Isolated Pawns

Like most players I was taught to accept isolated pawns with caution. And to avoid doubled isolated pawns. And forget about tripled isolated pawns as they will lose the game for you 100% of the time.

 

You might have even been shown the game below to illustrate the of evils of accepting tripled isolated pawns.

 

 

Adolf Anderssen-Max Lange
Breslau, Germany, 1859
[C61]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4 4.Nxd4 exd4 5.Bc4 Nf6 6.e5 d5 7.Bb3 Bg4 8.f3 Ne4 9.O-O d3 10.fxg4 Bc5+ 11.Kh1 Ng3+ 12.hxg3

12…Qg5! -+ 13.Rf5 h5 14.gxh5 Qxf5 15.g4 Rxh5+ 16.gxh5 Qe4 17.Qf3 Qh4+ 18.Qh3 Qe1+ 19.Kh2 Bg1+ 0-1

 

But as I got older, and hopefully wiser, in my learning of the game, it gradually became clear to me that the idea of isolated pawns was not a hard-fast, iron-clad, absolute, rule of the game, solely responsible for a loss.

 

 

Let’s take another look at the previous game. White’s development, or rather his lack of it, surely also contributed to his early demise.

 

 

I replaced that isolated pawn rule with the idea that a potential weakness is not a weakness if it can’t be attacked.

 

 

Our first example is the unforgettable (to put it nicely) Bobby Fischer.

 

Grossguth-Bobby Fischer
US Jr. Ch.
Franklin Mercantile Chess Club, Philadelphia, July, 1956
[B92]
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.Be3 O-O 9.Qd2 b5 10.f3 Be6 11.g4 d5 12.g5 d4 13.gxf6 Bxf6 14.O-O-O dxe3 15.Qxd8 Rxd8 16.Nc5 Nc6 17.Nxe6 fxe6

18.Rhf1 b4 19.Na4 Nd4 20.Rxd4 Rxd4 21.Bd3 Rad8 22.Kd1 Bg5 23.Ke2 Bf4 24.h3 Rc8 25.Rd1 Rc6 26.b3 Kf7 27.h4 Kf6 28.h5 a5 29.Nb2? (White can’t do too much with his misplaced knight, but he could survive longer by just leaving it in place.) 29…Rxd3! 0-1

 

 

Black loses the following game. But he also has other problems. Like being behind in material, development, and position.

 

 

GM A. Yermolinsky-IM W. Shipman (2438)
Reno, 1995
[D52]
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 c6 5.Bg5 Nbd7 6.e3 Qa5 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qd2 Bb4 9.Rc1 O-O 10.a3 Bd6?! (10.Bxc3 is better. The bishop has limited movement and will interfere with the coordination of Black’s pieces. Perhaps Shipman wanted to throw a GM off-stride.

Carsten Hoi (2445)-Lars Bo Hansen (2550)
Denmark Team Ch., 1996
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Nbd7 5.e3 c6 6.Nf3 Qa5 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qd2 Bb4 9.Rc1 O-O 10.a3 Bxc3 11.bxc3 Qxa3 12.e4 N5f6 13.Bd3 e5 14.O-O Re8 15.Bxf6 gxf6 16.Nh4 Nf8 17.f4 exd4 18.cxd4 Qd6 19.Nf3 Bg4 20.e5 Qd8 21.Kh1 Kh8 22.Qf2 Ng6 23.Nd2 Rg8 24.h3 Bh5 25.Ne4 fxe5 26.fxe5 Nxe5 27.dxe5 Qxd3 28.Nf6 Qe2 29.Qxe2 Bxe2 30.Rf2 Bd3 31.Nxg8 Kxg8 32.Rc3 Bg6 33.g4 a5 34.h4 a4 35.h5 Be4+ 36.Kh2 b5 37.Rf4 Bd5 38.g5 a3 39.g6 hxg6 40.hxg6 0-1

