Pawn Chain Configurations: Pawn Islands 1

Pawn1-01At the beginning of this topic let me remind you of a common truth: Maneuvers of chess pieces do not always change the situation completely, as all pieces have the right to come back. However, any pawn movement is irreversible.

During the game, you are constantly preoccupied about the changes of configuration of pawn chains. Let’s try to understand these nuances.

In the first block of articles we’ll consider the problem of “pawn islands”. A group of pawns (or single pawns) that doesn’t have its “colleagues” on the neighboring files can be considered a pawn island. As a rule, the fewer islands you have, the better off you are. Islands are more easily subject to pressure than a monolithic pawn skeleton. Let’s consider examples.

Kasparov, S (2458) – Mallah, A (2385) [D30]
Urmia (8), 07.02.2008

Pawn1-02White has two islands, Black has three. White’s plan is whenever possible to exchange several pieces and to organize pressure upon the weak а7- and с6-pawns.


12. Ba3 Re8

13. Bxe7 [13.Qc2!?] Qxe7

14. e3 h5 The right  decision. It is necessary to be quick with counterplay.

15. Qc1+/= Bf5!?

16. Nd2 [A computer’s cool-blooded advice is to capture a pawn 16.Qxc6!? but a lag in development would become more appreciable] h4

17. Re1 Qe6

18. Ra6 Rec8

19. Qc5 Rc7

20. Rc1  Having secured the king, White began the siege of enemy “islands”. Black can’t save both the a7- and с6-pawns simultaneously. Rac8

21. Rxa7 Rxa7

22. Qxa7± One of the islands is destroyed, but the struggle is still far from finished, as Black’s arguments on kingside shouldn’t be underestimated. Ng4

23. Qa6 Qh6 [23…Nxe3 24.Re1]

24. Nf1 hxg3

25. hxg3 Kh7

26. Qe2 Re8

27. Qf3 Qg6

28. Qf4 [An exchange sacrifice is interesting, but insufficient 28.Rxc6 Qxc6 29.Qxf5+ Qg6 30.Qxg6+ Kxg6 31.Bxd5+/=] Bd3

29. Nh2 Nxh2

30. Kxh2 Ra8

31. Bf3 Kg8

32. Kg2 Qe6

33. Bg4 [long forced, this variant does not achieve the purpose 33.Qh4 f6 34.Rh1 Kf7 35.Qh5+ Bg6 36.Qxg6+? Kxg6 37.Bh5+ Kg5 38.f4+ Kf5 39.g4+ Ke4 40.Bg6+ f5 41.Bxf5+ Qxf5 42.gxf5 Kxe3 with compensation] Qe8

34. Bf5 Bxf5 

35. Qxf5 Rb8

36. Qc2 Rb6

37. Kg1 g

 38. b4 Qb8

39. Kg2 Kg7

40. Qc5 Qb7? Time trouble [40…Ra6±]

41. Qd6+- Rxb4

42. Rxc6 Rc4

43. Rb6 Qc7 [44.Qf6+ wins, and then, for instance 45.Rd6 1–0]


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