Castling on Opposite Sides

The idea discussed in Chapter 3 (advancing a pawn mass against the enemy King, at the same time inevitably exposing one's own) can involve serious risk, as our last game showed. There is one obvious way of attempting to avoid this sort of trouble—namely, to wait for the opponent to castle first and then castle on the other side so as to be able to throw forward one's pawns without jeopardising one's King position.

It sounds very simple, and indeed, it can work most effectively at times. But the hope that it will be a course devoid of danger is far from being fulfilled. The dangers are at least threefold:

(i) Waiting for your opponent to castle is all very well if he promptly obliges. But two can play a waiting game, and it can happen that after passing over several good chances to castle you suddenly find that the last chance has gone; there is your own King stranded in the middle and in for inevitable trouble after the manner of the games in Chapter 1.

(ii) The opponent may fall in with your plan to castle on opposite sides, but before your attack is half developed he is subjecting you to the very same treatment on the other wing. For if one pawn flank is free to roll forward, so, in general, is the other—and he might get there first!

(iii) Possibly the least obvious but probably the most serious danger of all is that the opponent may take advantage of your preoccupation with the flank to break open the centre and there gain a measure of control which will leave him in command of the board. It was Nimzovitch who laid down the principle that premature flank attacks should he punished by play in the centre, though other masters before him had instinctively reacted in this way. The idea of meeting a flank attack by a similar action on the opposite Hank he regarded as 'an amateurish conception', but the fact remains that it is still common practice among players of a lively style. The safest plan is to see that the central pawn position is blocked or stabilised before embarking on llank operations.

Here is a model game won by Vera Menchik, who was incomparably the strongest woman player in the world all through the 1930s.

London, 1932

White: Miss Menchik Black: Sir George Thomas

Queen's Pawn, King's Indian Defence

2 P-QB4 P-KKt3

3 Kt-QB3 B-Kt2

This defence was not nearly so common at that date as it is now, but the system had some vogue in England owing to the virtuosity with which it had been used by F. D. Yates.

Although at first sight less ambitious than 5 P-B4, this Samisch Variation is quite troublesome for Black to meet. I riedrich Samisch never quite reached the top as a practical player, but he was one of the shrewdest strategists of his day. On KB3 the pawn (a) strengthens the KP, (b) allows White to develop his Queen's Bishop on K3 without having it harried by ..., Kt-KKt5, and (c) prepares the very aggressive move P-KKt4 in the not-too-distant future.

7 KKt-K2 P-Kt3

Against defences based on a King's fianchetto this is a typical move. It has two objects: to make room for castling Q side and to prepare to eliminate the enemy King's Bishop by B-KR6.

White can close the centre and storm the K side

With the centre blocked in this way, a massed advance on the K side is the best winning procedure and involves very little risk. It is obvious that Black has deliberately provoked P-Q5, as Yates also used to do, but in the present position it must be regarded as a strategic error, for Black's K side will be overrun before he can work up any serious counter-play.

10 P-KKt4

Correctly played! White will castle on the Q side and have little to fear.

11 R-KKtl P-QR4

Black is not well placed for operations on the Q side; nevertheless, he tries. This advance not only aims to open a file eventually against the white King but also makes it possible to play ..., Kt-QB4 without having the Knight driven away by P-Kt4.

13 Kt-Kt3 B-Q2

These moves are easy to understand: the two players are attending to their respective attacks. Black, however, is woefully behind in the race.

17 BxB KxB

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