Peter Heine Nielsen (2620)-Curt Hansen (2610)
North Sea Cup
Esbjerg, 2002
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c6 5.Bg5 Nbd7 6.e3 Qa5 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qd2 Bb4 9.Rc1 O-O 10.a3 Bxc3 11.bxc3 h6 12.Bh4 Qxa3 13.e4 Ne7 14.Bd3 Ng6 15.Bg3 b6 16.O-O Bb7 17.e5 Qe7 18.h4 c5 19.h5 Bxf3 20.gxf3 Nh4 21.Qf4 Nf5 22.Bxf5 exf5 23.Qxf5 Qe6 24.Qe4 f5 25.d5 Qe8 26.Qf4 b5 27.c4 Qxh5 28.e6 g5 29.Qd6 Nb6 30.e7 Rfe8 31.Be5 Kh7 32.cxb5 Qxf3 33.Qe6 Qg4+ 34.Bg3 Qh5 35.Qxf5+ Qg6 36.Qxg6+ Kxg6 37.d6 Nd7 38.Rfe1 Kf7 39.Rc3 Rab8 40.Rf3+ Kg7 41.Be5+ Kg6 42.Bc3 Rxb5 43.Re6+ Kh5 44.Rh3+ Kg4 45.Rexh6 Rb3 46.Kg2 c4 47.Rh8 1-0

M. Ragger (2655)-B. Esen (2536)
Moscow, Feb. 10 2012
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 Nbd7 6.e3 Qa5 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Qd2 Bb4 9.Rc1 O-O 10.a3 Bxc3 11.bxc3 Qxa3 12.e4 Ne7 13.Bd3 e5 14.O-O f6 15.Be3 Ng6 16.h4 Nh8 17.h5 Nf7 18.Nh4 Nb6 19.f4 Qe7 20.Qf2 Nh6 21.Qg3 exd4 22.cxd4 f5 23.Rc5 Ng4 24.Bc1 fxe4 25.Be2 Qf6 26.Kh1 Nh6 27.f5 Nf7 28.Re5 Nd5 29.h6 e3 30.Bxe3 Nxe3 31.hxg7 Nxf1 32.gxf8=Q+ Kxf8 33.Bxf1 Bd7 34.Bc4 Re8 35.Bxf7 Kxf7 36.Qf4 Kg8 37.Rxe8+ Bxe8 38.Nf3 Kg7 39.Qc7+ Bf7 40.Qxb7 Qxf5 41.Qxa7 Kh6 42.Qe7 Bd5 43.Qe3+ Kg7 44.Qe7+ Kh6 45.Qe3+ Kg7 46.Qe7+ 1/2-1/2)

11.e4 Nxc3 12.Rxc3 e5 13.d5 c5 14.Nh4 Nb6 15.Bf6 Qa4 16.Qg5 Qxe4+ 17.Be2 Qb1+ 18.Bd1 Qg6 19.Nxg6 hxg6 20.Bxe5 f6 21.Bxd6 fxg5 22.Bxf8 Kxf8

23.Rxc5 +- Bf5 24.Bb3 Re8+ 25.Kd2 Re4 26.Re1 Rd4+ 27.Kc1 Be4 28.d6 Bc6 29.Rd1 1-0

 

 

Fair enough. Tripled isolated pawns are not necessarily bad ideas.

 

 

Now, how do we categorize the following two games??

 

  

