6

It's my move (white). I have no idea what to do. I feel like I'm going to get squashed to death.

What would be my best move or strategy in situations like these?

[fen "r2q1rk1/4b3/p1n1p1b1/1p1pPpPp/2pP1B1P/P1N2N2/1PP1Q3/2KR2R1 w - - 0 1"]
  • 2
    He couldn't have built the wall without some help from you! :) – Wes Apr 8 '14 at 18:36
  • 3
    Considering this is a game in progress, shouldn't you rather finish the game first and then explore what you could have done afterwards? – GrizzlyRawrz Apr 8 '14 at 19:59
  • 1
    There is nothing you can do. You need time to get your knight to f4 but Black is faster with b4. If he plays b4 you will lose due to strong mating attack. You really should switch towards defense. Best regards. – AlwaysLearningNewStuff Apr 8 '14 at 20:23
7

In order to make progress, one or both of you need to break through that wall. Each of you seem to have the best chances on the side near the opponent's King--you have a passer on the kingside; your opponent has a lot of pressure on your queenside.

First, look at his threats. ...b5-b4 seems to force the issue on the queenside by kicking your Knight and threatening your a-pawn. It's likely that the b file would be at least half-opened if Black plays ...b4. That's not great for you. However, it would free a4 for your Knight, so you could maybe reposition it to c5 at some point--that's not a bad thing, if you can survive the coming attack.

[FEN "r2q1rk1/4b3/p1n1p1b1/3pPpPp/1ppP1B1P/P1N2N2/1PP1Q3/2KR2R1 w - - 0 1"]

Position after ...b5-b4.


Now let's think offensively. Where can you break through his wall? If you can't push pawns of your own, Knights are usually the best at this sort of thing, since they can jump to the back lines. The nature of the pawn wall means their only jumping-off spots are the spaces just in front of enemy pawns. A great spot immediately suggests itself, then: f4! From f4, a White Knight would threaten three Black pawns, as well as Black's light-squared Bishop. If you could maneuver a Knight to f4, then, you may be able to break through on the kingside and really put Black's king in some trouble. It's too bad you don't have a light-square Bishop to pressure h5.

[FEN "6k1/8/p3p1b1/1p1pPpPp/2pP1N1P/P7/1PP5/2K5 w - - 0 1"]

The previous point began with "if you can't push pawns of your own". But you do have a pawn or two with moves, so let's look at those. Pushing the b-pawn isn't very appetizing, as it would likely result in a half-open c-file for Black to use to attack you. But what about a3-a4? It doesn't lose any material, and it somewhat mitigates the threats posed by ...b5-b4, since Black would no longer have anything to capture. He could still take ...bxa4, but once you recapture with Nxa4, he only has a half-open b file, and meanwhile your Knight is placed to advance to c5. Your dark-square Bishop and your Queen also have potential to slide around Black's wall via d2. All in all, not ideal, but not too bad either.

[StartFlipped "0"]
[FEN "r2q1rk1/4b3/p1n1p1b1/3pPpPp/N1pP1B1P/5N2/1PP1Q3/2KR2R1 b - - 0 1"]

Position after 1.a4 bxa4 2.Nxa4.


None of the above lines are perfectly satisfactory: they're either too slow, or potentially inadequate in terms of dealing with Black's queenside threats. Thus we have a third possibility: the King is in danger and no one can come to his aid--therefore, we flee to the kingside.

Because the position is so closed, and Black has no immediate threats against your King, you could simply play Kd2 right away, and march your King out of harm's way, simultaneously clearing spaces for your other pieces to maneuver to the queenside if need be. I'm not going to cover this option in any further detail since Wes already gave a good account of it in his answer, so you should go read about it there.

Conclusion

Three basic plans come to mind for me. Hopefully they at least give you some insight into how I would tackle this situation, so you will be able to evaluate them on their own merits and drawbacks, and then either choose among them or come up with something altogether better!

