White has disrupted Black’s kingside pawn-structure and his Queen threatens the g6 pawn. It would not be advisable to castle on the kingside, but that is just what Black did!

Here is another look at how in chess castling can sometimes get you into trouble.

Click the link for my previous castling in chess blog post.

In this game, which I played on Gameknot against a player rated at the time in the lower 1600s (and with an all-time-high ranking of 1691), my opponent, playing Black, castled into danger on the kingside.

In the illustration, the critical moment has arrived. Black’s kingside pawn structure has been disrupted by an exchange of minor pieces, leaving an undefended Black pawn on g6. Now would not be a good time for Black to castle on the kingside, but that is exactly what Black did!

How did we get to this point?

In this game, White opened with d4 (expecting to play the Queen’s Gambit), but Black responded with e6 and so White played e4, effectively accepting Black’s offer to switch to the French Defence, after which, the game morphed into the Advance Variation (in which White advances his King’s pawn to e5):

5 moves into the Advance Variation of the French Defense and all is well…
  1. d4, e6
  2. e4, d5
  3. e5, c5
  4. c3, N-c6
  5. N-f3, Q-b6

Apart from the reversed opening, this is standard fare for the Advance Variation of the French Defence.

White’s next move, B-d3 has the intention of occupying the b1-h7 diagonal, and also to to lure the black pawn on c5 down to c4, relieving pressure on White’s pawn structure. This is the kind of move that would not work at a more advanced level, but chess is a psychological battle, and it is the sort of thing that often “does the job” in games below the 1800 level.

Pawn to h7 weakens Black’s position. There is now only one pawn guarding the knight. Re-taking on g6 will leave the pawn undefended and disrupt the kingside pawn structure.

6.  B-d3, c4 (the “ruse” worked!)

7. Bc2, N-e7

8. 0-0 (White successfully castles into a defensive “box” on the kingside: In chess castling works best when the king can castle into a well defended space.)

… N-g6 (Black is seeking to pressure White’s e5 pawn, but in doing so he presents White with an opportunity…)

9. R-e1, B-e7 (Black is ready to castle…)

10. R-e3, h6 (Neither of these moves are the best, but Black’s pawn move creates a weakness which White will exploit… In this game of chess castling on the King’s side is no longer a safe option.)

11. B x g6, f7 x g6

12. Q-c2, 0-0 (??)

This is the position shown in the first illustration. With White’s queen aiming at Black’s undefended g7 pawn it makes no sense to castle on the kingside. In this kind of situation it is better to make use of the king’s defensive power and move the king to f2 to defend the g6 pawn and keep the White queen out.

However, Black castled, and the result was a swift end to the game:

Blackcastlesandresigns13. Q x g6, Q-d8

14. R-e2 (opening the path for the bishop), B-d7 (?) (… Q-e8 would be more effective.)

15. B x h7, Black resigns.

The takeaway from this game is again that one should beware of castling into trouble! White castled securely, but black did the opposite.

Also, when playing Black in the Advance Variation of the French Defence, it may be better, as a rule of thumb, to delay or even to avoid castling on the kingside. Of course, it depends on the actual position on the board, which is what Black neglected to consider in the game shown here. In this game of chess castling did not make Black stronger, it destroyed him.

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