This exercise was taken from Jeremy Silman’s Reassess Your Chess Workbook. The proposal provided is of my own without the help of external assistance; after producing it, I look at Silman’s solution and compare each.
What do the following two fairly well-known opening systems have in common? HINT: The answer lies in the meaning of Black’s …g7-g5 advance.
A reconnaissance of the board will be conducted, in spite of obvious moves (such as exf5). The point of the exercise is not to be quick, but to be detailed. A timed exercise (or a game) may be another story, and one must crawl before they walk; take your time with this exercise.
Opening System #1:
Superior minor piece: White’s light bishop is a bit obstructed by its central pawns on c4 and e4. His dark bishop is able to maneuver a bit more freely but is hindered by the g5 pawn and the minor black pieces. White’s knight can move about and only has to watch for the b6 pawn; a move like Ne5 wouldn’t hurt since …e6 is difficult. Black’s bishops on the other hand have a lot of open space and can fearlessly place pressure on the center with moves like …Bb7 and …Nc5. Black’s knight isn’t hindered by white’s pawns, but g3 can accomplish that (and prepare f4).
Pawn structure: an attempt to hinder the white knight by …b6 would be met with Nd5, placing pressure on the pawn. Black’s pawn structure is otherwise okay except for the potentially weak h4 square (Be2, preventing …h5). It also allows an easier attack on h7 since there’s no longer a pawn at g6. White has a solid pawn structure but does allow black a chance at controlling d4. Black prevents the f2-f4 pawn push with his g5 pawn. The e-pawn may become unprotected after …0-0.
Space: White has a good amount of queenside and central space. Black stakes a claim on the kingside with …g5.
Control of key files, ranks, diagonals: White’s able to handle the d1-h5 diagonal with Be2, Bf3. Black’s queen has a good grasp of the 5th rank. Black’s dark bishop is also threatening Bxb2 in case the knight moves – it’s able to provide good pressure on the b2 and c3 squares. Black’s gain of the a-pawn with 12…Bxb2 13. Rxb2 Qxa2 lets white win queenside space with 14. Qa1 Qxa1 15. Rxa1 followed by 16. b4.
Development: Black is perhaps two moves behind on development, still needing to castle and bring out his bishop.
Initiative: Black has the initiative threatening to gain more kingside space with …h5 and place pressure on the center with …Bb7.
Verdict: a3 (and eventually b4), gaining more queenside space, protecting the pawns, and barring …Nc5.
Opening System #2:
If …b5 is made possible, black can launch a successful queenside attack. He damages white’s hold on e5 with …g5. exf5 is forced; otherwise, gxf5.
Superior minor piece: White’s d4 knight can only go backwards, but it may have a home at a5. White’s c3 knight can possibly go to a4. They have a solid hold on the b5 square. If the d4 knight is chased away or exchanged, the bishop looks on it. Black’s knights look like they can attack the queenside, but the b7-b5 pawn push would have to happen first. White doesn’t have the positioning to stop his knights – perhaps it would be wise to exchange them.
Pawn structure: The issue with fxg4 is that it allows black …e5 and an eventual …f5, …d5 with space in the center. More importantly, it lets Ne5 – winning the bishop pair and weakening white’s grasp on b5. It also disallows e4-e5 (after …d5). After exd5, Black re-captures with the knight and has a good attack on the c-file. Black also gets open lanes on the kingside.
Space: White has a decent claim of space on the kingside, if not in the center. White can defend …b5 with a5, though he has to capture the g-pawn first.
Control of key files, ranks, diagonals: The black queen looks to attack the c-file in the future. White can take advantage of the soon-to-be open files on the kingside.
Development: Black is lagging in this area but has made up for it by claiming space and central control with his knights.
Initiative: Black has the initiative looking to play Ne5, then b5.
Verdict: It would be a mistake to allow anything but exf5.
Similarities between the two systems
…g5 looks to disrupt white’s control over the center in case f2-f4 occurs. It’s meant to weaken white’s hold over the e5 square allowing black’s centralization of pieces. In case of f2-f3 in the first system, black plays Be5 (not fearing f2-f4 anymore) followed by …h5.
Silman gives a big hint in the similarities between the two opening systems: the g7-g5 advance.
Black aims to prevent white’s control of e5 by f2-f4 with the g5 advance. With e5 under his name he can centralize his pieces. He also aims to exchange his dark-squared bishop, because e5 is a dark square (an important but easy oversight). The idea is to create a weakness of the enemy – an objective of chess that requires creativity.
Black gets a good game after Ne5 and the consideration of white’s inactive knights and bishop in the second system (even the first after …d6, …Nc5-d7-e5).