  • As a medium-term goal, reorganize the kingside to place a Knight on f4 to pressure all of Black's kingside forces and tie his pieces to the defense of his wall.
  • Soon or immediately, a3-a4 could be played to limit Black's queenside attacking potential and potentially close the position completely, or free your own pieces to end-around Black's wall.
  • Go for a walk with your King behind your own lines, via d2 and e3, to make room for your other pieces to maneuver and get your monarch out of the danger zone.
  • Great in-depth analysis! I wish I could think like this on the spot. – NoName Apr 8 '14 at 21:17
  • a4 is actually a bad move. Black is simply better after b4 or the much stronger Qa5! Stockfish rates it as low as -2.94 after Qa5! 1. a4 Qa5 2. Kd2 b4 3. Nb1 Qxa4 4. Ke1 Qa2 5. c3 a5 6. Kf2 Qb3 7. Kg2 Rfb8 8. Rd2 a4 9. cxb4 Bxb4 10. Rc2 Ba5 11. Kh1 Qb6 12. Qe3 Nb4 13. Re2 Nd3 14. Rgg2 Qb3 15. Rc2 Bb4 16. Rge2 Nxf4 17. Qxf4 {-2.94/24} * – Wes Apr 9 '14 at 3:40
  • @Wes Perhaps. I didn't have the benefit of a computer when I was writing this analysis, but frankly it doesn't look good for White no matter what he does. I'm not convinced that a4 makes the situation all that much worse than it already is (though again, you have more tools at your disposal than I). – Henry Keiter Apr 9 '14 at 3:49
  • @HenryKeiter, yes. Qa5 was spotted by the computer, but even as a human, a4 is quite "unthinkable" to me. It's hard to explain why without giving solid lines, but it's chess intuition. Let me explain what I see. The most automatic response to a4 is b4, which drives the knight back to b1 and leaves the pawn on a4 vulnerable. Then after Nb1, Black plays Qa5 attacking a4. White plays b3 to support it and Black plays c3, trapping the knight on b1 forever. No computer understands this, and perhaps because of this rates Qa5 higher than b4. Perhaps b4, the human moves is as good as Qa5. – Wes Apr 9 '14 at 4:03
  • Although, now that I revisit it, maybe the position gets too closed after c3 and Black cannot find a breakthrough. Black would have to sacrifice a piece on a4, so maybe rushing with c3 is not the best idea. So maybe Qb6 followed by Na5, pressuring b3 should be better. – Wes Apr 9 '14 at 4:08
6

White cannot break this Great Wall of China in this position. In fact, White is slightly worse and here's why -

1. Pawn chain

Black's pawn structure is better than White's. The pawn on e6 is the base of Black's pawn chain and it is almost impossible for White to have any attack on that. True, White could possibly bring a knight to f4, but that's not happening any time soon, and even if that happens, Black can easily defend e6 with one of his pieces. On the other hand, White's "virtual" pawn chain base is b2 and it is far easier for Black to attack that. Black can open the b-file by playing b4 and aim his rooks at b2.

2. Weaknesses

Black's only real weakness is the pawn on h5, but that is firmly protected by the bishop on g6. If White brings a knight to g3 (which will take time) to double attack the pawn, Black can play Qe8 and protect it. White's b2 pawn is quite weak. If the b-file is opened, it will be a constant target for Black.

3. Quality of pieces

Black's worst piece is the bishop on g6. It is doing nothing at the moment and is completely blocked by its own pawns. The same can be said about White's bishop on f4. These two pieces are equally bad. So the comparison is between the knight on c6 and the bishop on e7, with the knights on c3 and f3. The knight on f3 is not doing much. It just supports d4 and plays a defensive role. Meanwhile, the knight on c6 is constantly attacking d4. So the knight on c6 is better than the knight on f3. The knight on c3 does absolutely nothing. It's activity is completely neutralized by Black's pawns and it can be threatened any moment by b4. On the other hand, the bishop on e7 is supporting the advance of b4, and is not as much hemmed in by pawns. So the bishop on e7 is slightly better than the knight on c3.

Still, it's not easy for Black to break through in this position if White plays correctly. The correct plan for White should be to march his king away from the queenside, which is soon going to come under fire from the Black rooks. White can safely do this because the center is closed and there's no way for Black to go after White's king. Thus, I recommend the following line which gives White equality-

      [FEN "r2q1rk1/4b3/p1n1p1b1/1p1pPpPp/2pP1B1P/P1N2N2/1PP1Q3/2KR2R1 w - - 0 1"]

      1. Kd2! b4 (1... Rb8 2. Ra1 b4 (2... a5 3. a4 b4 4. Nb5) 3. axb4 Rxb4 4. Rxa6
      Qc8 5. Ra2 Qb7 6. Rb1 Qb6 7. Ke3 $1) 2. axb4 Bxb4 3. Ke3 $1 

Such king walks are quite common in closed positions. Consider this game where the great Gary Kasparov himself playing against a strong program like Fritz took his king for a walk on the queenside instead of castling kingside, which could have been dangerous.

      [FEN "rnb2rk1/1p3ppp/1Pp2n1q/2Pp4/1B1Pp2b/PNN1P2P/1R1Q1PP1/4KB1R w K - 0 23"]
      [White "Kasparov"]
      [Black "Fritz"]

      1. Kd1! Be6 2. Kc1 Rd8 3. Rc2 Nbd7 4. Kb2

Such king walks are also at times seen in closed positions that arise from the Nimzo-Indian defense. Here's a game between two strong grandmasters Timman and Hort, where Hort played this maneuver.

    [FEN "rn1qk2r/pp3p2/3p1n1p/2pPpbp1/2P4P/2P1PPB1/P5P1/R2QKBNR b KQkq - 0 11"]

    1...Kd7!? 2. Bf2 Kc7

Finally, a word of caution! Do NOT attempt king walks unless you're quite sure that your king cannot be attacked and will be safe at its destination.

  • 2
    +1 for good advice on taking a King walk. I didn't want to turn my answer into a book by including the nuances involved there, but you covered all the highlights very concisely. – Henry Keiter Apr 9 '14 at 1:34
-6

Nxd5. allows you to flood in.You should get an easy win.

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