The following game merits your attention to witness the expanding power of advanced pawns.  The closer to the promotion square, the more threatening.  So grab hold of your seats for a very entertaining ride through the pages of history!

White:  Alexander McDonnell   vs.   Black:  Lois Labourdonnais  Opening:  Sicilian Defence   London  1834.

McDonnell (1798-1835) was from Belfast and considered among the elite of the British chess power.  Likewise, Labourdonnais was among the elite of France which was long thought to be the chess power in Europe and likely the world of chess of those times.  There was no title for world champion and in those days long past, it was enough to be known as the best player in the country.

1. e4  c5  2. Nf3  Nc6  3. d4  cxd4  4. Nxd4  e5  5. Nxc6  The alternative 5. Nb5 is considered best today.  One might ask just what is wrong with this exchange?  Lets take a look. The pawn must recapture, half-opening the b-file but most important is to bring another pawn toward building a strong center.

5. … bxc6  6. Bc4  Nf6  7. Bg5  Be7  8. Qe2  One can invision a coming…. Ba6 snatching up space and square count.  Better plays existed; perhaps 8. Bxf6  Bxf6 9. Nc3 or 8. Nc3 >Bxf6.

8. … d5  9. Bxf6  Bxf6  10. Bb3  O-O  11. O-O  a5!  12. exd5  cxd5  13. Rd1  d4  14. c4  The right pawn but the wrong square.  Maybe 14. c3 looks more solid to try for some central restraint.

14. … Qb6  15. Bc2  Bb7  16. Nd2 Rae8  With the long range plan of advancing the e-f file pawns and hinder good squares for White’s pieces.

17. Ne4  Bd8  18. c5  Qc6  19. f3  Be7  20. Rac1  f5  21. Qc4+  Kh8  22. Ba4 Qb6  23. Bxe8  fxe4  24. c6  exf3!  25. Rc2  Trying to salvage something from the position;  25. cxb7?  Qe3+ 26. Kh1 fxg2+ 27. Kxg2 Rf2+  28. Kg1 Re2+ 29. Kh1 Qf3+ 30. Kg1 Qg2 checkmate!

25. … Qe3+ 26. Kh1 Bc8  27. Bd7  f2  28. Rf1 d3  29. Rc3  Bxd7  30. cxd7  e4  31. Qc8  Bd8  32. Qc4  Qe1  33. Rc1  d2  Here we come–ready or not!!

34. Qc5  Rg8  35. Rd1  e3  36. Qc3  Qxd1  37. Rxd1  e2  White resigns. (0-1).

I often use this game for showing how the wood pieces truly give life to spirited play. If you study the game carefully and try to see what different ideas you can come up with to try, it should give you good practice and soar the spirit to the stars.

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