Beware of casually extending your pawn chain to “usher away” your opponent’s queen!

Here’s what happened in an online rapid game I played against my regular opponent. All I can say is that none of my opening errors were punished by my opponent, so the #pubchessbluffer bluffed his way through to victory!

I was White and opened with 1.d4:

  1. d4 d5
  2. c4 c6
  3. Nc3 Nf6
  4. Nf3 [my usual move here, if I follow John Watson’s repertoire, is 4. e3] g6
  5. Bg5 Bg7
  6. e3 0-0
  7. h3 Qb6
  8. b3 Ne4
  9. Nxe4 dxe4
  10. Bxe7? exf3
  11. Bxf8 Kxf8
  12. a3? Nd7?
  13. c5?? Qc7? [White extends his pawn chain and Black misses a game-winning opportunity.]

Here’s the situation after 13. c5??

13. c5??

Can you find the best move for Black after 13. c5?

The answer is on the video!

What Black Should Have Played & Why

Instead of playing the seemingly “obvious” 13… Qc7, Black needs to take stock of the position on the board and look at White’s structural weaknesses before automatically moving his Queen away from the attacking pawn. As Jeremy Silman teaches in How To Reassess Your Chess there are a series of “imbalances” that you ought to get into the habit of checking. In this game there is already a material imbalance, but more relevant to the situation right now are imbalances caused by “structure” and “weak squares.” In addition, Black has one massive asset, his g7 Bishop, which exerts its influence along the a1-h8 diagonal.

If you trace a line along that diagonal you will come to one of White’s weak points, the c3 square. If only Black could get his Bishop to c3 and check the King! The King would be unable to move because of Black’s pawn on f3. The only piece that can intervene is the Queen! After Bc3+ the Queen would have to step into the breach and sacrifice herself: Qc2 Bxc2+, Kxc2, and Black’s Queen still has time to move away from the attacking c5 pawn.

So what Black needs is a way to open the door to c3. How about Nxc5! ? Suddenly Black’s 12th move, … Nd7, which the engine did not like, seems like a stroke of genius!

13. c5?? Nxc5!

14. dxc5?? Bc3+! [much better than Bxa1]

15. Qd2 Bxd2!

16. Kxd2 Qxb3!

After Black’s Knight captures the c5 pawn, White would be better off NOT taking it back. Keep the door to c3 firmly shut and suck up the loss of the c5 pawn! Even so, White is still in trouble.

The game was played on

David Hurley #PubChessBluffer​

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FURTHER READING: John Watson, A Strategic Chess Opening Repertoire for White: