In the introductory article about the isolated queen’s pawn, we have covered the basic principles and ideas when it comes to playing with an Isolated queen’s pawn. We have also listed the most common opening variations which an IQP can come from. This article will cover the attack with an Isolated Queen’s Pawn in depth, the next article is about when you should trade your isolated Queen’s pawn.
Stjepan Tomić is a strong player and famous youtuber with his Hanging Pawns channel. His goal is to become a Grandmaster and to share his new Chess knowledge with the community.
We will go over the main attacking plans for the side with the structural concession and ways to compensate for the weakness dynamically by putting pressure on your opponent’s position.
To do that we will look at real game examples from Grand Master play. Each game will feature a pattern thematic for playing with an IQP. At the end of those articles you will find practical exercises which you can use to practice what you read ! Chess is a game of skill, and developing your skill requires active learning !
The plans for the attacking side are listed in an order of frequency in which you can expect them in real games, thus the ones that come first will be more likely to come up during play and are more important to implement in your brain’s chess pattern library.
The Deadly Kingside Attack with an Isolated Queen’s Pawn
The f7 Weakness
The isolated queen’s pawn provides open files for the rooks, open diagonals for the bishops, and knight outposts on c5, and, more importantly, e5.
The pattern is dangerous because it basically removes all the defense from the defender’s king and is followed up by a storm of white pieces marching towards the weakened kingside.
Perhaps the issue of f7 is so closely related to the e6 pawn that they should be one chapter. In IQP positions, black’s pawn structure will most often be e6-f7-g7-h7, which means that removing the e6 pawn will inevitably lead to the weakening of f7 and vice versa. That is why such sacrifices should always be considered together, and, if one doesn’t seem to work, perhaps reversing the move order will make the combination more powerful.
Now let us look at a real game example in which black actually had defenders on the board.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov vs Andrei Vasilyevich Kharlov, Russian Club Cup 2006
As it usually happens in real chess games, the situation is not black and white, and there are always multiple tactical motifs and strategic patterns to keep an eye on.
In this position, Mamedyarov is handling his IQP with great ferocity. His pieces are optimally placed for an onslaught and he begins the offensive !
Black has, in fact, managed to keep g7 safe with his defensive maneuvers, but he left the most tender point in his position weak: f7 !
But. Rxf7 was played and now the game is over. White has given up one of his attackers simply to make room for the three standing “in reserve”. Now there is no defense against the b3 bishop, the rook and the queen.
The sacrifice on f7 appears in many games featuring an IQP.
Attacking with the f pawn
Another very important attacking “piece” which should not be neglected when mounting an attack on e6 and f7 is the f pawn. Advancing it forward to f4 and f5 puts tremendous pressure on the defending side and simply gives you another (dispensable!) attacker on the main weaknesses.
This pattern is often overlooked because it seemingly takes long to execute, but there is often no good reply to it!
We are going to look at one of the most famous examples of employing the f pawn in an Isolated Queen’s Pawn kingside attack, the game between Botvinnik and Vidmar played in Nothingham in 1936.
Mikhail Botvinnik vs Milan Vidmar, Nottingham 1936
We will start in the position after 1. c4 e6 2. Nf3 d5 3. d4 Nf6 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bg5 O-O 6. e3 Nbd7 7. Bd3 c5 8. O-O cxd4 9. exd4 dxc4 10. Bxc4 Nb6 11. Bb3 Bd7 12. Qd3 Nbd5 13. Ne5 Bc6 14. Rad1 Nb4 15. Qh3 Bd5 16. Nxd5 Nbxd5.
So Vidmar tries seeking queenside activity instead. But it’s too late.
White used the f7 weakness to double attack the pinned rook and black was helpless. In the final position the material is equal, but black will inevitably lose a whole rook, or his queen for rook and bishop. A full analysis of this game is worth watching.
This was possible only because Botvinnik used his f2 pawn as cannon fodder to open the black king. He managed to induce crucial weaknesses without having to sacrifice his knight or his bishop.
Remember this pattern, and always look for it if you find yourself unable to continue a kingside attack in an IQP position.
Using major pieces to attack along the third rank
This attacking motif is common in many pawns structures and should always be considered, but it’s especially powerful in IQP positions because most of the defender’s pieces will have already been assigned defensive roles and will have no “time” to think of another attacker. The patterns usually includes rook lifts to the third rank, and their transfer to h3 or g3, thus putting pressure on the g7 and h7 weaknesses.
This method was used by Polugaevsky to master Lutikov is a famous Isolani game.
This pattern is again, same as using your f pawn as a lever, a way to bring reinforcements into the attack. When there’s no option for a straightforward Nxf7 or Bxe6, reinforcing your position is the best way to go. In the above absurd diagram you can see the most common way to bring your major pieces into optimal attacking squares.
We are going to look at an epic game from the 1989 Candidates match between Karpov and Yusupov, in which Karpov used his a rook to destroy Yusupov’s kingside by playing Rc1-c3-g3.
Anatoly Karpov vs Artur Yusupov, 1989 Candidates
We will start in the position after 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. Bg5 O-O 6. e3 h6 7. Bh4 Ne4 8. Bxe7 Qxe7 9. Rc1 c6 10. Bd3 Nxc3.
It’s important to remember that using all your resources in the attack is the only way to play IQP positions. It’s therefore necessary to consider the other patterns we have been considering so far.
When planning an attack, always visualize where you’d like your forces to be deployed.
It’s obvious that the g3 rook has introduced numerous new threats to the already familiar attacking setup. For the moment the black knight on d5 serves as a very useful defender against the usual sacrificial patterns. White will, therefore have to spend some time preparing his attack. Most importantly he will have to induce weaknesses which he will then be able to target.
Karpov used a combination of these preparatory plans. The following moves were played.
If he’d played g6 instead, his position might have been a bit more solid, but still, after 20…g6:
Back to the game now.
Needless to say that Karpov’s attack soon led to an overwhelming material advantage and he won smoothly.
Attack with the Isolated Queen’s Pawn: Conclusion
We have seen together the main plans to attack with the Isolani:
- Using the f7 weakness to sacrifice a piece
- Advancing your f-pawn to increase the pressure
- Using major pieces to attack along the third rank
Believe it or not, we have not covered everything yet. The next article will be about trading your Isolated Queen’s Pawn with a timely d4-d5 advance and how to use it in the attack or to liquidate. Finally you will find some ideas for the defending side as well: trading pieces agains the Isolated Queen’s Pawn, and Blockading the Isolated Queen’s Pawn.