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h2-h4 Revolution

User Rating: / 17
Written by Administrator   
Wednesday, 21 August 2013

By GM Lars Bo Hansen, PhD, MBA

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In the late 1980s and early 1990s the chess world experienced a g2-g4 revolution in the opening. In a number of openings, from the Semi-Slav over the Philidor and to the English, White players pushed the g-pawn forward early on in the game, often before move 10. I wrote about this in my book How Chess Games are Won and Lost. At first sight this thrust seemed to violate the classic opening principles of development, center, and king safety, but in reality the g2-g4-g5 push often had to do with the center the Black knight on f6 is pushed away from the center.

Now a new revolution seems to be emerging an h2-h4 revolution. In openings like the English (e.g. Ding Liren Vachier Lagraeve, Biel 2013 and Wang Hao Naiditsch, Dortmund 2013), Blumenfeld Gambit (Mamedyarov Shoker, World Cup, 2013), and Grünfeld-Indian (e.g. Nepomniachtchi Vachier Lagraeve, Biel 2013 and Vitiugov Ragger, World Cup 2013). Any time a Black g-pawn is on g6, White players seem to contemplate h2-h4-h5. This is not only to set up a possible attack on the Black king, but also indirectly influences the center.

Replay all the 5 games


For example, in the game Vitiugov Ragger from the World Cup, White tested the line 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. h4!? in the Grünfeld-Indian which has gained popularity lately.


The move 8. h5!? shows how the push with the h-pawn indirectly influences the center the knight on f6 cannot capture the annoying h-pawn because it has to keep d5 defended while 8b4 is strongly met by 9 h6!, disorganizing Blacks pieces. So Black has to castle into an attack with a half-open h-file.


11e6 appears to be a novelty; 11Bb7 was played in the game Gareev Robson from the US Championship earlier this year, but White won in convincing style.


Vitiugov too got a strong attack after the powerful exchange sacrifice 12. Rxh7!


Blacks 18Qa5? seems to be the decisive mistake; the only chance was 18Nf7 to reinforce the kings position.


The strong rook lift 22. Rd4! left Back with no defense.

There is one more point regarding the early push with the h-pawn, raised many years ago by my great compatriot Bent Larsen. The great Dane was famous for pushing his side pawns forward in all kinds of positions, and he once explained why he liked that strategy: if the advance of a side pawn led no-where, there would still be plenty of options left to play for a win in other parts of the board. This was obviously important to Larsen who always wanted to play for a win; for him a draw was a half point lost. Conversely, an early advance in the center often leads to the board being cleared with little chances to continue playing for a win.

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

Related materials:
How to beat higher-rated players
Rook and pawn vs. rook
Thinking in schemes
Does the "Draw with Black, Win with White" approach work anymore?
Boris Gelfand & maintaining a strong center
How to react to a chess novelty
A lesson from the Ukrainian Chess Champion
Carlsen-Anand @ Tal Memorial
Strategy of Restriction

Comments (1)
1. Written by Natalia on 13:42 21 2013 .
Karjakin-Andreikin (8.h4) and Mamedyarov-Kamsky (5.h4) today :)

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 21 August 2013 )
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