Power of the Passed Pawn | Chess Middlegames

Power of the Passed Pawn | Chess Middlegames


Hi everyone, Stjepan here! In this middlegame video I’m going to talk
about passed pawns, how to create them, how to use them, and how to try to stop them. And, of course, you know that having a passed
pawn is a major strategic advantage in a game, and it could often be the difference between
winning and losing, and the side with the passed pawn often creates immense pressure
and puts immense pressure on the opponent’s position, because the opponent is forced to
blockade and defend against the passed pawn which basically becomes another piece. You are all familiar with the evaluations
of piece value in chess, and, of course, a pawn is worth one, minor pieces are worth
three, rooks are worth five, and queens are worth nine. However, when you have a passed pawn then
his value increases significantly, and you could argue that a passed pawn could be worth
more than a minor piece, and it often is. Eventually it’s worth nine points because
it promotes to a queen. So having a passed pawn is a major asset you
could have in a position. And, one thing that definitely helps to find
opportunities for having passed pawns is knowing what to look for, and I’ll try to divide the
video into four parts, four exercises which are going to show you four positions from
real games in which the players managed to create a passed pawn with four different ideas. I’m also going to talk about what to do to
try and prevent your opponent from queening his passed pawn. Ok, the first example is from a game between
Magnus Carlsen, the world champion and Wang Yue from 2010. This is the simplest example. By the way, I just have to mention that this
is from a King’s Gambit, and it was a wonderful game. You can check it out. Carlsen – Wang Yue 2010. And here it’s obvious that white has a pawn
majority on the queenside. You have seen, I hope, my video on pawn majorities. If you haven’t, you can check that out for
more information about these types of structures. And here white has a simple task: push through
one of his pawns, create a passed pawn. This will inevitably cause problems for the
player with the black pieces. So Magnus Carlsen here simply played the move
d5. After the move d5, there’s no way for black
to avoid white having a passed pawn. White is either going to push the pawn to
d6, or after an exchange have a passed pawn on d5. So, this is the simplest way, and the easiest
way to create a passed pawn, and it’s also the simplest solution to spot. Of course, if you have a pawn majority then
it’s simple, you push through your pawns, you’re going to have a passed pawn. As the number of pieces on the board decreases,
it becomes simpler to queen your pawn, so remember that if you have a pawn majority,
and if you create a passed pawn, any piece trades, as long as your king is closer to
the pawn than your opponent’s king, will mean that you win the game. After d5, his opponent played Nf6, preventing
the move d6, now we have Qd4, threatening d6, cxd5, Nxd5. This was an interesting choice because now,
Magnus has an even more favorable pawn majority, which is going to be harder for the black
king to catch. And, once he creates a passed pawn on the
b file or on the a file, then the passed pawn is going to be more significant. So in this position, Wang Yue decided to trade:
Nxd5, cxd5, and here you have it: the passed pawn. Now, this was fairly simple, and this you
need to see in your own games. When you have a pawn majority don’t just push
your pawns like you’re mental, trying to create a passed pawn. Think about which file would your passed pawn
be best on. In Magnus’s case, here, he didn’t want to
trade immediately, after d5, Nf6, Qd4, cxd5, he took with the knight because he knows that
having a passed pawn somewhere here is going to be better than having a passed pawn on
the d file. The passed pawn on the d file is easier to
blockade by black’s pieces, and it’s easier to catch by black’s king. And now, after Nxd5, cxd5, Qd6, we come to
the first point in the defense against the passed pawn. Aaron Nimzowitsch said in his book “My System”
and “Blockade” that a passed pawn is a prisoner and that it should be kept under lock and
key. And that’s very true. If you manage to blockade your opponent’s
passed pawn, then it’s going to be easier to stop it, of course, because it can’t move,
but it’s also easier to round it up and to win it, and to trade it off if possible. Or just take it. So in this position black’s ideal would be
to lets say play Rd8, f6, Bf7, put pressure on the pawn, win the pawn. In order to do that he has to stop it from
moving. And Magnus Carlsen is the world champion,
so he didn’t really allow that. But the basic idea is correct. Wang Yue tried the best idea here. Blockade the pawn and then win it afterwards. The game continues with Ne5, trying to prevent
this idea of f6, Bf7, and also preparing to play Nc4 to remove the defender, to remove
the blockade. Once white plays Nc4, then the queen has to
move and the pawn is advancing to d6. So, your goal with the white pieces here is
