It is not a secret that majority of the games are decided in the middlegame. Nevertheless, most chess players focus on everything else but not on the middlegame itself. They study openings, drill tactics and memorize the theoretical endings…
Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on something that actually decides most of the games? Indeed. But there is a problem…
While openings and tactics are relatively easy to train, the middlegame is very different. It’s not enough to just solve many problems or to memorize the lines… Things get harder, because most pieces are still on the board. There are a multitude of positions that can arise, so many, in fact, that simple memorization just isn’t a viable option. To become a strong middlegame player you need to have a good grasp on the fundamental principles.
Enter IM Bill Paschall to help you master the middlegame! In this video, a preview of his full course, Bill talks about the chess strategy of the blockade, an idea pioneered by Aron Nimzowitsch in his famous book, My System and in a two-part monograph called The Blockade.
Nimzowitch wrote, “By blockade we mean the mechanical stopping of an enemy pawn by a piece. This mechanical stoppage is achieved when one’s own piece stands immediately in front of the pawn to be blockaded.” So important was this idea, that he created a rule – Bloackade every pawn that shows the slightest inclination to advance. Blockade every passed pawn, every portion of the center, every quantitative or qualitative majority.
Bill explores this strategy by closely analyzing a game played by Nimzowitsch himself in Karlsbad 1911 against Georg Salwe, and exploring how the famous player stepped away from the classical principles of chess with new and revolutionary ideas, many of which are still considered useful today.
Nimzowitsch and the Blockade
Let’s take a look at the opening of the game that IM Bill Paschall explores in the video. Nimzowitsch has the White pieces.
It begins with 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5. Nimzowitsch preferred the Advanced French variation. This e5 move releases the tension in the center but establishes a strong point on the e5 square. Nimzowitsch called this the head of the pawn chain. We see that White claims space on the kingside, and Black generally gets space on the queenside.
Black lashes out with 3…c5, attacking the pawn chain at its base. This was an important principle that Nimzowitsch taught in My System, that you should attack a pawn chain from the base as that is its weakest point, just as you’d knock a building down from the bottom. Think of the alternative, shown in the diagram on the left – Black could have played 3…f6, but it is such a weak move. Not only does it weaken the king by opening the diagonal, but Black would be throwing at attack at White’s strongest point!
4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Qb6. This queen move is good for Black, piling pressure onto the d4 square.
6. Bd3 Bd7 7. dxc5. See the position on the right. The principles of classical chess dictated that a player should hold on to the center control at all costs, maintain the pawns there. Nimzowitsch went against this idea by playing dxc5. He wants to use the d4 square for one of his pieces instead, and this is basically the beginning of the strategy of the blockade.
7…Bxc5 8. 0-0 – here, modern chess theory tells us Black should play 8…a5, but Salwe played 8…f6 9. b4 Be7 10. Bf4 fxe5 11. Nxe5 Nxe5 12. Bxe5 and we reach the position on the left.
Nimozwitsch has blockaded the central pawns with control of the d4 and e5 squares. Be sure to watch the video for a more in-depth analysis, and to see what happens next – how the blockade is a useful middlegame strategy you can employ in your own games.
Stuck trying to understand the middlegame? The fact is that the blockade is just one of the fundamental principles you need to learn in order to find success in the middlegame. IM Bill Paschall explains all the fundamental middlegame principles you need to know to master this complex area of the game, such as pawn structures, central squares, key squares, pawn breaks, closed positions and much more. Click here to get instant access with 35% off.