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"]
Chess Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for serious players and enthusiasts of chess. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
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"]
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, 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
[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"]
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.
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!
f4to pressure all of Black's kingside forces and tie his pieces to the defense of his wall.
a3-a4could 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.
e3, to make room for your other pieces to maneuver and get your monarch out of the danger zone.
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.
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.
This is an old question, but it brings up a very relevant chess point that no one above has touched on: In any position, allowing the area of the board you are playing in to become locked is usually positional suicide. Once your area is locked, the only hope is a sacrifice to open it...in this case, it will never come to fruition.
The computer only gives this as slightly worse for black, but as 5 and then 10 and 15 good moves are played, the eval is going to skyrocket. This is virtually lost already since you cannot attack h5 easily (Kg7 and Rh8 if necessary).
Your feeling that you are going to get "squashed to death" is not wrong. The best plan is probably to evacuate the Kc1 over to the locked k-side, and hope to be able to defend what is soon to be a weak queen-side. I am not optimistic since you do not have as much space to maneuver there as black does, and your pieces will be fighting for the same squares.
Nxd5. allows you to flood in.You should get an easy win.