1n3r2/q4pbk/3p2pp/r1pPp3/1pB1P3/1P2BP2/2PQ2PP/3R1RK1 w - - 0 1

I was white in the diagram position in an OTB game I played recently. However, I couldn't find a satisfactory plan. Playing f4 is always tricky because it vacates the e5 square for the black knight and opens up the diagonal for the black bishop. I have the feeling I evaluated this position wrong and it is in fact just equal and not better for white. Any thoughts?

  • 1
    Is it common to avoid using chess engines to evaluate positions? It seems only one of the answers even mentions this option.
    – JollyJoker
    Apr 10, 2019 at 8:13
  • I would like to point out that g4 to stop him from playing f5 is to me quite pointless. Your opponent can play it anyways. 1. g4 f5 2. gxf5 gxf5 3. exf5? e4! is very interesting opening up blacks bishop. Note that 3. ... Rxf5 would be met with 4. Bd3 Rf7 5. Be4! 2. g5 gives Black h5 and kills your own dark-squared bishop. After gxf5 playing something else and letting f5 what it is should be preferred, but still I would not play g4 myself. The G-file opens up, therefore, you can expect plans like Rg8 and Bf8.White would probably play Kh1 and Rg1. White does get the open F-file though. Apr 11, 2019 at 7:11
  • 5
    @JollyJoker Many players that are trying to improve or have a more intuitive understanding of the game avoid engines.
    – Jimmy360
    Apr 11, 2019 at 13:13
  • Note that if you wanted to play f4 but not weaken the e5-square, g3+f4 is possible. Sep 28, 2019 at 23:30

6 Answers 6


I think the f4-plan is doomed to fail. It would be beautiful if we could achieve it in good conditions, however, as you pointed out, f4 is met with ...exf4 followed by probably ...Qe7 and Nd7-e5. We get rid of the pressure on the 'a' file though, so it's better than doing nothing.

If we went for g3, preparing for gxf4 after f4, our effort will be met by ...f5! shattering our dreams.

It would be interesting to try to put our light-squared bishop on a4, but I don't see it working either after 1.Qd3 Nd7 2.Bb5 and now even Nb6 does fine

For those reasons, I think the best answer here is to immediately play c3!? It's true that Black has ...Ra2, but after Qe1 I don't really think it does much. If Black captured on c3, our queen would be now in a great square to fight for the a file. If Black does NOT capture, then we can begin to put some pressure on b4

  • c3 is a nice idea, and the pawn structure shows that white's play might be on the queenside. This is hard to see at first, since black dominates the a-file, but this post neatly points out that bxc3 Qxc3 allows white to fight along the a-file, and allowing cxb4 does put pressure on b4. It's actually quite hard to defend b4 after cxb4.
    – ktm5124
    Apr 11, 2019 at 13:59
  • 2
    Yeah, c3 is the only lever I had left in the position. Interesting to finally arrive at the conclusion that playing the most obvious move, f4, is always a mistake here. Unless, of course, black directs his attention away from the center and f4 can be played with enough momentum. Apr 13, 2019 at 14:53

I see a couple ideas:

First your f4 idea seems reasonable. Consider 1.g3 with the idea of f4 when the threat of f5 is good. If Black plays exf4 then gxf4 controls e5. You can even re-deploy the Bishop from c4 to h3 to control the knight.

The second idea, which seems like a clear edge for White to me, is to trade the queen-side pawns by playing c3 and eventually b4. This will expose the d6 pawn as weak while completely destroying Blacks space advantage on that side of the board.

I would play 1.c3

Don't worry about 1...Ra2 that is just a temporary nuisance; simply Qe1 and Black has to deal with the threat of cxb4. On bxc3 2.Qxc3 followed by Ra1 takes over the a-file. Black is suffering here.


I would not go for f4, since it opens up the Black's Bishop on g7. It becomes really strong after exf4. My instinct would be to go for the other pawn break: c3! Although this gives Black the immediate Ra2, imagine the response Qe1. The Queen looks very backwards, I know. However, cxb4 is a threat. If Black plays f5, it can be ignored; taking opens up his bishop! Therefore, also in this position cxb4 is possible. But why Qe1? To keep focus on c3 and prepare Ra1, getting your rook to an open file. Be careful though, don't play Ra1 without good preparation. imagine: 1. Ra1 Rxa1 2. Qxa1 Qxa1 3. Rxa1 bxc3 4. Rc1 Nd7. It can become awkward with Ra8, again taking the open file. So: Ra1 may be awkward if the tension between c3 and b4 is still there. I would prefer playing cxb4 first. If your opponent were to take your pawn on c3 before you've played Ra1, just Qxc3 and Ra1 would be fine.


My thought looking at the position is you want to attack Black's king, so if you don't want to play f5 at once, then a possible plan is to play Rf2, g5, Rg2, Rg3, Rh3, increasing the pressure on h6.

This is quite slow, but black doesn't seem to have an obvious way to generate counterplay.

Black might defend h6 by putting his Knight on g8, perhaps play f5 at that point.

[ I am not much good, so take this with a big pince of salt! ]


Whites position is much better/winning due to double bishop advantage, space advantage and black's poor dark square bishop.

f4 looks like a good plan, however it needs preparation with g3. It threatens f5 with f6 which will completely crush black's position.

c3 looks pretty good as well, breaking up black's queen side.

Of course all of this is my speculation and you should just use an engine to see white's best plan.

  • 4
    After 1.g3 f5 White has no edge at all. The position is still unclear after 1.c3!? How on Earth is that c4 bishop supposed to be an advanatage
    – David
    Apr 10, 2019 at 7:23
  • 1
    -1 for being both wrong and unhelpful. The two Bishops are no advantage in a blocked position that cannot be opened up; they are often a disadvantage. Why do you think White has a space advantage? Is it just because of the Pawn on d5. If it were legal, Whites best move would be to make that Pawn disappear. Blacke dark-square Bishop may not show much activity but it effectively prevents White from playing f4. That is a very common situation in Kings Indian positions.
    – Philip Roe
    Apr 20, 2019 at 17:50
  • @Philip Roe white's double bishop advantage DOES contribute to white's advantage. He would much rather have both bishops than a bishop+knight in this position. The pawn on d5 is a huge asset cramping up black's position and giving white a space advantage. Apr 21, 2019 at 0:20
  • White would much rather have a knight than the c4 bishop.
    – adedqwd
    Oct 2, 2019 at 16:39

Matthew- Before claiming that something is strong you have to point out what it enables. This is the counterpart to the truism that nothing is weak unless it can be attacked. It is also true that nothing is strong unless it can be used to attack.

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