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GM Alex Yermolinsky - Double Pawns in the English - Part 6

Opening: A29: English Opening: Four Knights - Kingside Fianchetto: 1...e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3

Player(s): Gelfand, Kasimdzhanov, Inarkiev, Karjakin

We have seen many examples of double pawns being terribly weak and how the need to protect them with the pieces can lead to dire consequences, such as a complete paralysis of the pieces. Young players are made to be scared to death of double pawns. Literally, they would rather give up a piece than agree to double their pawns. More experienced players know better, yet many of them avoid positions they consider difficult to play because they carry the seeds of potential positional disaster. Are double pawns always bad? I will make the case that they are not. This series of videos opens up our discussion. We will be looking at some lines of the English Opening, where White invites a trade, which causes him to have double pawns on the c-file.  
Video #1 introduces White's desired setup that combines the elements of the Botvinnik System with the pawns on c4 and e4, supported by the pawn on d3 with good control over the key d4-square provided by the pawn on c3. White central formation looks unbreakable in the absence of d7-d5 ideas for the opponent. However, there are possibilities of a flank attack with b7-b5 or f7-f5, particularly given Black's lead in development. A fascinating struggle will ensue.
Video#2 illustrates another line that leads to the same pawn formation. In this case, the white forces are fully mobilized, so a wise strategy of flexible defenses, demonstrated by GM Michael Adams, seems an appropriate choice. An all-out attack tried by the author of these words in one of the featured games had a chance to succeed, but it required a great degree of accuracy. In turn, Black's play can also be improved upon.
Now it is time to look at one of the main lines of the English. The Bb4 move, which can be viewed as a Rossolimo Sicilian with colors reversed, has long been considered a solid choice for Black.
In Video #3, we look at some of the earlier games. Former World Champion Vassily Smyslov showed his understanding of the dangers of hesitant play while White is slowly building his desired setup. His remedy was, quite surprisingly, to move the d-pawn two squares and trade it off for White's c-pawn. No double pawns anymore, but Black gets good development and pressure on the open central files in return. The two games offered to your attention led to two different outcomes. Some two decades later these positions became a battleground in the 4th Kasparov-Karpov match in Seville 1987. See Video #4. White Kasparov was able to demonstrate the possibilities for White, Karpov, in turn, came up with a new concept of a pawn sacrifice for Black. All in all, some success and some failure for both sides.
The story continues with Video #5. Yet another great game between Kasparov and Karpov. The latter prevailed thanks to his trademark cold-blooded defense, but Kasparov didn't quit and a year later in the same line he won a textbook game against Vassily Ivanchuk. That last game particularly well illustrates what happens if White breaks through the opponent's defenses.
A slight change of subject in Video #6. In reply to the attack from the black central pawn the white knight quietly retreats to the back rank. The key difference is the recapture on c3 with the d-pawn. The Gelfand game is a rue masterpiece showcasing what White can do. To counter-balance it, a recent game of Sergey Karjakin demonstrates an effective plan for Black.

Download the Games in PGN format

Teacher's library (712) A29 Gelfand Kasimdzhanov Inarkiev Karjakin opening

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