I started working on this book in March, 2007. As usually happens, due to different reasons, it took me longer than my publisher and me had planned and I finished my work in August 2008.
In this book I wanted to explore the – in my opinion – four most important types of pawn structure in chess. Quite a number of books on pawn structures have been published, and one may rightly wonder what makes this book different.
Well, I have tried, as much as possible, to
1. systematize the thematic plans used and give clear explanations of them, and
2. incorporate the ideas of the featured opening variation into the pawn structure that ensues. The latter is actually quite important. In the pre-computer era players normally polished their opening repertoire over the years, and even though opening preparation did not go nearly as far as today, years of theoretical and practical experience brushing up one’s repertoire would normally result in a reasonably good strategic understanding of the positions arising from the openings played.
In the past 15 years, the involvement of computer programs and databases has made it considerably easier to prepare a particular variation for a particular opponent. However, thorough study and good strategic understanding of the positions still remains a must in order to capitalize successfully on your opening preparation. I still remember watching one of Anatoly Karpov’s post-mortems, when he had won from some initially inferior Ruy Lopez with black. His opponent, slightly annoyed, remarked: ‘Here, after the opening, you were definitely worse’, to which the 12th World Champion calmly replied: ‘Yes, but soon after I was better’.
Indeed, Karpov has won from quite a number of inferior positions (his encounters with Garry Kasparov included), due to his superior strategic understanding of the openings he was playing. Kasparov has won many Najdorfs and King’s Indians not only because he had the best novelties, but because he fundamentally understood those positions better than his opponents. On the other hand he was too stubborn to admit that the Berlin Variation of the Ruy Lopez was not ‘his cup of tea’, which ultimately cost him his World Championship title against Vladimir Kramnik in 2000.
Kramnik, on the other hand, being devastating in Catalan-type systems with white and Meran Slavs with black, at some stage started to opt for sharp Sicilians with white and King’s Indians with black. That adventure did not last very long. Nowadays he is a merciless killing machine with his Catalans again, squeezing out the smallest of microscopic advantages, while the King’s Indian with black is a long-forgotten voyage.
If such mistakes are committed by the world’s very best, then what are we to expect from lesser gods? Throughout my own career, I have also scored reasonably well in the positions I understood and paid the price for being too stubborn to stay away from position types that did not suit me.
So the reasons why I have tried in this book to incorporate the strategic middlegame ideas and the games which I view as important into the four different types of pawn structure discussed in this book, were:
1. to provide a complete guide for the club player;
2. through a process of serious analysis of the material in this book, to also give the club player a reasonably accurate feeling as to which particular positions suit him and which do not; and
3. to give the club player who takes his time for a thorough study of this book, new strategic and also practical opening knowledge, after which he will definitely see a clear improvement in his results.
In the introductions to the four different chapters, I will further explain the distinguishing types of position, games and variations featured.
I hope that, apart from trying to improve his chess skills, the reader will also simply enjoy studying the games selected in this book.