Malcolm Pein on…The Power of Passed Pawns


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Malcolm Pein’s Daily Telegraph column looks at the power of passed pawns today and features one of the classic games from chess history.

There is also an extension of one of our themes of the week, with a position from David Smerdon’s The Complete Chess Swindler – the English Chess Federation Book of the Year for 2020.

Malcolm Pein on…The Power of Passed Pawns

Two passed pawns on the sixth rank, in the absence of any other pieces, outweigh a rook which cannot prevent one from promoting. Two passed pawns on the seventh guarantee a promotion unless the opponent has plenty of defensive assets guarding his first rank. The sight of three passed pawns on the seventh rank is a rarity, the first known occurrence is the famous game given below.

Louis-Charles Mahé de La Bourdonnais was born in Réunion and came to play chess at the La Regence café in Paris. He played six matches against Alexander McDonnell, who was born in Belfast, at the Westminster Chess Club in 1834 and 1835. The matches were widely considered at the time as an unofficial world championship. La Bourdonnais won four, McDonnell one and the sixth was unfinished as McDonnell took ill and died later that year.

McDonnell was a wealthy merchant, while La Bourdonnais died penniless in 1840. They
are both buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in London. The Sicilian was in its infancy. 5.Nb5 is always played nowadays.

A. McDonnell – L. C. M. De La Bourdonnais
London 1834
Sicilian Defence

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e5 5.Nxc6?! bxc6 6.Bc4 Nf6 7.Bg5 Be7 8.Qe2 d5 9.Bxf6 Bxf6 10.Bb3 0–0 11.0–0 a5 12.exd5 cxd5 (12…a4! 13.Bc4 cxd5) 13.Rd1 d4 14.c4?! Qb6 15.Bc2 Bb7 16.Nd2 Rae8 17.Ne4 Bd8 18.c5 Qc6 19.f3 Be7 20.Rac1 f5 21.Qc4+ Kh8 22.Ba4 Qh6 23.Bxe8 fxe4 24.c6 exf3!! 25.Rc2 Qe3+ (25…Ba6! 26.Qxa6 e4! 27.c7? Qxa6 28.c8Q f2+! 29.Rxf2 Qxc8) 26.Kh1 Bc8 27.Bd7 f2 28.Rf1 d3 29.Rc3 Bxd7 30.cxd7 e4 31.Qc8 Bd8 32.Qc4 Qe1 33.Rc1 d2 34.Qc5 Rg8 35.Rd1 e3 36.Qc3 Qxd1 37.Rxd1 e2 0–1

Passed Pawns

The Great Passed Pawn Swindle

What looks like a fantasy position given in GM David Smerdon’s book The Complete Chess Swindler from D. Birnbaum – E. Relange, Cappelle-la-Grande, 1995. How did Black extricate himself?

Highlight the space below this line to reveal the answer.
41…Qxg2+!! 42.Kxg2 Qg6+ 43.Kh1 Qe4+ draw Black forces perpetual check.

Short and Sweet Swindles

Incidentally, the Chessable Short and Sweet: Chess Swindles course is now available – for free.

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