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I would like to know why playing d5 in these two positions is useful for me (Black). enter image description here

enter image description here

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    Partially related: chess.stackexchange.com/q/23684/3594 – Ellie Jan 8 at 14:39
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    As usual Phishmaster gave the answer just before I was trying to. Like he said you need to control the center better not let their pawn horde overwhelm you. The bishop will help support your center. It will not do anything by itself on that diagonal and without a center you wont be attacking on the king side when it could help. – yobamamama Jan 8 at 14:51
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    The second image almost is an answer by itself: According to Stockfish, White should have pushed e4 already and not doing so was a mistake. Working to stop White's best move cannot be too bad for Black! – Annatar Jan 9 at 8:08
  • Your pawn needs to move if you want to give all your other pieces some breathing room/mobility. The alternative is to put your pieces in front of your pawn, but that looks dangerous. – Mateen Ulhaq Jan 9 at 11:40
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You do not have enough control of e4, and if white gets to play e4-e5 here, your king is a goner. It is an absolute must here to stop that plan, and the only way to do it is d5. Making your Bb7 bad for now pales in comparison to letting your king get mated, or loss of significant material, which will happen after e4-e5.

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  • Could you elaborate on how e4-e5 leads to mate? – justhalf Jan 9 at 4:52
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    @justhalf there isn't a forced mate, but after e4-e5 Black's knight on f6 (one of Black's lone king defenders too) is booted, and White has the ready made plan of Qh4, f4-f5, Rf3-g3 and Raf1, etc. The central pawn wedge means Black will be sorely outnumbered on the kingside. I am not so sure about "your king is a goner", but if Black doesn't take urgent action, he is done for. – Allure Jan 9 at 5:45
  • That's only true if Black castles short – David Jan 9 at 9:42
  • @David, in the second picture, he already has, so the e4-e5 idea is a huge threat. Even if he manages to castle long, giving white the huge center will still mean certain loss with good play, but it will just come in a different form. – PhishMaster Jan 9 at 11:01
  • Are you suggesting that every French defence is a loss for Black? – David Jan 9 at 15:17
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Other than controlling the e4-square (as noted by PhishMaster), there are some additional reasons ...d5 could be useful, which I'll list below. But even if these reasons didn't exist, ...d5 would still be best since controlling e4 is necessary.

1) It gives Black's queen more space.

2) It controls the c4-square, potentially stopping White from playing Nc4 (and discouraging c4). These moves aren't dangerous now, but they could be later on. For example, if you want to play a move like ...Bd6 at some point, avoiding Nc4 would be nice.

3) In general, it gives Black more influence in the centre, simply by virtue of pushing a pawn to d5.

You're right that the move blocks in the b7-bishop, but in a way it also increases the piece's strength. Now the bishop's control of e4 actually means something, since Black has a good chance to fight for it.

But note that if you want to exchange off the bishop, this could be done with ...a5 + ...Ba6 (eliminating White's dangerous d3-bishop); notice how without a pawn on d5, White could easily meet this with c4. In addition, another plan for you after ...d5 is ...Nce8-...Nd6, further clamping down on e4. Putting your knights on f6 and d6 is an important theme against the Stonewall structure.

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In addition to the other answers, I want to point out that closing your Bishop's activity isn't important here:

  1. Your bishop isn't active. Sure it's got an open diagonal, but it's not generating any threats. In the first position, you could play Bxf3 but then White would just recapture with the Queen and you've not achieved anything. In the second position, it's not like you are able to mount a kingside attack. The Bishop attacking g2 does absolutely nothing then.

  2. Your bishop's activity is "low quality". White is easily ready to counter the activity. If White gets to play e4 then your bishop effectively becomes useless even though you haven't blocked the diagonal.

In other words, you don't actually lose much by playing d5.

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-5

There are multiple ways in which d5 could be useful here. The obvious answer is because it grabs grip on the e4 square. It also prepares the advance of the c pawn to c4 which will lock down white's LightSquared bishop. If you aren't comfortable keeping your bishop like this for portions of the middlegame then you can play h6 to force the knight back and capture it. Then you can play d5 and potentially c4.

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