Methods of Playing in Positions with Hanging Pawns - Part 1



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Dear Readers,

The present article marks the beginning of a series of lectures on positions with hanging pawns. Before we get into the topic, we should make clear which pawns are hanging. Generally speaking, this is a pawn couple situated on "d" and "c" files ( "c4" and "d4" for White and "c5" and "d5" for Black ). Pawns are called "hanging", because there are no pawns on "e" and "b" files which can protect them. As this pawn structure arises quite often in modern chess practice, every chessplayer must be familiar with it. Grunfeld defence, Nimzo-Indian defence, Queen's Indian defence and Queen's gambit constitute only a little part of the openings from which positions with hanging pawns could arise.

Depending on the concrete situation, hanging pawns could be a strength or a weakness. In the middlegame, when there are a lot of pieces on the board, the side playing with hanging pawns enjoys a considerable spatial advantage. In such kind of positions, hanging pawns play the role of a shield behind which we can prepare for an attack against the opponent's king. Sometimes, hanging pawns could go forward and create dangerous threats. That's why we should always take into consideration their dynamic potential. Despite the numerous advantages they offer, in some cases, the hanging pawns could be weak. In order to understand their weak points, we should clarify some basic concepts related to positions with a spatial advantage. The side which has a spatial advantage avoids the exchanges because every exchange reduces dramatically the importance of space. That's why we try to exchange pieces when playing against hanging pawns.

In the endgame, the dynamic potential of hanging pawns decreases and they need a constant protection. Our course on hanging pawns is divided into two logically interlinked articles. While the present material concerns the methods of playing against such pawns, in the next issue, I am going to present some ideas which might help us exploit their attacking potential.

In practice, we fight against hanging pawns by using three main methods: piece pressure, attack from the side by b2-b4 advance and central attack by e3-e4 advance.

1) Piece pressure - This is the most frequently applied strategy when playing against hanging pawns. It's highly effective when some minor pieces are already exchanged and hanging pawns are under the fire of our major pieces. In such kind of positions, queen and rooks exercise a considerable pressure against the opponent's pawn center. The attacker has the following plan at his disposal: Rooks are placed in front of the pawns ( on "c" and "d" files ) while the queen should be situated in a way which allows it to attack at least one of the pawns. - as the pressure generated by major pieces is rarely sufficient, minor pieces should enter the attack too. Let's see how the above-mentioned plan was practically applied by the living legend Viktor Korchnoi (on the photo below) in his game against Efim Geler. 

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