Logical Chess (3) – The Chess Improver

If you read the sort of chess books I grew up with, you sometimes get the impression that a queenside pawn is mostly, in itself, enough to win the game.

In my continuing series on Chernev’s Logical Chess Move by Move, there’s a game of this nature. Capablanca – Villegas (Simul 1914) is Game 30 in the book.

Chernev introduces it like this:

In this game, the art of chess is reduced to a simple formula: Get a passed pawn, move it up the board, and win! While several of Capa’s moves receive exclamation marks, only one of his hapless opponent’s moves receives any criticism at all, giving the impression that chess is almost a forced win for White.

Nimzowitsch, on the other hand, famously opened that:

The passed Pawn is a criminal, who should be kept under lock and key. Mild measures, such as police surveillance, are not sufficient.

Perhaps Villegas should have taken Nimzo’s advice.

Let’s see what Stockfish has to make of it.

1. d4 d5
2. Nf3 Nf6
3. e3 c6
4. Bd3 Bg4
5. c4 e6
6. Nbd2 Nbd7
7. OO Be7
8. Qc2 Bh5
9. b3 Bg6
10. Bb2 Bxd3

The only Black move Chernev doesn’t like. Stocky disagrees, not fancying the doubled g-pawn, thinks it’s his best option here and asks why White didn’t trade last move.

11. Qxd3 OO
12. Rae1 Qc7
13. e4 dxe4
14. Nxe4 Nxe4
15. Rxe4 Bf6
16. Qe3 c5
17. Ne5 cxd4

18. Nxd7!

A clever move. Capa had seen 18.. dxe3 19. Nxf6+ Kh8 20. Rh4 h6 21. Rxh6+ gxh6 22. Nd5+ when he’d have ended up with two pieces against a rook. Pretty impressive to spot that in a simul, don’t you think?

18..Qxd7
19. Bxd4 Bxd4
20. Rxd4 Qc7
21. Rfd1 Rfd8
22. b4

An exclamation mark from Irv, but Stocky isn’t impressed, considering it premature. Instead the engine suggests 22. h4, stopping back rank mates, introducing a further advance of Harry to soften up the black king, and anticipating a queen ending with reasonable winning chances because of a more active queen and a potential c-pawn passed. Passed pawns tend to be stronger in pure queen endings.

22..Rxd4
23. Qxd4 b6

A queen and rook ending has been reached in which White is more comfortable but Black should probably be able to hold. Stockfish wants to play Qd7 for White here.

24. g3 Rc8
25. Rc1 Rd8

This looks very natural but Stocky doesn’t like it, preferring Qd8 when Black should be able to save the rook ending. As a general principle here, I guess, White should be aiming for a queen ending and Black for a rook ending.

26. Qe3 Kf8

Maybe not best because it leaves the h-pawn undefended. Engine preferences are h6 and Qc6.

27. c5 bxc5
28. Qe4 Rd5

Stockfish prefers Qd6 here, aiming for a queen trade.

29. bxc5

29..g6?

This is the losing move, but Chernev, although correctly observing that 29… Rxc5 would have lost to Qb4, doesn’t question it. The only way to stay in the game was to follow Nimzo’s advice and put the passed pawn under lock and key: 29.. Qc6 30. Qxh7 Rxc5 31. Qh8+ Ke7 32. Rxc5 Qxc5 33. Qxg7 leaves White a pawn ahead in the queen ending, but Black has drawing chances.

30. c6 Kg7
31. A4 Rd6?

Allowing an obvious Stock Tactic, but he was losing anyway. The passed pawn is much stronger on c6 than on c5 here because of potential promotion tactics.

32. Qe5+ Kf8
33. Qxd6+!
1-0

An instructive game which, like many of Capablanca’s endings, is well worth studying, but not quite for the reasons Chernev had in mind.

Richard James

Please follow and like us:

Richard James

Author: Richard James

Richard James is a professional chess teacher and writer living in Twickenham, and working mostly with younger children and beginners. He was the co-founder of Richmond Junior Chess Club in 1975 and its director until 2005. He is the webmaster of chessKIDS academy (www.chesskids.org.uk or www.chesskids.me.uk) and, most recently, the author of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, both published by Right Way Books. Richard has been a member of Richmond & Twickenham Chess Club since 1966. Richard is a published author and his books can be found at Amazon. Richard is currently promoting minichess (games and puzzles using subsets of chess) for younger children through his website www.minichess.uk, and writing coaching materials for children (and adults) who want to start playing serious competitive chess, through www.chessheroes. uk. View all posts by Richard James

Leave a Comment