to remove the blockade. If you don’t remove the blockade, the pawn
can’t move. And you can already see that the whole game
is revolving around this one d5 pawn. The material is completely equal, you could
even argue that black’s minor piece is superior to white’s knight on e5, but the passed pawn
makes all the difference, and white is in fact winning here. So Ne5, a very smart move, either going to
c4, and also preventing Bf7. Re8, pinning the knight to the rook, of course,
so the knight can’t move now. Re3, removing the pin, and also staying on
dark squares, which is very important if your opponent has a light squared bishop. Then you basically want to keep all of your
pieces on the opposing color complex, which Magnus Carlsen is doing here perfectly. And this means that this bishop becomes sort
of dampened and insignificant, and unable to attack anything important. One more thing white has to do is to remove
the pawn from the light square and then it becomes safe. Rd8, trying to stop the pawn, and now simply
Nc4, there’s nothing he can do. Of course there is a tactical trick here. If queen takes. Ok let me just show you that. Qxd5, Qxd5, Rxd5, there’s a back rank issue,
so black can’t really win the pawn. So in this case this worked. Rd8. If the move h6 had been played, then it would
have been a little trickier, and the pawn would actually be hanging, but that’s what
Magnus was counting on. So Nc4, the queen has to move, Qf6, and now
Re5, defending the pawn once more and stopping the queen trade, which is very important. H6, d6, just advancing the pawn. And here, you can see that black is in a lot
of trouble. Now, here I come to my second point. Once you have a passed pawn, it’s fairly similar
to having a material advantage. You don’t always count on that one advantage
winning the game for you. Sometimes it could be very smart to trade
one advantage for another. And that’s exactly what Magnus Carlsen did
in this game. He didn’t queen this pawn. the d pawn never queened, but he traded the
advantage of the passed d pawn for something even more significant and then went on to
win the game later on. Now lets see what happened. Bf5, preventing the pawn from moving forward. Nb6, Be6, and now the back rank issue no longer
exists because the bishop is defending and the pawn is on h6, d7, moving the pawn forward,
Kh8, a4, g6, Qc3, I’m just going to shuffle through the moves so that you can see what
happened. Here in this position, Wang Yue sacrificed
the exchange, so takes, takes, takes, here. And now, Magnus Carlsen gave up his passed
pawn, but he knew that in this position he’s going to win anyway. Of course he is an exchange up. So, he found another idea here and created
another passed pawn after this. He played the amazing move g4, and whatever
black does, creation of a passed pawn is inevitable. Here he used the second point I wanted to
talk about, that’s the pawn breakthrough. I’m going to give you an example game for
that as well, but, you can see that if you imagine the h4 pawn being a passed pawn it’s
pretty hard if you don’t know the ideas behind these tactics with g4 and creating sort of
a pawn tension on the board where two opposing pawns could be captured. And after g4 that’s exactly what happened,
hxg4, h5, and now the win was pretty simple. And in this position Magnus Carlsen allowed
Wang Yue to queen, but Wang Yue resigned here because he can’t really do much and he is
getting checkmated here. So this was the first example. The important point I wanted to talk about
is right here. After Rxe1, c6, the move d5. C6 is an ok try because allowing the pawn
to d5 would be even worse for black. But after d5, a simple move, using the pawn
majority, white is simply winning. This pawn is too strong and it actually becomes
a material advantage. Sort of, in theory, for white. The second example I wanted to talk about
is pawn breaks. We already saw one example in the Carlsen
game on the flank. Here in this game; this is Sakaev vs Fedorov
from the Individual European Championship 2005., this came from a King’s Indian. You can see the closed pawn structure. In this game, the highlighted three pawns
are a pawn majority. Now, it’s hard to picture now, but if you
use a pawn break then they can become a pawn majority. And, in this position, Sakaev played a wonderful
move. He played the move f4! Now lets look at black’s options. If he takes on e4, then you can take here
and you have a passed pawn. And these two pawns are just horrible. After f4, his opponent actually took exf4,
and now, he played e5! And now if you look at this pawn majority
it actually is a pawn majority. So, in this position after Qd7 it was hard
to believe that these three pawns are ever going to move, but after the move f4, the
center becomes so dynamic and changes in white’s favor, and white is actually able to create
a pawn majority which is going to turn into a passed pawn. So after exf4, e5, there’s nothing better
but to take on e5. And, of course, now if you count the material
white has three, four, five pawns, black has one, two, three, four, five, six, seven pawns,
white has sacrificed two pawns. And given time, he is going to utilize his
