9 of 10 for King on Pawns

by ChessBase
4/5/2007 – F or h-pawn – this is often the question when you start an attack against your opponent's king. A simple decision? Believe it or not, Daniel King spent a whole DVD answering it. In his review Michael Jeffreys confesses that he underestimated the "loads of subtle but important ideas that you MUST be aware of" before you take your decision. Buy Danial King's Pawn storm DVD or read the full review.

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King on Pawns!

Daniel King: Power Play 3 - Pawn Storm

Reviewed by Michael Jeffreys

I first heard of GM Daniel King back in 1994-95 when he was the co-commentator on the Intel Grand-Prix video tape series along with IM (now GM) Maurice Ashley. Listening to the two of them describe the action during the rapid play games was nothing short of brilliant. They were the Al Michaels and John Madden of Chess. King’s enthusiasm was contagious and you couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement as he would shout, “Speelman’s in!!” or “Kasparov is looking to put the boot in!!,” often losing his voice in mid-sentence from sheer exhilaration. What’s more, he had the ability to explain a position so that even players at the lowest rating level could understand it.

Sadly, these excellent tapes by GM Video were discontinued and I didn’t really hear much from my favorite British Broadcaster for over a decade. However, at the end of 2006 I was pleasantly surprised to see that he has now re-emerged and was doing DVDs for Chessbase. His first one, Power Play 1 was on Mating Patterns and his second, Power Play 2 was on Attacking the King. His newest, Power Play 3 is on Pawn Storms and this is the one we will be looking at in this review.

Buy it now...

The first thing I noticed upon playing the DVD is King’s appearance — gone are the glasses and long hair from 10 years ago. The “new” King has a more conservative look to him… well, except for the bright purple shirt! Of course, the chess is the thing and on this DVD Daniel covers an area of attacking chess that I have not seen analyzed before, at least not to this depth: how to properly attack with the f and h pawns. And we’re not taking about some superficial job here; you get a whopping 6 hours of material on this disk. The breakdown is as follows:

  •      Intro
  •      11 video clips on attacking with the f-pawn
  •      9 video clips on attacking with the h-pawn
  •      17 puzzle video clips
  •      Outro

The DVD begins with an introduction by King who goes over several of the main ideas to keep in mind when using the f and h pawns to attack. Here is a screen shot from the intro:

King using red arrows to illustrate his new movie: “March of the Pawns”

I was surprised at just how much you have to consider before deciding which pawn to attack with. As King points out, each pawn thrust has its share of pros and cons. For instance, when you play f4 (in the above simplified position, for example) that pawn can then go to f5 with the idea of taking on g6 (to weaken Black’s king protection as well as open up the f-file for your rook) or it can march onward to f6, creating possible back rank threats. Additionally, a move like f4 allows a future rook lift via f3 to h3.

The cons of playing f4 are that g2 is now weak. So if black can set up some sort of queen and bishop battery along the a8-h1 diagonal for example, White no longer has the option of playing f3 as a defensive resource. Also, if Black can get a rook to White’s second rank, than again a queen or bishop on b7 or c6 for example, sets up threats against g2 (as does a queen on g4). Additionally, moving the f4 pawns openings up the a7-g1 diagonal exposing White’s king to a possible attack via the a7-g1 line. Lastly, playing f4 weakens e3.

King points out that pawn to h4 is a bit more subtle; since it doesn’t have the rook behind the pawn it appears slightly less aggressive. However, the benefits to White are that g2 isn’t weakened nor is the a7-g1 diagonal opened up for Black to start a counter attack on. Also e3 is still covered.

Click here to view the first lecture on 'h4' (in reduced quality)...

Both pawn moves have the advantage of supporting the g5 square, so that if White can get a knight there he can set up a mating attack utilizing the knight’s forward position (or at the very least cause Black to further weaken his kingside in order to drive the pesky knight away).

To be honest, when I first saw that this entire DVD was on just two pawn moves, I was a bit skeptical thinking, “Oh, there can’t really be that much to say about moving a pawn to f4 or h4.” Boy, was I wrong! After watching King go through the material, I now realize that there are loads of subtle but important ideas that you MUST be aware of when deciding to utilize your f or h pawn in an attack.

Here King is going through a game between GM Alexander Morozevich and GM Alexander Khalifman where Moro is preparing f4. Notice that in addition to the video analysis, King also provides notes within the text itself.

Following the 20 video clips on how to attack with the f and h pawns, there are an additional 17 video “puzzles.” Each one feature King showing an interesting middle game position and then he asks you to pause the video (and turn off Fritz) and figure out what the best move is. Think of these as video versions of his popular “guess the move” columns. However, they are even better as King goes into quite a bit of detail and thus each “puzzle” is an entire chess lesson unto itself.

The Bottom Line

GM Daniel King’s third DVD for Chessbase is a very detailed and comprehensive look at how to attack with the f and h pawns. I would classify this DVD as more advanced than his previous two, and one that will open up a lot of eyes to the latent attacking power of the f and h pawns. After watching this video I feel as if I have added a couple of new, yet extremely powerful attacking weapons to my chess arsenal.

My only minor criticism of the DVD is that occasionally King has trouble getting the colored arrows and squares to do what he wants them to do. This makes for a few awkward moments as he fumbles with the keys trying to get rid of arrows he doesn’t want or make arrows appear that he does want. The problem is that this disrupts the flow of his presentation and since this is his third DVD he really should have it down by now.

Having said this, I want to emphasize what an overall great job King has done to bring this unique material to the chess world. He has an enthusiasm and exuberance for chess that really comes through. And not only does he use games from some of the top players, but he also includes some examples from his own games. I really like this as hearing him explain his thinking for selecting a particular move is quite instructive (especially when he makes an inaccuracy and shows what he should have played!).

A nice touch is that the DVD also includes a small database consisting of all 44 games that King goes over in the video segments.

Needless to say, I highly recommend this product for those players looking to increase their attacking skills. On a scale of 1-10, the Power Play 3 Pawn Storm DVD gets a 9.

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