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The Weak Pawn

The Weak Pawn Apr 16, 2014

Inopov IGM 2432

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The next element of positional play I'd like to introduce is the weak pawn. I will not
"reinvent the wheel" in identifying and describing the various types of weak pawn,
instead I will attempt demonstrate how to to play with or against it through recent

In this week's example, I will use a game by the perennial Dutch Grandmaster Sergei
Tiviakov who recently won the 2014 Kuala Lumpur International Open, winning it for
the 3rd consecutive time! Coincidentally, his positional playing style is heavily
influenced by the great player I introduced last week; therefore I encourage you to
once again pay attention to where he brings his pieces and how he uses his pawns,
in the presence of an enemy backward pawn.

Tiviakov, Sergei - Kuderinov, Kirill

KL Chess Open 2014 2014.04.05

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1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4 4.Nf3 Nxb5 5.Nxb5 d6 6.d4 cxd4 7.Qxd4 a6 8.Nc3
e5 9.Qd3[6/4/2015 10:27:52 ]
The Weak Pawn

Diagram #1

At this early stage, we can already see the blueprint for the rest of the game: White will create
pressure on the backward d6-pawn, while Black will try to create counterplay either on the king's
or queen's side with dynamic piece play and hope to make his bishop pair advantage count.

9... h6

Diagram #2

Preventing White from taking full control of the d5-outpost that will result after

9... Nf6 10.Bg5! Be7 11.O-O-O!? +/- Here, we see that a backward pawn is not the
only weakness itself, but also the square in front of it which was referred to as an
"outpost" in one of my previous blogs here.

Back to the game:

10.Nd2[6/4/2015 10:27:52 ]
The Weak Pawn

Diagram #3

Tiviakov quickly repositions the king's knight to a square where it can help pressure the weak
pawn and the square in front of it.

10... Nf6 11.Nc4 Be6putting pressure on the c4-knight and preparing to play d6-d5 at some
point later.

12.Ne3ofcourse White is not going to let this happen

12... Be7 13.O-O O-O 14.a4!stopping any quick queenside counterplay with b7-b5.
Tiviakov is proficient at positional play and is fond of restricting enemy play and slowly putting
pressure on weaknesses.

14... Rc8 15.Bd2 Qc7 16.Rfd1 Qc5 17.Be1now White plans to double his rooks on the d-
file eventually, and evenrelocate his bishop to f2 or h4.

17... Rfd8 18.Kh1preparing to solidify e4 with f3

18.f3 now, will be met by18... d5! freeing up Black's position 19.exd5 Nxd5
20.Ncxd5 Rxd5 -/+ and the game opens up favorably for Black's active pieces,
particularly for his bishop pair.

18... Bf8 19.f3 Nh5relocating to a more square on f4, that also keeps an eye on the
important d5-square.

20.Ned5controlling f4 with a pawn is possible, but it weakens White's king position,

which could later become a source of enemy counterplay 20.g3?! Nf6[6/4/2015 10:27:52 ]
The Weak Pawn

Diagram #4

Black has successfully provoked a weakness in the White camp.

Back to the game:

20... Bxd5Being consistent with 20... Nf4 may be a better chance to equalize but it
is risky because it creates another weakness 21.Nxf4 exf4 22.Rac1 and now a logical
follow-up is to open up the game with 22... f5!? but White can still retain a slightly
better position with calm, solid play 23.Nd5 Bxd5 ( fxe4 24.Qxe4) 24.exd5!

Diagram #5

24... g6 25.c4 +/=.

Back to the game:

21.Qxd5 Qxd5 22.Rxd5 g6?!the beginning of a dubious plan.

I think a better way to create counterplay is to pile up on the c-file, and try to
bring his knight to d4 via e6. Rc4 23.g3! ( 23.Kg1 Nf4 24.Rd2 Rdc8)23... g6! 24.Rd2
Rdc8![6/4/2015 10:27:52 ]
The Weak Pawn

Diagram #6

preventing Nd5 because it will hang the c2-pawn. Black can significantly improve his
position by bringing his knight to d4 after which Black's activity can balance out his
weak d6 pawn.

23.Rd2 f5?! now piling up on the c-file is too late due to 23...Rc4?! 24.Nd5!

Diagram #7

24... Nf4 25.b3 +/-.

Back to the game:

24.exf5 gxf5 25.Nd5 Kf7 26.b3!planning to create a new bind on d5 with c2-c4.