pawn majority on the queenside as well. However, white counted on the move Nxc5, Qd6,
and now Nb3, and these pawns are going to be pushed! E4, black pushes his own pawn majority, c5,
of course this pawn isn’t hanging because the queen is attacked, Qe5, Qa4, Nf6, Qd4,
trying to exchange, because these two pawns are going to be much stronger than black’s
pawns. If f3 then gxf3, Bxf3, Nd7. It’s really hard to blockade passed pawns
if you have two connected passed pawns. That’s another thing. Two connected passed pawns are almost impossible
to stop, and usually, if they are on the sixth or the third rank, they’re considered to be
a winning advantage. C6, Qxd4 exchanging queens, Nxd4, Ne5, now
it’s easier to blockade if black manages to get his pieces into this square. But c7, Bd7, Bb5, trying to exchange, Bxb5,
Rxb5, a6, now the advantage is already insurmountable and Sakaev went on to win. And, just let me go through the moves quickly
so that you can see what happened. Once again he traded the advantage. So he does have two passed pawns, but he’s
going to trade them for a material advantage. And in this position black decided to sacrifice
a piece which was the correct decision. A knight for two pawns, and, black traded
a piece for two pawns, and now white’s advantage is much clearer. It’s a piece up and he won, in fact, two moves
later black resigned. Here black resigned, there’s nothing he can
do. So, ok, let me come back to this position
once more. Qa5, Qd7, it’s very important that you know
ideas like this. Never look at your pawns as being a static
entity. Try to imagine what would happen if these
pawns weren’t here. Try to imagine having these three pawns as
passed pawns. Because often, especially in closed positions
such as the Czech Benoni or the King’s Indian or the Slav, you are often going to get a
pawn break which will enable you to create a dynamic pawn center or a dynamic pawn majority. And the move f4 is just brilliant here. i just love this move. And after exf4, e5, another pawn sacrifice,
dxe5, Nxc5, and here you have it, two connected passed pawns. With a simple pawn sacrifice, white created
a winning advantage. The third thing I would like to talk about
is trading pieces in a way which favors your pawn structure and creates a passed pawn. This is another thing that’s really hard to
imagine if you don’t know the examples. This is something that you need to look for
and look out for throughout your game. In this position… This is the game between Korchnoi and Karpov
from Moscow 1971., a very famous game. In this game Anatoly Karpov managed his passed
pawn so brilliantly. I think this is one of my favorite examples. And it all started with the move Nd4. Now, this move is attacking the queen and
double attacking the knight. There’s really no easy way to defend everything,
and, if white manages to defend, then he is trading off his main defender of the kingside,
the light squared bishop. So in this position Viktor Korchnoi decided
to take the knight. And after Nxd4, cxd4, you have a passed pawn. Now, this pawn is almost rounded up, and it’s
not really clear whether the pawn is a liability or a strength, and it seems to be far, far,
far away from queening. But, look at what Anatoly Karpov did. Nf3 by Korchnoi, Qb6, defending the pawn,
Ne5, indirectly attacking the pawn and attacking the bishop because now he is removing the
defender, the g7 bishop. Bxe5 has to be taken, Bxe5, f6, chasing the
bishop away. Bf4, Rac8, and I’m going to browse through
the moves faster. This is a critical idea, gaining a tempo on
the rook and now advancing his pawn, and now, already, this pawn looks like a menace, and
this pawn on d3 now is very strong. And you could argue that it’s already worth
two pawns or even a minor piece. Bf1, trying to exchange the defender, and
once again, if you are fighting against a passed pawn, either exchange its defenders
or blockade the pawn. It would be ideal to blockade the pawn first
and then exchange the defenders, for example, putting your bishop here, but in this case
it doesn’t really work because the rook can attack. And now Bxf1, Rxf1, Rc2, bringing his rook
to the second rank, preparing to double in some positions, and then to push through with
d2. Be3, Nc5, defending the pawn once more, Qd4,
double attacking the pawn and the knight, e5, chasing the queen away, en passant works
here, but now after Qxe6 everything is sufficiently defended. Rac1, Rc8, b4, chasing away the defender,
Nxe4, Rxe2, dxe2, Rc1, and here the pawn is blockaded, but once square away from promotion,
and you can imagine what was going on in Viktor Korchnoi’s head here. It’s really hard to play with your opponent
having a passed pawn on the second rank. And, your whole thinking process needs to
revolve around this pawn, and on every move you are going to have to consider that. So having a passed pawn is a very huge advantage,
and if you can, if your opponent has a passed pawn, blockade it much sooner than it comes
to the second or the seventh rank. B6 here, now Karpov realizes he has a huge
and winning advantage and he just play is slowly, defending his a7 pawn. And I’m going to show you how the game ended. Here Karpov improved all of his pieces and
