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This article follows our introduction to the Isolated Queen’s Pawn and develops new methods to use the strength of this pawn: in particular, the d4-d5 breakthrough !

By now, you already know how to attack with the Isolated Queen’s Pawn and my previous article mainly describes three ways to attack:

  • 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

this article focuses on another typical pattern of isolated queen’s pawn: the d4-d5 pawn breakthrough ! Black, at the same time, is not helpless, he can try to blockade the isolated queen’s pawn, or trade pieces to fight against the 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.

The d5 breakthrough: liquidating the IQP or using the advance in the attack

When you have a weakness, get rid of it! This is something I often read in chess books. Along with using your IQP for attacking play, you can use it to simplify the position in the center by trading it off (usually for black’s e6 or c6 pawn), if the resulting position is favorable for you.

One important question has to be addressed at this point. Trading pawn, and, as a result, creating a symmetrical pawn structure, can be viewed as an invitation to an equal, drawn game, but in the case of IQP positions there is a specific reason why the side with the IQP aims to enter such positions: piece activity. Most often, the side with the IQP will have better positioned pieces and will have a significant edge in activity in compensation for the structural weakness. It is therefore most often the case that a position in which the liberating d4-d5 advance is played, and the isolated pawn is traded off, leaves the side who had the IQP with a better, more active position.

The first example below will showcase just that. In a game between Kasparov and Karpov, in their 1985 World Championship Match, Kasparov managed to advance his isolated d4 pawn to d5, trade it off, and then use his activity to quickly bring the game to an end despite the seemingly symmetrical, equal pawn structure.

The other purpose an advance of the isolated queen’s pawn serves is dynamic pressure and attacking play. The pawn is often used, similar to what we saw with advancing the f pawn to f4 and f5, to smash through black’s defenses. The timely d5 advance can shatter the shield around the black king by putting pressure on e6, threatening to trade it off and create chances on the f7 weakness.

That is what we are going to see in the second game example, a brilliant win by Kamsky over Short in the 1994 Candidates semi-final. A game in which d4-d5 was decisive and quickly brought Short to his knees.

Garry Kasparov vs Anatoly Karpov, 1985 World Championship, Game 11

We will start in the critical position after 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 O-O 5. Bg5 c5 6. e3 cxd4 7. exd4 h6 8. Bh4 d5 9. Rc1 dxc4 10. Bxc4 Nc6 11. O-O Be7 12. Re1 b6 13. a3 Bb7 14. Bg3 Rc8 15. Ba2 Bd6.

What is visible, though, is that white’s pieces stand better than black’s.

White will either trade off his isolated pawn, or create a passed pawn, as there are no other options for black after d5 except capturing, allowing white to capture on e6, or advancing the e6 pawn to e5. In either case, white will have improved his pawn structure.

We can conclude that if white plays d5, black’s best option is to capture it to prevent a weakness of his own, and to prevent white from creating a powerful passed pawn on the d file.

White is in time to exchange pieces favorably and will simply be able to trade of his d4 pawn for black’s e6 pawn. Black has no alternative.

After all the trades have been played what is the position like ? White has slightly more active pieces with his open bishop (whereas black b7 bishop is still blocked in by the c6 knight) and his rooks on c1 and e1.

Evaluation ? Probably slightly better for white. Nothing to write home about, but white will have gotten rid of his structural weakness and saved a small part of his dynamic advantage.

I know this method of playing with an IQP is far less glamorous than the ones covered before, but it is very important to recognize when an attack is far away, when you don’t have enough fire power, and when it’s time to try and convert your dynamic advantage into static equality or a slight dynamic edge.

In the game, Kasparov managed to outplay Karpov fairly quickly using a brilliant queen sacrifice which should not have been allowed, and he won in 7 moves from the position in the above diagram ! But that is a different topic. What’s important is to recognize that even an attacking monster like Kasparov stopped, thought things through, and realized that the best way to continue is by a positional d4-d5 advance and trading into a minutely better late middlegame without the weakness on d4.

Gata Kamsky vs Nigel Short, 1994 Candidates semi-final

This game is one of my favorite examples of handling an isolated queen’s pawn. Kamsky combined several attacking patterns to gain huge initiative and overwhelm Short. We will begin fairly early on in the game.

This is the position after 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 c5 5. Bd3 Nc6 6. Ne2 cxd4 7. exd4 d5 8. cxd5 Nxd5 9. O-O Bd6.

Kamsky now prepares his attacking setup. Before we examine it, I would once more like to highlight the importance of combining attacking motifs in IQP positions. No single piece or idea will work on its own. It’s important to use them together, and to combine as many as possible.

Here we are going to introduce a new one: pressure on h7 !

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