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Lapoc Chess Board, Issue #001 -- Look Deep in the Soul of Chess
June 01, 2011

Look Deep in the Soul of Chess

Lapoc Chess Board, Issue #001 -- The Soul of Chess

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Welcome to the very first issue of Lapoc Chess Board. As it's the first, I would like to start off by talking about a very fundamental aspect of chess - the role of the pawn.

The importance of the pawn was originally and most succinctly articulated by the 18th Century French Master Francois Andre Danicon Philidor. He referred to the pawns as 'the soul of chess'. Today I want to talk to you about an illuminating analysis of his on how to win through the correct use of the pawns.

Early in the development of European chess, pawns were considered highly expendable. Sacrifices were common place as pawns were readily given up for very small advantages in development. It was almost as if they were in the way, a nuisance.

It's all so very different today. Pawn structure is now a central plank in strategy at the highest level. Players play to get a good structure for their own pawns and strive to create even the slightest weakness in their opponent's front line.

So when did everything change? When did the humble foot soldier finally begin to win due respect? The arrival of Philidor made the difference. He swept imperiously to the pinnacle of the chess world in the second half of the 1700's and dominated the scene at the Cafe de la Regence, beating all before him.

Using the modern ELO rating system, it is calculated that he was 200 points clear of his nearest challenger. He wrote much literature on chess with Analyse du jeu des Échecs his most famous. Here he goes into detail on the importance of pawns and how to position them in the openings.

He says:
Mon but principal est de me rendre recommandable par une nouveauté dont personne ne s'est avisé, ou peut-être n'a été capable; c'est celle de bien jouer les pions. Ils sont l'âme des Echecs; ce sont eux uniquement qui forment l'attaque et la défense et de leur bon ou mauvais arrangement dépend entièrement le gain ou la perte de la partie.

This translates to:
My main goal is to go through a novelty that nobody knows, or perhaps is able to answer, it is good to play with the pawns. They are the soul of chess, it is they who constitute the only offense and defense and the gain or loss of the game depends entirely on their good or bad arrangement.

Below is Philidor's analysis on how to win through the use of the pawns. It comes with three goals:
A)Create pawn majorities.
B)Create passed pawns.
C)Win by promoting and queening the passed pawns.
Philidor,Francois Andre Dani - Analysis\ Analyse [C23]
France, 1749

While Greco liked to play with the pieces, Philidor preferred the pawns: "The pawns are the soul of the chess game."

1...e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.c3 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.cxd4 Bb6 6.Nc3 0-0 7.Nge2 c6
The question "How to win at chess?" is answered by Philidor in three steps: 1. Create pawn majorities 2. Create passed pawns. 3. Win by promoting and queening the passed pawns.

White prepares for the advance ...d7-d5 so that he will not have to exchange his e-pawn for Black's d-pawn. [8.0-0? d5 9.exd5 cxd5 10.Bd3 This is not the sort of pawn structure Philidor has in mind.]

8...d5 9.e5
Step one: White has a pawn majority on the kingside (Black on the queenside).

9...Ne8 10.Be3 f6 11.Qd2 fxe5 12.dxe5
The pawn majority has become bigger, it is now 4-2.

blockading the passed pawn. As is well known, this theme was later developed by A. Nimzowitsch.

Fighting against the blocking piece Be6.

13...Qe7 14.Bxb6 axb6 15.0-0 Nd7 16.Nxe6 Qxe6
the queen is not the best blocking piece.


17...Nc7 18.Rae1
White's plan is to play f4-f5 in order to promote the e-pawn.

Aimed against f4-f5.

Preparing g2-g4 and f4-f5

Creating a square for his knight on d5->e3; but giving up the e4-square.

20.Ne4 h6
Defending against Ne4-g5. White is much better. One reason is that his pawn majority is much more valuable than Black's.

Protecting a2 and threatening Bd3-c4.

21...b5 22.g4
Now he is coming!

22...Nd5 23.Ng3
Preparing f4-f5.

Doesn't help.

Good shot!

24...dxe3 25.Qxe3 Rxa2 26.Re1
The final preparation. He protects e5 in order to achieve the deadly f4-f5.

26...Qxb3 27.Qe4
On g6 is more than a pawn.

27...Qe6 28.f5
YES!! Well worth waiting for.

28...gxf5 29.gxf5
You can call this position "Philidor's dream". Two linked passed pawns which cannot be stopped.

29...Qd5 30.Qxd5+ cxd5 31.Bxb5
Now White can start with step no.3: promotion of the passed pawns. Black is not able to block the white pawns.

31...Nb6 32.f6
He will promote with both pawns.

32...Rb2 33.Bd3 Kf7 34.Bf5 Nc4 35.Nh5
Preparing e5-e6.

35...Rg8+ 36.Bg4 Nd2 37.e6+
That's it.

37...Kg6 38.f7 Rf8 39.Nf4+ Kg7 40.Bh5
There is no defence against e6-e7 at all.

You will find a link for a replayable version of this link below.

Philidor,Francois Andre Dani - Analysis\ Analyse [C23]

Comments, ideas, feedback? I'd be stoked to hear from you.

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See you next month.

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