Sometimes a structure, a certain arrangement of pieces or pawns, occurs on the chessboard so outlandish, so absurd, so … je ne sais quoi…. it’s apparent it’s not going to happen again – at least to the player who created it. Oh by way check out this nice companion blog from the UK while we are on the subject.
The Tale of the Pawn Diamond
The Pawn Diamond is one of those inimitable structures. Another related ‘situation’ (of wacky material imbalance) occurred in the 80s in my game against NM Alan Williams (Bar Point Chess Club, NYC) where I had 3 Queens and a Rook versus a Queen and 2 Rooks for many moves, but that’s a different story (the Williams game for some time was a record holder in Tim Krabbe’s world records compendium). But here we are talking about structures – pieces or pawns’ placements relative to one another. So I would say the Pawn Diamond is my strangest absolute structure. It’s so powerful!
Let’s see it. Or, in Lord of the Rings terms, “All shall see it and despair.”
Patrick Wolff – IM Mark Ginsburg NY Open 1983
1. e4 Young Patrick was quite tardy for the game which did not help him when the game got complicated.
1…g6 2. d4 Bg7 3. Nc3 d6 4. f4 Nc6 5. Be3 Nf6
Well, with the black knight committed to f6, it’s really a Pirc now. Still, the game gets really crazy.
6. Be2 O-O 7. Nf3 a6 8. Qd2 b5 9. a3 Bb7 10. f5 b4 11. axb4 Nxb4 12. fxg6
hxg6 13. Ng5 e5! It’s always correct to act in the center when the opponent is acting on the wings. White’s structure is very loose now.
14. d5 c6 15. Na4 a5 16. c3 cxd5 17. Bb6 Qe7
18. cxb4 Bh6! White gets into a very nasty pin and it turns out black gets overwhelming compensation for the lost piece. The problem in the opening basically is that white played too much on the wings and black stayed central.
19. h4 Nxe4 20. Qd3 axb4 21. Nxe4 dxe4 22. Qh3
Kg7 23. O-O f5 The very rare ‘pawn diamond’ starts to be formed. There is very little to do constructively that white can undertake, especially in practical play where advancing pawn phalanxes take on a life of their own.
24. h5 Rac8 25. hxg6 Qg5 26. Qh5 Qxg6 27. Rad1
Rf6 28. Qxg6+ Kxg6 29. Bb5 e3 30. Rfe1 f4 31. b3 Bg5! Every piece gains maximum activity This is reminiscent of another Pirc/Modern game that worked out very well with a sacrifice; versus J. Shahade Las Vegas National Open 2003.
32. Bc4 Bh4 33. Re2 d5! The d-pawn is immune because white has a back-rank problem.
34. Bb5 d4 And there it is. The stuff of legends. The pawn diamond. Does anyone have access to a structural search; in how many other games has this occurred? White, of course, is dead – the diamond is worth at least 2 minor pieces. At this point, Inna Izrailov walked past and gawked in amazement.
35. Bc5 f3 It’s craven to break up the diamond and cash in, but at some point the game does have to be won.
36. gxf3 Bxf3 37. Rf1 Kh5! It’s pleasing to have the king help out too.
38. Ra2 Rg8+ 39. Kh2 Bg3+ 40. Kh3 Bf2 0-1
Well. I can definitely say I never got a Pawn Diamond again – yet.
I have to show you one more – perpetrated on me by future GM Ilya Gurevich – the humorous Pawn Box. In a weird cosmic coincidence, both Patrick and Ilya at the time were strong New England juniors. Remember, it takes two to create these structures so credit must be given to their uncompromising styles.
The Saga of the Pawn Box
If there was ever a time to beat Ilya, this was it. He was young and up and coming and got a not very good opening after my good prep in the Bayonet Attack King’s Indian. But then… the pawn box! Let’s see it.
1.c4 g6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 O-O 6.Be2 e5 7.O-O
Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.b4 Nh5 10.c5! A very under-rated system. White jettisons the two bishops, clears the g7-a1 diagonal, and is very quick on the queenside. And the best thing of all? His king never gets mated in this line – no crushing pawn storms. Nowadays, of course, Kramnik and Van Wely have popularized 10. Re1.
10…Nf4 11.Bxf4 exf4 12.Rc1 h6 13.a4 g5 14.cxd6 cxd6 15.h3 White has a very comfortable game.
15…Ng6 16.Nb5 Qe7 17.Re1 Rd8 18.Rc7 Rd7 19.Qc2 Rxc7 20.Qxc7 Qxc7 21.Nxc7 Oh yes. White has gotten the queens off, has initiative, and stands better.
21…Rb8 22.Nb5 Bd7! 23.Nxd6 Bf8! An ingenious resource. However, I thought I still had things under control.
24.e5 Bxd6 25.exd6 Bxa4 26.Nd4 Bd7 27.Bg4! A winning shot, so I thought – to gain f5 for my knight.
27…Bxg4 28.hxg4 Rd8 29.Nf5 Nh4!! I never saw this coming – the very essence of black’s defensive concept. Black deforms his structure maximally to gain enough activity to draw. This conforms to the Russian maxim, “all rook endings are drawn.” At the time, I was shocked that young Ilya was escaping. And so he did after the remaining moves…
30.Nxh4 gxh4 31.Re7 Rxd6 32.Rxb7 a6 33.Ra7 Kg7
34.Kh2 Kg6 35.Kh3 f6! Establishing the amazing pawn box! Of course, white’s next move destroys it (nibbles it), but at least we had it on the board for a half-move. The most aesthetic thing about the box is that the move 35…f6! is actually useful, sheltering the black king from checks and preparing to eat the morsel on d5.
36.Kxh4 Rxd5 37.Kh3 Rd4 1/2-1/2
I would ask readers here, too, is there a structural search to show how many prior games had Ye Olde Boxe?