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LCB, Issue #077 --, Plot Your Way through the Pawn Islands
November 01, 2021

Plot Your Way Through the Pawn Islands

Lapoc Chess Board, Issue #077 -- GOTM #47

learn and play online chess
The entire nature of the game is dictated by the pawn structure. Many openings leave you with a Kingside pawn chain and a Queenside pawn chain. Others feature doubled pawns, isolated pawns, hanging pawns and more.

It's important to become aware of the pros and cons of these things, how to play with them and how to play against them.

This involves making use of open or half open files, taking control of key squares, finding ways for your pieces to infiltrate the enemy camp and so on.

Who can show you better than two World Champions as they contest a World Championship match. Today the gladiators in the ring are Vasily Smyslov with White and Mikhail Botvinnik with Black.

Plot Your Way Through the Pawn Islands

Smyslov, Vasily - Botvinnik, Mikhail [B27]

GotM #47 - Moscow, 1957
[Connaughton, Ken]


King's Pawn Game


Sicilian Defense


Open Sicilian


Hungarian Variation


White goes for the Maroczy Bind, seen in many openings. Nc3 when it comes will give the first player firm control of the light squares on his fifth rank, especially d5.

3...Bg7 4.d4 d6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Be3 Bg4 7.dxc5 dxc5 8.Qxd8+ Rxd8 9.Bxc5 Bxc3+ 10.bxc3 Nf6

Game position after 10...Nf6

The simplifications have a huge bearing on the nature of the battle ahead. White's ruptured Queenside will leave a permanent effect on the terrain. His pawns are weakened although their control of key squares like b4, b5, d4 and d5 will make them difficult to get at. This will give Smyslov time to arrange his strategy for the game ahead. He also has to figure out how to mobilize his Bishop Pair with the lightsquare Bishop for now somewhat limited. Black's structure is better but can he find a way to make progress?


White has no way to save the pawn.

(11.Nd2? Rxd2 12.f3 (12.Kxd2? Nxe4+ 13.Ke3 Nxc5-+) 12...Rd8 13.fxg4 Nxe4-/+ and after these losses the pawn falls anyway.)

11...Nxe4 12.Nxc6

will give the edge on the Queenside for White.

12...bxc6 13.Bxa7

Usually a center pawn is more valuable than a pawn on the flank. But this capture gives White a passed Rook pawn. He now has an edge in the game. Converting this edge and scoring the full point will not be easy especially in a high stakes World Championship game against the defending World Champion. The position calls for the smooth finesse of a World Champion in waiting.

13...Bf5 14.f3 Nd6 15.a4 Ra8 16.Bb6 0-0 17.c5 Nc8 18.g4 Be6

Game position after 18...Be6

White is continually pushing Black back and things are looking promising on the flank.

19.a5 Nxb6 20.cxb6 Rfb8 21.Bd3!?

Is he inviting Botvinnik to take both Rooks. It's not lost on Black that the Bishop controls b1.

(21.Kd2+-; 21.Kf2+-)

21...Rxb6 22.axb6!

He's happy to trade where he gets to keep a pawn on the sixth rank. As far as White is concerned.

22...Rxa1+ 23.Kd2 Ra2+

Clearly there is no time to take the second Rook.

24.Ke3 Bc8

Game position after 24...Bc8

It seems inevitable that Black will lose a piece stopping the pawn.

25.Rd1 Rb2 26.Bc4 Kg7 27.Rd8 Be6 28.Bxe6

A good trade, eliminating an important defender against the White b-pawn and destroying Black's Kingside pawn structure.

28...fxe6 29.Rb8 e5 30.c4 Kf7 31.c5

Game position after 31.c5

Now b6 is solid.

31...Ke6 32.Rd8

c5 allows activity for the White Rook and this freedom allows White to lock the Black King out of the critical wing.


Fixing the White Kingside pawns but this doesn't matter. Black has no counterplay on this wing.

33.h3 Rb1

All that remains now is for the White King to move into position to lay the ground for the final push.

34.Kd2 Rb5 35.Kd3 Rb1 36.Kc4 Rc1+ 37.Kb4 Rb1+ 38.Ka4 Ra1+

Game position after 38...Ra1+

Black's last try is to stop the King with checks but there's an easy remedy for this.

39.Kb4 Rb1+ 40.Ka3 Ra1+ 41.Kb2 Ra5 42.Rd3

And the Rook drops back to the 3rd rank where he can block any further checks.


(42...Rxc5? 43.b7 Rb5+ 44.Rb3+-)

43.Kb3 Ra5

Game position after 10...Nf6

Black knows this time the King advance can't be frustrated with checks from behind and that the Rook will have to be sacrificed for the passed pawn. He resigns.


Smyslov - Botvinnik, Moscow (1957)

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