Stupid pawn tricks

by ChessBase
5/18/2006 – ChessBase 9 isn't just a tool for serious chess research -- it's also a tool for finding oddities, anomalies, and abnormalities (in a chess sense, not a psychological one). Check out the latest ChessBase Workshop in which we present an array of "stupid pawn tricks" for your amusement. Workshop...

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Let's have a little fun. Tim Krabbé's gonna love this.

Not long ago I was having a little alcohol-fueled chess chuckles with some friends (ergo, we were pushing pawns down at a local watering hole) when we arrived at a position in which a guy had tripled pawns. "Now there's something you don't see everyday."

I certainly don't want to rain on anybody's parade here, but I was pretty sure I had seen this particular pattern more than a few times. So I decided to use ChessBase 9 to check up on it. (You can do this sort of thing in Fritz, also, just so nobody feels left out). Fire up ChessBase, right-click on the icon for the database you want to search, select "Search", and then click on the "Position" tab. There's no "magic button" for finding all games with tripled pawns, so it might take a few searches for you to find what you want. I lucked out -- my first search hit paydirt.

Click on the White pawn button and then decide where you want to place your three pawns. Seeing as how pawns are ideally supposed to capture toward the center, I figured that one of the center two files would be a good place to start:

I reckoned we'd keep it simple, so I didn't change "First", "Length", or "Last". After a few minutes' search, I was gratified to see CB9 come up with 422 games in Mega Database 2006 which contained tripled White pawns on d3, d4, and d5. A separate search results window opened displaying a chessboard and a list of the games; the cool thing here is that when you single-click on a game from the list, the gamescore appears in a pane below the chessboard and the position "jumps" directly to the one in which the tripled pawns occurred. That makes it easy to just shoot down along the list, game by game, finding ones in which the position might be a little more interesting than most. Here's one I thought was pretty neat:

Clarke, Sean - Clark, Ian C.
BCF Team Championship, 2005

1. e4 c5 2. Bc4 Nc6 3. Nf3 e6 4. Nc3 a6 5. a4 Nf6 6. Qe2 Qc7 7. d3 d6 8. Be3 Be7 9. O-O O-O 10. Qd2 b6 11. Rfe1 Bb7 12. Ng5 Qd7 13. Bf4 d5 14. exd5 exd5 15. Bb3 Nd4 16. Ba2 Nh5 17. Nh3 Nxf4 18. Nxf4 Bg5 19. Re5 Qg4 20. Qd1 Qxf4 21. Re3 Rad8 22. Ne2 Qg4 23. Nxd4 Qxd1+ 24. Rxd1 Bxe3 25. fxe3 cxd4 26. exd4 Rfe8 27. Kf2 Rd6 28. Rd2 Rf6+ 29. Kg3 Re3+ 30. Kh4 Rfe6 31. c4 Re2 32. cxd5

32...Rh6+ 33. Kg3 Rxd2 34. Bc4 Rg6+ 35. Kf4 Rdxg2 36. b3 Rxh2 37. Ke5 Rh5+ 38. Kf4 Bxd5 39. Bxa6 Bxb3 40. Bb5 Rxb5 41. axb5 Ba4 42. d5 Bxb5 43. d4 h5 44. Ke5 h4 0-1

What makes this interesting? In most of the games, Black has the opportunity to capture one of the tripled pawns with one of his own or else has blocked the d5-pawn with one of his own pawns. Not so here; the three White pawns stand proudly and defiantly hassle-free from any Black pawns. Of course, White does go on to lose the game.

Being the curious-minded kind of guy that I am, this led to another question. Since doubled/tripled pawns are supposed to be a liability, how does White statistically fare in these 422 games? I clicked on the Clarke-Clark game in the list to highlight it, then hit CTRL-A to highlight the entire list, and clicked the "Clip" button from the toolbar at the list's bottom. This copied all of the games to CB9's Clipboard. Returning to the main database screen I double-clicked on the "Clip database" icon to open it and I again hit CTRL-A to highlight all 422 games. I next clicked on the "Statistics" button (the one that looks like a multicolored bar graph -- the rightmost button on the toolbar at the top of the Clip database window) and got the following display:

Now ain't that something? While doubled/tripled pawns are definitely a liability (the can't support each other and must be defended by pieces, blah blah blah), it seems that in these 422 games White has scored better than Black. I'm not suggesting that this is going to cause a revolution in chess theory or anything; I just found it to be pretty curious (and more than a bit amusing).