Gabor Kovacs-Rainer Barth
Balatonbereny Open
Hungary, Sept. 1994
[B02]
1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 (2…e5 naturally leads to the Vienna Game.) 3.exd5 (One interesting game is Robert Jacobs (2222)-GM Shabalov, World Open, Philadelphia, 1997, which continued with 3.e5 Nfd7 4.e6!? fxe6 5.d4 c5 6.Bd3 Nf6 7.dxc5 Nc6 8.Bg5 g6 9.Nh3 Bg7 10.Nf4 d4 11.Ne4 e5 12.Bxf6 exf6 13.Nd6+ Kf8 14.Ne2 Qa5+ 15.Qd2 Qxc5 16.Nxc8 Rxc8 17.O-O Kf7 18.a3 Rhe8 19.f3 Kg8 20.Ng3 f5 21.Rae1 Nd8 22.Qb4 Qxb4 23.axb4 Nc6 24.c3 dxc3 25.bxc3 e4 26.fxe4 Bxc3 27.Rd1 f4 28.Rxf4 Nxb4 29.Bb5 Be5 30.Rf3 Re7 31.Bd7 Rb8 32.Ba4 Kg7 33.Ne2 b5 34.Bb3 a5 35.Nd4 a4 36.Ne6+ Kh8 37.Bd5 Nxd5 38.exd5 Bd6 39.Rc1 Bb4 40.Rc6 Rd7 0-1) 3…Nxd5 4.Bc4 c6 5.d4 g6 6.Nge2 Be6 7.Bb3 Nxc3 8.bxc3 Bxb3 9.axb3 Bg7 10.O-O O-O 11.f4 Na6 12.Ba3 Re8 13.Qd3 Qb6 14.f5 c5 15.fxg6 fxg6 16.Qc4+ e6 17.dxc5 Qc6 18.Rad1 b5 19.Nd4 Qxg2+ 20.Kxg2 bxc4 21.Nb5 Reb8 22.bxc4

22…Rc8 23.Nd6 Rc6 24.Ne4 Rac8 25.Rd7 R6c7 26.Rd6 Rc6 27.Rfd1 Bf8 28.Rxc6 Rxc6 29.Rd8 Kf7 30.Rd7+ Be7 31.Rxa7 h6 32.Bc1 g5 33.h4 gxh4 34.Bf4 e5 35.Bxe5 Re6 36.Nd6+ Kg6 37.Bd4 Nb8 38.Ra8 Nc6 39.Rg8+ Kh5 40.Nf5 Rg6+ 41.Rxg6 Kxg6 42.Nxe7+ Nxe7 43.Kh3 Nc6 44.Kxh4 1/2-1/2

 

 

Thomas Lochte (2225)-Stefan Gross (2330)
Budapest, 1996
[B21]
1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 d6 5.Bc4 Nc6 6.Nf3 e6 7.O-O Bd7 8.Bf4 Qb8 (Jakub Breck-Jiri Zajic, Czechoslovakia U26 Ch., Prague, 1968 continued with 8…Nf6 9.Bxd6 Bxd6 10.Qxd6 Qe7 11.Qg3 O-O 12.e5 Ne8 13.Ne4 f5 14.exf6 Nxf6 15.Rfe1 Na5 16.Bd3 Nh5 17.Qg5 Qxg5 18.Nexg5 h6 19.Nxe6 Bxe6 20.Rxe6 Nf4 21.Rd6 Nxd3 22.Rxd3 Rac8 23.b4 Nc6 24.a3 Rfd8 25.Rxd8+ Nxd8 26.Rd1 Ne6 27.Ne1 Rc3 28.Rd3 Rc1 29.Kf1 Nf4 30.Rd8+ Kf7 31.g3 Ke7 32.Rd2 Ne6 33.Ke2 b6 34.Nc2 Ng5 35.Nd4 Ra1 36.Rd3 Rc1 37.h4 Nf7 38.Kd2 Rc4 39.Re3+ Kf8 40.Kd3 Rc1 41.Ne6+ Kg8 42.Nf4 Nd6 43.Re7 a5 44.Nh5 Nf5 45.Rb7 Ra1 46.Rxb6 Rxa3+ 47.Ke4 Ne7 48.Rb7 Kf8 49.bxa5 Ra4+ 50.Kf3 Rxa5 51.Nxg7 Re5 52.Kf4 Re2 53.Nh5 Rxf2+ 54.Kg4 Rf7 55.Rb8+ 1-0) 9.Nb5 Ne5 10.Nxe5 dxe5 11.Bg3 Nf6 12.Qe2 a6 13.Nd4 Bd6 14.Rad1 Bc7 15.Nf3 Bc6 16.Bh4 h6 17.Bxf6 gxf6 18.Nh4 h5 19.Qf3 Bd8 20.Qg3 Qc7 21.Qg7 Rf8 22.f4 exf4 23.Rfe1 Qe5 24.Bd5 Qg5 25.Bxc6+ bxc6 26.Nf5 Bb6+ 27.Kh1 exf5


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