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wschmidt 43 ( +1 | -1 )
Novice Nook #72 Well, we've moved into the 2007 articles with this week's entry. It's entitled "Trading Pawns When Ahead" and provides a number of straightforward examples of when to trade and when not to trade pawns. For the most part, pretty simple, but worth a look.

Here's the link: www.chesscafe.com
ccmcacollister 475 ( +1 | -1 )
Three most common pawn trade errors, imo ... Another useful endgame (mostly) concept this month. I'd just like to add three of the most common pawn trading errors that I see other players make; and it will interest me to see if the continuation of the article will cover them. I feel these are especially important cases as so many times I've seen these cost someone a half-point ... turning a "won" endgame position, or potential middle-game initiative, into a dull draw.
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1) Premature trading of center pawn(s) or the Lever Pawn(s) ,attacking the center, with attendant release of Tension for no purpose. To maximize chances
in ones' late-opening thru middle-game phase, tension should be maintained until either being faced with material loss or substantial positional disadvantage such that it is forced to trade; or otherwise not until the pawn trade will produce material or positional advantage or enable creation or pursuit of initiative.
These goals being in additional to the generally advantageous (to varied degrees, per position) "side-effect" of creation of open line(s), particularly files for the major pieces.
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The whole point of creating tension to begin with is that one tries to buildup forces behind their file opening pawn(s) in such way that the opponent's position, being more cramped spacewise & less mobile and responsive for piece play (and squares to put them on) during that stage of the game, than it will be after tension is released, may lead to a situation wherein he simply Cannot respond to all your pressure sufficiently to keep safe all your targeted pieces or squares. Thereby you seek to win material, or significant infiltration into the far side of the board. This should be especially true if you have obtained a space advantage for yourself already ... wherein your own pieces have high mobility.
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As analogy, you might chose to think of tension as like a loaded rifle. Before pulling the "trigger" (releasing tension by pawn trade) you want to be sure that it is "loaded" (pressure upon files to be opening), and that you have "taken aim" (selected specific targets for capture or infiltration.) All too often we see a player simply Point at the opponents position and pull the trigger, without having any target in sight ... hoping for a blind hit somewhere meaningful.
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#2) Is quite similar to the above, but even more critical. That is the premature release of pawn tension, or piece trades as well, in a Gambit opening. The Gambiteer Must maintain advantages other than material, or probably lose; Usually having a lead in development & an already present open file due to the pawn(s) gambited (where opp may have none).
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He must make sure to maximize the potential of his advantages during the tension stage, if there is one. His superior mobility, the very thing he has gambit to obtain, must be utilized mercilessly ... unless he decides and has the opportunity to gain back his material.
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(aka "wimp-out" ... but admittedly there are those times when the better part of valor, indeed our very survival at the board, will depend upon a good Wimp-Out! Still, a mating attack IS so much more satisfying, don't you agree? :)
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#3) A point of Endgame technique: DO NOT TRADE pawns for opponent pawns that can simply be WON OUTRIGHT. So many times I have seen players turn an easy win into a very slight and tricky win, or even a Draw or worse. Don't even waste time thinking about trading for his pawns if you can just win them.
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The EXCEPTIONS: (A) If you are in a tempo critical situation such as a pawn race to Queen first, then it may be needed to offer to trade rather than win weakened pawn(s), or even to sac some of yours outright for tempo.
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(B) More a case of style: If you are playing for Artistry, such as trying to play a "perfectly played" game on your part, for instance, you may be concerned with completing your win in the shortest number of moves, aor as forcefully as possible, as a matter of displaying precision and accuracy of technique. Trying for the best and sharpest win line throughout.
As opposed to the Practical Player, who will take a win as it comes and likely using the technique that will require the least deep analysis and energy expenditure, in order to keep his form and concentration for the length of a tournament. And if This latter IS your situation: Just WIN those pawns! :))
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Personally, I always tend to go for the sharp and artsy. Perhaps that's why I've been known to fall asleep during the last round !!?
Thanks for reading ... But Fair-Warning: if you are not into lengthy posts, you will want to skip this one~!
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}8-D
ionadowman 100 ( +1 | -1 )
An instructive article. In general, the numbers of pieces and pawns make a difference. If there are few pieces and a lot of pawns, the side with the extra material (the stronger side) need not worry overmuch about pawn exchanges - indeed, as the rather extreme early examples show, some pawn exchanges might be desirable in order to improve the mobility of your piece, or pieces.

How about situations in which you are ahead (or behind) and there are a lot of pieces and few pawns? To reduce the stronger side's attacking chances and/or mobility, the weaker side might well go for piece exchanges.

Here's and example - rather "extreme", but it illustrates the point. White is well behind in material. Should he exchange pieces? The 'rule of thumb' says no:
w
Exchanging pieces in fact goes straight to a "book" draw: 1.Nd3+ Nxd3 2.Kxd3 after which the WK heads for h1 and the surrounding 3 squares, out of which he can not be evicted. The bishop can not control the queening square.
sf115 40 ( +1 | -1 )
I assume that the W king was meant to be on d2, not c2 where it is in check.

It's an interesting article but the examples shown seem to be quite extreme. Blocking the whole board with a giant pawn chain or having a rook's pawn and bishop of the wrong colour are rare. Would it be true to say that 90% of the time the rule: "swap pieces when you're ahead, swap pawns if you're losing" is the best
scarper 24 ( +1 | -1 )
Hi folks

This is a principle i've heard before but i don't think i fully understand it. I see the logic in not swapping pieces when you're losing but i don't really understand why swapping pawns benefits a losing position. Could someone elaborate?

Cheers
ionadowman 174 ( +1 | -1 )
Whoops... Well spotted sf115. The diagram should be:
w

scarper: When behind in material, it is usually a good idea to reduce the pawns on the board (i.e. exchanging) in order to reduce the stronger side's chances of promoting, but also to localise his attack. Consider a rook and pawn ending. Speaking very broadly here, K+R+P finds it very difficult to beat K+R. It is in such an endgame where you pretty much know what your drawing chances are.

Things are a lot more complicated when there are several pawns a side, say K+R+4P vs K+R+3P. For one thing, much depends on where the pawns are, relative to the board, and relative to each other. Naturally, where the kings and rooks are also makes a difference.

By "relative to the board" I mean the question of whether all the pawns lie on one side of the board, on both sides, or are clumped in the centre, and how advanced (i.e how close to promotion) they are. By "relative to each other" I mean whether connected pawns are level or form a diagonal. whether any pawns are backward, isolated, doubled, passed... A position like the following would be very hard for the stronger side to win:
w
... provided that the weaker side keeps the rooks on.
On the other hand, in this position:
w
... the stronger side can really fancy his winning chances.
scarper 3 ( +1 | -1 )
Thanks, well explained