March of pawns may not always spell victory

Chess Checks

In most cases they are promoted into a queen as it is the most powerful piece on the chess board. However, there are instances when the march of the pawns need not mean victory!

In the game below, Black’s two dangerous passed pawns offer an intimidating sight, especially since they have reached the 6th and 7th rank. However White has things under his control and these pawns cannot prevent Black from losing the game.

White: Jean Marc Degraeve (2540) – Black: Vladimir Epishin (2655)
MK Cafe Cup, 1999
Caro-Kann Defence
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 . Advanced variation of the Caro-Kann Defence
3. ..Bf5 4.Nc3 e6 5.g4. This is one of the most popular continuations
5. ..Bg6 6.Nge2 Be7
Here White has a few options like 6...c5 or 6...Ne7
7.Nf4. If 7.Be3 Nd7 8.Qd2
7...Nd7. Black plays a patient game, slowing down and keeping the position closed . If 7...c5 8.dxc5 d4 9.Nxg6 hxg6 10.Ne4 Bxc5 11.Nxc5 Qd5 12.Nxb7 Qxh1 13.Nd6+ Kf8 14.Qxd4
8.Be3 Bg5 9.Nxg6
If 9.Qd2 Bxf4 10.Bxf4 Ne7
9...hxg6 10.Qd2. Preparations for castling on the queen side
10. ..Bxe3 11.Qxe3 Qa5
If 11...Qh4 12.h3 Ne7 13.0–0–0 g5 14.Bd3 0–0–0 15.b3
12.0–0–0 b5 . Immediately getting aggressive on the queenside after White has castled. If 12...a6 13.Kb1 c5 14.h4 Ne7
13.Kb1 Nb6. Not exactly the right plan. Better appears 13...b4 14.Ne2 Ne7 15.h4 c5 16.dxc5 Nc6 17.f4 Qxc5
14.h4. White also starts taking initiative on the King side now
14...Ne7 15.Rh3 Nc4
If 15...b4 16.Ne2 Nc4 17.Qd3 Qb6 18.f4 a5 19.Ng3 a4 20.h5 and White’s attack gets in first
16.Bxc4 bxc4. If 16...dxc4 17.Ne4
17.h5 gxh5
If 17...Rb8  18.hxg6 Nxg6 (18...Rxh3 19.gxf7+) 19.Rxh8+ Nxh8 20.Rh1
18.Rdh1 Kd7 19.Rxh5 Rxh5 20.Rxh5 Rb8 21.Rh7 c5
If 21...Qa3 22.b3 (22.Nd1 Qxe3 23.Nxe3 Rg8 24.f4) 22...cxb3 23.cxb3 Rg8 24.Na4 And if 21...Rg8  22.f4
22.dxc5 Qb4 23.Nd1 c3 24.Rxg7 d4. Black is banking on two of his passed pawns in the centre. If 24...cxb2  25.Rxf7
25.Qd3 Qxc5. If 25...Rf8 26.Nxc3
26.Rxf7 Ke8
Getting away from both pins. If 26...cxb2 27.c3 Ke8 28.Rh7 And if 26...Qxe5 27.Nxc3
27.Qh7. Here White can draw by playing 27.Rh7 Rxb2+ 28.Nxb2 Qb4 29.Rxe7+ Kxe7 30.Qh7+ Ke8 31.Qg8+ Ke7 32.Qg7+ Ke8 33.Qh8+ Kd7! 34.Qg7+ Ke8  and draw with perpetual checks
27...Rb7. A terrible mistake!  The only way Black could have tried to offer stiff resistance would be 27...cxb2 28.Rxe7+
28.Qh5 Kd7 . If 28...cxb2 29.Rxe7+ Kxe7 30.Qh7+
29.Rf8 Ng6 30.Qh7+
If 30.Qxg6 Qxf8
30...Ne7 31.Qh5 Ng6.  
Hoping for a draw but more in desperation than anything else
32.Rf7+ Ne7 33.b3. Even though Black’s pawn has marched to the 7th rank, it is without support and White can almost capture it at will
33...Rb8. If 33...d3 34.Rf8 dxc2+ 35.Kxc2
34.f4 d3 35.Qh7 d2
Diagram 1
These two pawns at a glance do appear dangerous but White is in a good position to render them harmless
36.Qd3+ Kc6 37.Qxc3 Qxc3 38.Nxc3 Nd5 39.Nd1 Rh8 40.c3 Rh4 41.Kc2 Rxg4 42.Rxa7 Nxf4 43.Ra4 Rh4 44.Rb4 and Black resigned.
Diagram 2
Black to play and win
1.   ..Rc8  2.Qb5 Bd7 and the queen gets trapped.

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