This article deals with the defense against the isolated queen’s pawn. After looking at white’s prospects in Isolated Queen’s pawn positions, we concluded that White can either:
- set up an attack with the isolated queen’s pawn
- or use the isolated queen’s pawn to create a breakthrough
The first reflex to have is to exchange pieces against the Isolated Queen’s Pawn. It is the most important strategy. The second most powerful strategy for fighting against the IQP is blockading it. By using the weakness of the square in front of the pawn, you utilize a powerful outpost.
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.
An Aaron Nimzowitsch quote seems appropriate here: “A passed pawn is a criminal and it should be kept under lock and key.” The same goes for an isolated pawn. A passed pawn is dangerous because if it moves, your opponent is a step closer to queening. An isolated queen’s pawn is dangerous because, if it moves, it will get liquidated for one of your “healthy” pawns, meaning that your opponent will no longer have a structural weakness.
It has to be highlighted once more that the first strategy we have been discussing has to be employed in conjunction with the idea of a blockade! Playing for one without the other will seldom be sufficient for equality, let alone an advantage. That is why, perhaps, separating them in the first place was a mistake, but I wanted to give a clearer image of the two.
That is why in the following example we are going to be considering both strategies simultaneously without putting emphasis on one or the other.
Fernando Braga vs Anatoly Karpov, Mar del Plata 1982
This game was a Sicilian Alapin, one of the e4 openings that often results in an IQP for white. It’s thematic because of the use of the queen as the temporary blockading piece which comes naturally after the opening moves as the black queen is brought out to recapture on d5.
We will start in a position which is still theory after 1. e4 c5 2. c3 d5 3. exd5 Qxd5 4. d4 e6 5. Nf3 Nf6 6. Bd3 Be7 7. O-O O-O 8. Qe2 cxd4 9. cxd4 Nc6 10. Rd1.
It is important to note that the queen, albeit blockading successfully at the moment is too valuable a piece to be serving such a pedestrian purpose.
White is not without his chances though, and nobody in their right mind would play the Alapin for white if it was so. White plays for the initiative and aims to put pressure on black before he can successfully round up the d4 pawn.
So far both sides are playing according to plan: white is attacking, and black is trying to defend, trade, and keep the d4 pawn fixed. White now goes for a somewhat counter intuitive, but understandable move.
Just imagine the black queen on d5 and it all becomes clear ! So an exchange happens.
But White had conceded to giving up his h6 bishop for the g7 knight. A trade which helps him in truth, because the knight was a more potent piece, but long term… It just brings black closer to his goal.
This brings us to the advanced part of the analysis: being able to see past the usual and the ordinary and being able to adapt to the current position ! It is clear that the blockade is about to be lifted. After white plays Ne3, and black has no means of stopping it, white will be threatening to take on d5, forcing black to ruin his own pawn structure by recapturing with the e6 pawn, as taking with the rook loses the exchange.