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Boris Gelfand & Maintaining a Strong Center

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Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 17 July 2013

By GM Lars Bo Hansen, PhD, MBA

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This week GM Hansen reminds us how beneficial it is to study top GMs' games (offering Boris Gelfand as an example) and talks about the benefits/drawbacks of maintaining a strong pawn center.

Learning from the runner-up of the World Chess Championship-2012

Recently I read an interview from 1991 with the young Boris Gelfand in which the current Vice World Champion described himself as a logical, systematic player. These characteristics still form the core of Gelfands play and have undoubtedly contributed to his longevity in the top of world chess. Anyone interested in the underlying logic of chess will benefit from a thorough study of Gelfands best games.
Boris Gelfand vs. Alexander Grischuk, Round 10 of the Bejing FIDE Grand Prix

In a game from the FIDE GP in Beijing against Alexander Grischuk, Gelfand again displayed these strengths to achieve a convincing and instructive victory. In a Kings Indian Gelfand first exploited the fact that Blacks knight was sidelined on a6 to initiate play in the center with f2-f4, leaving Black with hanging pawns on e5 and f5. He then systematically increased the pressure on these pawns and eventually forced the e-pawn to advance to e4. This created squares for Whites pieces and in particular allowed White to use the f4-square for operations. As Black tried to bring his stranded knight on a6 into the game White countered with b2-b4, creating a further weakness on c5. Eventually Black was unable to prevent the loss of a pawn and was subsequently ground down in a knight endgame.

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On maintaining a strong pawn center

Chess is a game in which there is an inherent tension between general principles and specific exceptions to these principles. After a tough loss to Hikaru Nakamura at the Norway Super Tournament earlier this year, Jon Ludvig Hammer aptly commented on Twitter that I still maintain it is important to control the center. But for the top guys its all about the exceptions to the general rules. In that game, Hammer had pawns on c4, d4, e4, and f4 and completely dominated the center (a well-known general principle) but still lost after a series of powerful blows by Nakamura 20Nc5!; 24b2!; 26Qb6! The specific trumped the general.

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Wang Hao vs. Anish Giri, Round 7 of the Bejing FIDE Grand Prix

But in other cases the general rules prevail. In the game Wang Hao Giri from the FIDE GP tournament in Beijing, Black violated the standard opening principles of development, center, and king safety to win a piece but was punished for it. Notice how White conversely applied the principles to build a winning attack 13. 0-0 (king safety); 16. Bg5 (development); 17. Rad1/18. f4/19. e5/21. Rfe1/22. e6! (center).

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The images are courtesy of the official website of the Grand Prix

If you like the article, you can learn more about GM Lars Bo Hansen & his
books at

Related materials:
How to react to a chess novelty
A lesson from the Ukrainian Chess Champion
Carlsen-Anand @ Tal Memorial
Strategy of Restriction

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 17 July 2013 )
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