Sunday, June 10, 2007

Pawn storms: when are they called for?

Clip from a recent game where I successfully pummeled my opponent with a pawn storm (I'm black). Pawn storms are fun, but I am never sure when they are called for. Has anything good been written that is focused on this topic (I typically see it in annotated games, but they are just describing what is happening: I haven't seen any principled treatise on when they are called for).

Here are some cases in which I consider a pawn storm (which I define as advancing a line of pawns to cause major material or positional defects (is that a good definition?)):
1. Opposite sided castling. This is the easiest to spot, and is almost always called for.
2. Minority attack (when you have fewer pawns on one side of the board, you can often wreak havoc on his position by advancing your pawns). I am not very good at spotting when this is appropriate or not.
3. When my opponent has locked down his position (e.g., a hedgehog type position), is playing very passively or defensively, one plan is to pry open his position with a small group of pawn forces.
[The following I thought of after the original post]
4. The endgame: I don't know if it counts as a pawn storm, but if I have pawns on the two sides of the board it often helps to start marching them along on one side, lure the opponent's king to that side, and then push the pawns on the other side with the help of my king. I think this is usually called 'marching' the pawns, and 'pawn storms' are more of a middlegame phenomenon.

That's about all I've got. Any additions, corrections, suggestions for material to read?

In the comments, coffeehousepatzer points out that Daniel King has a DVD out called Pawn Storm on this very topic. A free video sample from the DVD is here. The DVD looks at two pawn attacks. The h-pawn attack and the f-pawn attack. Thanks CP.

20 Comments:

Blogger BlunderProne said...

You might try Kmoch's Pawn power in chess. Lev Alburts, The King in Jeopardy( part of his 7 book course) has some good displays of pawn storming. Larry Christianson's Storming the barricades may also be of interest.( I have teh first two and have glanced only glanced at teh later)

Problem is, like anything in chess, there are no hard rules to follow for things like pawn storms.

You are on the right path outlining opposite sides castled, minority attacks etc. But most importantly things that need to be considered are your opponent's king position, where the queen is located, who has control of the center.

Things you may want to look at are also the Pilsbury attack... which is more of a minor pice attack but sometimes is supported by a pawn advance.

And as for the minority attack, this is a common theme in the QGD. Zurich 1953 has a few gmaes where Bronstein goes into detail about this method.

Good luck on this quest.

6/10/2007 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Emmett said...

I would second the suggestion of the book 'Pawn Power in Chess' by Hans Kmoch. I'm reading it at the moment and if you can get past his unique nomenclature (including some bizarre neologisms which are quite funny!) it is a terrific read and very instructive.

I reviewed the book (sort of) in a recent blog entry at my Chess.com blog. :)

http://www.chess.com/blog/view/pawn-power-

6/10/2007 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Thanks for the suggestions. I'll take a look at those books if I see them in bookstores: I have a feeling Kmoch's book will be a bit advanced for me...

I expect there will be few hard and fast rules, but more principles that can suggest plans, plans whose feasability will depend on the particulars of the position.

6/10/2007 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Grandpatzer said...

wrote long epic answer full of wisdom with one hand and lost it b/c not logged in to blogger and page refresh lost it.

short answer: read kmoch, get experience, use judgement. Against GM defense pawns are required as the norm. Against club players crude weapons often suffice. Master games (at least the quieter ones)seem to have a general trend of:improve position by piece placement as much as possible, then by pushing pawns.

6/10/2007 04:50:00 PM  
Blogger The Rise and Shine Good Knight said...

I think the answer to your question is that it can only be learned through experience i.e. it's time to pawn storm because the position requires it. I don't understand the subtleties myself and whenever I pawn storm fritz and rybka simultaneously frown in disapproval. Despite that, it never stops me from doing it because it's a lot of fun and most players at my level don't understand the concept of defense so my overextended pawns usually don't become a weakness. I really don't know if there's anything more fun than pawn storming in chess.

6/10/2007 04:54:00 PM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

I haven't the slightest idea. I never asked myself. Nor have I ever noticed that I started one when I started one. Is it important?

6/10/2007 05:12:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Thanks for the comments. The old "it comes from experience" has got to be the most annoying thing to hear. I want an algorithm!!!!

Tempo: I don't know, I think they are important. If the position calls for it it is important to know when to heed the call. Plus, they are fun as hell as rise 'n' shine points out!

Grandpatzer: that is so bloody frustrating when that happens. I have learned to copy all my posts before submitting to comments (though sometimes I still forget to my great rage!).

6/10/2007 10:07:00 PM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

I come to a negative kind of reasoning.
My first reaction on when to pawnstorm was: "always".
Then I started to investigate my latest games, and I changed it in "whenever it is appropriate". But in my mind's ear I heard you asking for an algorithm to define appropriate. Then I changed it to "whenever it is not hindered by the opponent". What is hindrance?
That my king isn't save, or that I cannot maintain the pawns etc..

6/11/2007 12:26:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

I was kidding when I said I wanted an algorithm. But general principles like those you cite, to always be tempered by the concrete, are very useful.

6/11/2007 02:30:00 AM  
Blogger Coffeehouse Patzer said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6/11/2007 05:04:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

CP: thanks for the tip and the DVD reference. I'll take a look.

As for algorithms, see my previous reply to Tempo.

6/11/2007 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger Pawn Shaman said...

I third Pawn Power. Reading it falls somewhere in between purgatory and hell. My game always improves when I pick it up and it gives good principles for different formations.

6/11/2007 10:11:00 AM  
Blogger Pawn Shaman said...

Please tell me a4 takes b3 is your next move!

6/11/2007 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Yep, that was my next move pawnshaman. :)

6/11/2007 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger HardDaysKnight said...

Pawn advances, in general, give me fits. Here's what I believe:

When the center is closed then a pawn storm is called for. Check out pretty much any KID game: with both sides castled on the kingside, White adances pawns on the queenside, Black, the kingside.

Before I started playing the KID, the idea of ever advancing pawns in front of the king was categorically rejected, but playing the KID teaches you that it is allowed, even required, when the center is blocked.

When the center is open then pawns in front of the king should not be advanced.

6/11/2007 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

HDN: very useful!

6/11/2007 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger takchess said...

An interesting topic !! that I have no time to devote to until tonight. I have a general question for the chess Pundits around a pawn storm position and I will post it on blog.

6/11/2007 11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Grandpatzer said...

I was going to mention King's DVD but someone else did. His DVDs look good in the previews.

BTW: closed center directs play to wings, but pawn storms possible with open centre (need to watch for counterplay in centre tho). e.g. from King's second dvd.

6/11/2007 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Grandpatzer said...

BTW, King's third DVD in the Power Play series talks about the Grand Prix and the Dutch a lot. So, if you like those openings but still don't have a feel for pawn storms, something to consider.

DVDs two and three go together...you could get one or the other but I think they make more sense together. #2 is about getting your pieces into the attack (esp. heavy pieces), and pushing the g pawn. #3 is about pushing the f and h pawns. I found the g pawn material the most revelatory.

I'm almost done the f pawn material and will be starting the h pawn material today.

6/19/2007 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger Karpyan said...

There is a very good article by Kotov in Keres and Kotov's the Art of the Middlegame on opposite sided castling. I recommend it.

8/06/2007 11:46:00 AM  

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