Another way to undermine Black's weak structure is with 26.g4! 26... fxg4 27.fxg4
Nf4 ( Nf6?? 28.Nxf6 Kxf6 29.Bh4+ +- ) 28.Bh4![6/4/2015 10:27:52 ]
The Weak Pawn

Diagram #8

28... Re8 29.Rf1 +/- winning a pawn while gaining better piece coordination.

26... Re8 27.c4 Nf6 28.Rad1 Nxd5 29.Rxd5

Diagram #9

White has reached a slightly favorable ending in which he can probe and apply pressure on the
enemy as long as he wants, while Black has to sit and carefully defend his weak pawns.

29... Ke6 30.Bf2preparing his next move.

Executing the idea now doesn't work yet: 30.f4 the best response is30... e4! (30...
h5 31.fxe5 dxe5 32.Bc3 Bg7 33.Rd6+ Kf7 34.Kg1! simply improving the "powerful
endgame piece." Black cannot do much to improve his position because he is saddled
by weak pawns, and dominated by White's active pieces.34... Rc7 (34... h4 (34...
Re7 35.Bb4! 35... Rcc7 36.Rd8 Re6 37.R8d7+ Rxd7 38.Rxd7+ Kg6 39.Rxb7 +/- )
35.Rd7+ Re7 36.Bb4) 35.Kf2 e4 36.Bxg7 Kxg7 37.R1d5 Rf7 38.h4! +/- ) 31.g4 ( 31.Kg1
h5! )31... fxg4 32.Kg2 Kf7 33.Kg3 e3.

30... Be7 31.f4!?a good practical move as it gives Black a difficult choice to make over the

31... exf4?too cooperative. This approach to complicate the position only gives Black more
weaknesses or targets for White to attack.

If 31... e4 White was planning to break up Black's central pawn mass with ( the best
way to resist was maybe to prevent White's g2-g4 idea with 31... h5!? 32.Kg1 e4[6/4/2015 10:27:52 ]
The Weak Pawn

after which Black can protect his weak pawns, and gain good chances to hold the
position to a draw.) 32.g4! 32... fxg4 (32... Rf8 33.Re1! threatening to take on f5
then on e4) 33.Re1 +/- and after winning back the pawn, White will be successful in
creating more weakness in Black's camp.

32.Kg1 Bf8 33.Bd4!!

Diagram #10

A very strong move. I think it even deserves 3 exclams! Here's what this centralizing move does:

1. From here, the White bishop controls more squares on both sides of the board

2. It exerts its dominance over the enemy bishop on f8

3. It gives way for the king to slowly nibble at the weak f-pawns

4. Most of all, it's a prophylactic/preventive measure against the enemy king running to d7,
which will be revealed on move 35.

33... Kd7 34.Kf2 Be7hoping to hold on to one of his f-pawns with either Rf8 or Bg5.If
34...Kc6 35.Rxf5.


Diagram #11

Enabling White to easily prey on all of Black's weak kingside pawns (including d6)! It's amazing
how one move can achieve this.[6/4/2015 10:27:52 ]
The Weak Pawn

35... Ke6resisting will not help much 35... Rc6 36.Bxf4

Diagram #12

Back to the game:

36.Bxd6 Bg5 37.Kf3 Kf6 38.Bc5!the last accurate move which prevents counterplay
connected with Re8-e3, and planning dangerous ideas like transferring the bishop to f2 followed
by h2-h4!

38.Bxf4 Bxf4 39.Kxf4 Re4+ 40.Kf3 Rce8 41.R1d3 also leads to an almost winning
ending, but Tiviakov saw no reason to exchange his good bishop for Black's bad one
on g5.

38... Rxc5 39.Rxc5 Re3+ 40.Kf2Black doesn't have enough compensation for the exchange
and soon gave up

40... Rxb3 41.Rcd5 Bh4+ 42.Ke2 Kg5 43.R5d3 +-Black resigned.

Let's recap the lessons we gather from this game on the backward pawn:

1) The weaknesses created by a backward pawn are the pawn itself and the square in front of it.

2) Therefore, the side playing against it must bring this square under control by his pieces (Nd2-
c4-e3, Rf1-d1) and restrict enemy counterplay on the flank (a2-a4).

3) On the other hand, the side with this pawn must find ways to create counter-pressure and
make it difficult for the enemy improve his pieces (Nf6-h5, Rc4! followed by Rdc8, Nf4/g7-e6-

4) The side with the weak pawn should also carefully avoid giving the enemy more targets to
attack (critical mistake exf4?).[6/4/2015 10:27:52 ]