in this position Viktor Korchnoi resigned. You can’t take the pawn because the bishop
is hanging and the bishop doesn’t really have any squares. If it goes to d4 queen takes, if it goes to
d7 queen takes, and everything is falling apart. And the last example is probably the most
famous one. You probably know this game. This was played between Carlsen and Anand
in their Sochi World Championship in Sochi Russia 2014. In this game, this was the final game after
which Magnus Carlsen won the World Championship. But Vishy Anand stood well, and he is the
one who I’m using for the last example. In this position he played Rb8 with a clear
idea in mind. The last few moves were Kc6 and then Kf3,
trying to get the king to e4, and the whole position revolves around the d5 square and
the d5 knight; whether it’s sufficiently defended or not. I’m not going to go into too much detail. It’s a very complex game. You should analyze it. And here, after Ke4, we have Rb4. This is the last thing I would like to talk
about. Often you can sacrifice in order to create
a passed pawn, because, as I said, a passed pawn isn’t only worth one point. Once you create a passed pawn it could be
worth two, three, four or five, up to nine points. And, often it’s worth giving up an exchange
or a piece, or even a queen in some positions. Here Magnus Carlsen can’t really take with
the knight because if knight takes, then pawn takes and after the bishop moves the c4 pawn
is hanging. So after Rb4 he needs to take with the bishop,
and now it was much better to take with the a pawn, because it opens up the rook and puts
pressure on the a4 pawn, and, well I’m not going to go into too much detail, but anyway. Vishy Anand took with the c pawn which is
a mistake. However, regardless of which pawn he takes
with, this a dangerous passed pawn and Magnus Carlsen didn’t really have an easy time rounding
it up, and now, the situation on the board changes and Magnus Carlsen has to consider
the passed pawn throughout the game. As I said, taking with the a pawn would have
been better and Vishy Anand might have even won the game, even though the position is
not clear, but this was a mistake. The rook sacrifice wasn’t a mistake, taking
with the c pawn was a mistake. The game continued Nh5, I’m going to browse
through the moves just to let you see what happened. Ok, exchanges, exchanges, and here, it’s usually
considered that having the bishop pair is a huge advantage, and sometimes when your
opponent has an exchange and a knight, your bishop pair is even stronger than that, so
you could argue that black’s position isn’t worse at all, however the constellation of
pieces makes it sort of uncomfortable and Vishy is worse here. But he does have a passed pawn, Bxb5, axb5,
Kxb5, e6, Magnus has a passed pawn as well, b3, Kd3, and two connected passed pawns. And the game ended after Kc3 and it just doesn’t
work, Vishy couldn’t do anything, but, nevertheless, regardless of this position not working, remember
ideas like this. Often if you have two pawns like this, potentially
defending the same square, and if a recapture by the pawn would create a passed pawn, so
if lets say, a white pawn was on b3 then this wouldn’t work, but since there are no pawns
on the b file, then an exchange sacrifice such as this one is very common and it could
win you games often. Ok, these are the four ideas I wanted to talk
about. I think they are very important to know and
to look for during the game. The most important thing is that you think
about: “Ok, can I sacrifice my exchange now? Can I sacrifice a piece in order to create
a passed pawn?” Because if you don’t think about it, you’re
not going to spot it. If you don’t spot it then you’re not going
to play it. And often, these sacrifices can be winning
advantages. The previous examples as well, try to think
of ways to trade favorably. Lets go back. Ok. Lets go back to the original position. Before the passed pawn was created. Try to think of ways in which you can trade
favorably, and here the knight came from b5 to d4, and provoked a trade which created
a passed pawn. Very often you can do that during a real game. Example positions in which one side just has
a pawn majority such as this one, which looks pretty strange for a strong grandmaster game
to have happened, are going to occur much rarely, and very often during the game you
are going to have to create a passed pawn either by trading or by sacrificing. And it’s not going to be as simple as this. But, yeah, look for patterns, remember how
a passed pawn can be created, remember that if you have it you have to push it. If you play against it you have to blockade
it, and round it up and trade of the defenders. If you have a passed pawn then it’s usually
favorable for you to trade pieces into an endgame because it’s going to be simpler to
queen. Ok. Thanks very much for watching, I hope you
liked this middlegame ideas video on passed pawns. Please do let me know what you think, let
me know how you cope with or promote your passed pawns, and stay tuned for more chess! Thanks very much! Bye, bye!

