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Very often in the English Opening we can find on the board the so-called Arab pawn structure, or

the Staunton pawn structure, as I learned it. It is probably one of the most aesthetic pawn formations, with 4
pawns in the in the center accompanied by the knight pawns one square behind. With a little imagination we
can think of a castle with two towers on each side.

But there is a lot more than just beauty to this pawn structure. In fact, it is a very efficient way of putting
pressure on the opponent's position. The two further advanced pawns, in this case c4 and f4, control the
enemy's territory d5 and e5, as well as b5 and g5. The pair of back pawns on d3 and e3 guard white's center
(e4, d4) and at the same time support the pillars of c4 / f4.
These pawns are also ready to advance anytime in the future in case a central pawn break is needed. Finally,
there are the knight pawns, on b3 and g3, which serve as support. Usually, the queenside pawn is more flexible
and it can be advanced in order to grab more space on that flank. In the early days, this pawn setup was
considered the best opening for white.

The piece setup behind this pawn structure is also quite interesting. The bishops will both control the long
diagonals a1-h8 / h1-a8, while the knights are developed on c3 and usually on e2, although this knight can
sometimes be found on h3 or on h4.
Finally, the queen goes to d2, defending e3 (potentially the weakest link in white's formation after the bishop is
moved to b2) and also communicating the rooks. Both rooks have freedom to move depending on the plan

chosen. For example, they can be on f1-e1 if white wants to push e3-e4 and attack the kingside, or they can be
on the queenside if it is here where the actions are taking place.
Here is one example of how it looks:

This pawn structure is not exclusive from the English Opening. It can also be found on the Sicilian. For
example, against the Closed Variation this setup is among the most popular ways to play for black. Let's have a
look now at some examples to see the action in such structures. We will also see how one side can strive for
such pawn formation even though it was not the initial plan right from the opening.

Example 1

Here we have a semi-closed position. Things have gone really well for black with the bishop pair being his main
asset. In this position the great Garry Kasparov played the typical 14...f5! with two main targets. The first is to
stop any possible attack by white advancing his f4 pawn and second, and most important, to undermine white's
center and give his bishop on b7 a strong influence in the position. This game is well known, you can see how
it continued below:
14...f5 ! A very strong move that cause white very difficult problems to solve. Either the advance to e5 or the
capture on f5 would leave the bishop on b7 wide open against the white king. The best choice is to maintain the
tension but can't keep it for long.15. Rae1 Nc6 ! 16. exf5 gxf5 ! Kasparov rightly chooses to open the G file in
order to start an attack.17. Re2 Rae8 18. Rfe1 Kh8 19. Qh3 Nd4 20. Nxd4 Bxd4+ 21. Kh1 Rg8 22. Nd1 Rg6
23. c3 Bg7 24. Ne3 Rf8 25. Bg5 h6 26. Bh4 b5 Creating a second target on the opposite flank.27. Nf1 b4 28.
cxb4 cxb4 29. Ne3 Rg8 30. Bg3 Bd4 Black is ready to eliminate the defender of g2.31. Nc4 R8g7 32. Qh5 Kh7
33. Ne3 Qb5 34. Rd2 a6 35. Qh3 h5 ! 36. Ree2
36. Qxh5+ Rh6

36...h4 37. Be1


37. Qxh4+ Rh6
37...Bxe3 38. Qxe3 Qc6 39. Qh3 Qc1 40. Qxh4+ Rh6 41. Rc2
41. Qf2 Rxg2
41...Qd1 42. Rcd2 Qb1 43. Qf2 Rxg2 44. Qxg2 Bxg2+ 45. Kxg2 Qa2 46. Rc2 Rg6+ 47. Bg3 Qxb3 48. Red2
a5 49. Kf2 a4 50. Rc6 a3 51. bxa3 bxa3 52. Ke2 e5 53. fxe5 f4

Example 2: The Closed Sicilian

The position in the diagram above is from the game between Spassky and Portisch from the World Candidates
in Mexico 1980. Portisch chose to play in the center, so instead of the plan Rb8-b5, gaining space on the
queenside, he decided to play it solid with b6-Bb7 in the Staunton style. Again, black is able to execute here
the move f5! obtaining good play. Black went on to win on move 38.
Spassky, Boris V vs Portisch, Lajos
Candidates qf3Mexico19800-1
1. e4 c5 2. Nc3 d6 3. g3 Nc6 4. Bg2 g6 5. d3 Bg7 6. f4 e6 7. Nf3 Nge7 8. O-O O-O 9. Rb1 Spassky was the
greatest specialist on the Closed Sicilian variation. Always trying to explore new ways in his own games.
9. Be3 is played more often nowadays
9...b6 ! Since white's last move was extra cautious, protecting the queenside. It makes sense to forget about b5
and finish the development quickly by simply b6 and Bb7.10. Bd2 Bb7 11. Ne2 Qd7 12. g4 f5 ! 13. gxf5
13. exf5 exf5
13...exf5 14. c4 ?
14. Bc3 !? 15 It is recommended to play f5 whenever white plays g4, not allowing f4-f5. Black's position seems
already slightly better since white looks a bit pasive.
14...Nd8 15. Nc3 Ne6 16. Ng5 Nxg5 17. fxg5 Rf7 18. Qf3 Raf8 19. Qh3 Qd8 20. exf5 Bc8 Now black is ready
to capture on e4 and make use of white's weak squares in the center.21. Ne4 Bd4+ 22. Kh1 Nxf5 23. Nf6+ Kh8
24. Bc3 Ne3 25. Qh4 Bxc3 26. bxc3 Nxf1 27. Rxf1 Bf5 28. d4 Rxf6 29. gxf6 Qxf6 30. Qxf6+ Rxf6 31. a4 Kg7
32. a5 Bd3 33. Rxf6 Kxf6 34. axb6 axb6 35. Bd5 Kf5 36. dxc5 dxc5 37. Kg1 Kf4 38. Kf2 The simplest.

Example 3

This diagram belongs to the game between Granda and Benjamin. Grandmaster Julio Granda understands
these positions very well and has employed this system quite often. Here he plays an interesting idea, bringing
his queenside knight to f2 in order to control g4-e4. Later on he brought his rook to e1 and opened the game by
pushing e3-e4.

Tactics:

Spraggett, Kevin vs Llaneza Vega, Patricia


San Sebastian op 30thSan Sebastian4 Apr 20071-0
1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 g6 3. b3 A rare system against the King's Indian / Grunfeld
players.Bg7 4. Bb2 O-O 5. Bg2 d6 6. c4 e5 7. d3 Nc6 8. O-O h6 9. Nc3 Nh5
9...Be6 threatening d6-d5 is another possibility.
10. e3 f5 11. a3 a5 12. Rb1 Be6 13. Nd5 Qd7
13...Nf6 is probably a better choice, the position is about equal.
14. Nh4 !? Kh7 15. f4 ! exf4 ? Careless16. Nxg6 ! Kxg6 17. Qxh5+ Kxh5 Black
politely accepts the queen sacrifice and the beautiful mate that follows.

17...Kh7 18. Bxg7 Kxg7 19. Nxf4 is lost for black.


18. Nxf4+ Kg5 19. h4+ Kg4 20. Kh2 No defense.