The Demerits of Winning a Center Pawn in the Opening

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An old chess dictum that I used to hear a lot at Dave’s Chess Studio in Houston,TX USA was that winning a center pawn in the opening was worth a little trouble. The old masters at the club would frequently berate a younger beginner chess player for going pawn hunting in the opening.

In the following position played at the Internet Chess Club, Darakan playing out of France thought it would be OK to win the d5 pawn in this Queens Gambit Accepted opening. The French player probably reasoned that if the Queens were exchanged that his extra center pawn and a relatively safe King would give him winning chances in the ending.

He could not have been more mistaken. After Queen captures Queen and and Re1 check, there are no game ending checkmates or decisive loss of material for the second player. However, the specter of the unsafe King as a positional factor is preeminent and give White a lasting initiative if not a winning position.

After the Rook check on the e-file and the Bishop interposition at e7, Nd4 is exceptionally strong since it prevents the b8 Knight from hopping into action. Do you see why? If the Horse moves then Nc6 will win the pinned Prelate!

So Black’s bad King as a positional consideration is tied to the notion of prophylaxis or preventing Black from freely developing his pieces. Mark Dvoretsky wrote brilliantly about prophylaxis in his series of books titled School of Chess Excellence.  He even opined something of the ilk that understanding prophylaxis was tantamount to understanding chess. That is very heavy, but not nearly as interesting as noting that a prophylactic or a condom prevents pregnancy in much the same way that prophylaxis prevents your opponent from making effective moves!

Winning Center Pawn Not worth it in this Opening
Winning Center Pawn Not worth it in this Opening
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