19 thoughts on “Power of the Passed Pawn | Chess Middlegames

  1. Well organized and clear exposition. Your analysis / commentary is helpful for we who struggle to improve.
    Enjoyable and engaging. Your work is valuable to your growing audience. Thank you for sharing your chess journey.

  2. Thank you for all this advice and your explanations. It all helps learners like myself make more judicious choices in games and definitely induces progress.

  3. Sir,you have explained the importance of passed pawn in very easy way and i hopes this will improve average players game thanks

  4. The starting position it seems to me can be won by pawn pushing the h pawn to displace the bishop, then once it moves to play knight to e4, then whatever black does knight d6 wins the rook, as if it moves, then rook e8 nabs the queen

  5. Many thanks for uploading these videos, I'm a casual player of only about 1300 rating but find these to be a great help in improving my game.

  6. You have viewers all around the world, Hanging Pawns! Keep up the good work, I'm sure you will be able to become a master eventually if you keep improving at the game. If I can make a suggestion, you should do a series similar to John Bartholomew's "climbing the rating ladder", where you show us the plans and ideas of lower rated players (and high rated ones as well) live. Anyways, much love from Brazil!
    ps: do you plan on covering the Petrov Defense anytime soon? It's severely lacking in youtube for some reason

  7. In the first example I think black could play Bd3+ instead of resingning and try to do something. However, after Bd3+ White could have played Kd2 and the black's king is on a checkmate net.

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