Never being one to let a good joke lie (I'll ride this one until the danged wheels fly off), I decided to try for quadrupled pawns. This one took a lot more doing, but on my eighth separate search I finally hit paydirt: two games in which Black had pawns on e3 through e7. These were Van der Wal-Hitech, 1993 and Kulbacki-Brumley, 1999. Since I don't want to give the "computers can't play chess" crowd any extra ammunition, and because human errors are a lot more fun anyway, here's the latter game:

Kulbacki, James - Brumley Jr., Ron
Michigan Open, 1999

1. c3 Nf6 2. d4 d6 3. Nf3 g6 4. Bf4 Nbd7 5. h3 Bg7 6. Nbd2 O-O 7. e3 b6 8. Be2 Bb7 9. O-O Qe8 10. a4 e5 11. Bh2 e4 12. Ne1 a6 13. b4 Qe7 14. Qb3 Rae8 15. c4 Qd8 16. Rc1 Re6 17. Nc2 c6 18. d5 cxd5 19. Nd4 Ne5 20. Nxe6 fxe6 21. Bxe5 dxe5 22. c5 Rf7 23. Rfd1 Bf8 24. Bg4 Nxg4 25. hxg4 Qh4 26. g3 Qxg4 27. cxb6 d4 28. Nf1 dxe3

29. Nxe3 Qf3 30. Rf1 Bd5 31. Qd1 Bxb4 32. Qxf3 exf3 33. Nxd5 exd5 34. Rc7 Bd6 35. Rfc1 Rf8 36. Rc8 Kf7 37. b7 d4 38. b8=Q Bxb8 39. Rxf8+ Kxf8 40. Rc8+ Ke7 41. Rxb8 Kd6 42. Rb6+ Kc5 43. Rxa6 d3 44. Ra8 Kb4 45. a5 d2 46. Rd8 Kxa5 47. Rxd2 Kb4 48. Rd3 Kc4 49. Rxf3 e4 50. Rf7 h5 51. Rd7 g5 52. Kf1 h4 53. gxh4 gxh4 54. Ke2 Kc5 55. Ke3 Kc6 56. Rd4 Kc5 57. Rxe4 h3 58. Rh4 Kd5 59. Rxh3 Kc4 60. Ke4 Kc5 61. f4 Kd6 62. f5 Kd7 63. Rh7+ Kd6 64. Rg7 Kc6 65. Ke5 Kc5 66. f6 Kb6 67. f7 Kc6 68. f8=Q Kb5 69. Qc8 Kb6 70. Rb7+ Ka6 71. Qa8# 1-0

Awwwww, dang, I was wrong -- the computer game where Van der Wal plays Hitech is funnier. Check this out -- Hitech has just captured with check:

And here's how the rest of the deal went down:

34.Kg1 Ke8 35. Qg8+ Ke7 36. Qf7+ 0-1

And White apparently bit the dust on time, doubtless due to his shock (and maybe amusement) at seeing those four Black pawns lined up so nice and pretty.

Hans Kmoch, in his classic book Pawn Power in Chess, coined all sorts of interesting names for various pawn structures: the block, the wedge, the lever. But he left a lot out, probably because he used up all the good names for simple devices you learn about in your sixth grade science course's unit on mechanical physics. Since Kmoch hogged all the simple devices, here's one I call the "linear actuator" (and if anyone asks what it's named after, it was after about four Shiner Bocks as I recall):

Do this one for yourself and you'll find 23 games in Mega 2006 in which this one occurred -- and the cool part is that the first game is one with Alekhine playing the White pieces from 1925:

This next one actually freaked me out. After an additional frosty one, I dreamed up another weirdo pawn structure and decided to search for it in CB9. Since mechanical devices and alcohol don't mix, I decided to move away from mechanical physics and named this one "The Chinese Acrobats" instead (although, in retrospect, I think "The Blue Angels" might have been better):

You can check this one, too, if you've a mind to -- and you'll find an amazing 218 games in Mega 2006 in which White somehow came up with this offbeat pawn structure.

So ChessBase isn't just for serious chess research; it's also good for some cheap chuckles for those of us who have way too much time on our hands. (And, by the way, if you look closely you'll see that I did include a couple of useful tips in this column; I figured I'd head the negative e-mails off at the pass).

Until next week, have fun!

You can e-mail me with your comments on ChessBase Workshop. All responses will be read, and sending an e-mail to this address grants us permission to use it in a future column. No tech support questions, please.

© 2006, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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