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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Isolated QP

Having just done a post on Hanging Pawns, I got to thinking I should also do one on the Isolated QP. There are a couple of advantages to studying this P-formation: 1) It can occur in a whole gaggle of openings (QGD-Semi-Tarrasch, English-Symmetrical Variation, Caro-Kann-Panov Attack and Exchange Variation, Sicilian-Alapin, Alekhine Defense-2P’s Attack to name a few, so it can often be reached. 2) Isolated Knowledge or Specialoization.That’s what GM Lev Alburt calls it when you choose one position and analyze it exhaustively. He advises this will allow you to gain mastery over an important position so that you can play it confidently from either side. Such specialization also will increase your general chess knowledge and allow you to become acquainted with similar P-structure themes. Alburt also advises that this will increase you pattern recognition and combinational skills which allows you to take strategy and tactics from known positions and apply them to similar situations.

Two excellent books covering the IQP are GM Andy Soltis’ Pawn Structure Chess and GM Alex Baburin’s Winning Pawn Structures. The latter book is somewhat of a misnomer. It is THE book on isolated QP formations.

Many players, especially older players who grew up on Nimzovich, assume that the Isolated QP, like any isolated pawn; was weak and should be avoided. That’s not true. In the 1974 Karpov-Korchnoi Candidates Match Black had and IQP in seven games without loss.

The most common occurrence of the IQP has it opposed by a P on e6 as in the following diagram:

A study of the ending shows that the P-structure is unfavorable for White However, the middlegame is much more complicated. The isolated P can, in certain circumstances, attain a dynamic strength when the piece placement is favorable. In some cases the IQP can be sacrificed by advancing it. In other cases the IQP supplies two good bases of operation for a N on c5, especially when Black has played …a6 and …b4, in order to develop his B at b7 or on e5. From e5 the N can help to work up an attack against the K and if Black drives it away with …f6, his K-side becomes weak.

The following guidelines will be helpful in determining the correct handling of positions with an IQP.

1. Avoid any great simplification
2. Post pieces to allow the advance d5 at a suitable moment or to force Black to tie up his pieces preventing the advance.
3. Occupy e5 with a N and attack K-side or operate on the c-file.

1. Advance of the IQP must be prevented. This can best be done by posting a N on d5 (or less preferable, a B)
2. Post pieces (e.g. …Nc6 and …Bf6 to tie White’s pieces to the defense of the IQP
3. Seek simplification and play for the ending

I believe that if you will search out 40-50 games with Hanging P's and Isolated QP positions and play over them familiarizing yourself with the intricacies of them and use the solid main line opening that result in such positions, it can’t help but improve you understanding of chess. The result will be that your play improves more than playing some offbeat, inferior opening that results in positions where you have to find the best (and often only) move and get positions even GM’s would find difficult to play.

The game below is a good example of White’s strategy. Also note that in the notes to this game at Black’s 19th move a position could have occurred where White had a Q, B and N vs. Black’s Q and R. This situation was discussed in two posts on this Blog here:

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