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June 20, 2013

Beware of overextending your pawns

— This week’s position is from Hikaru Nakamaru’s game against Fabiano Caruana. It was played at the prestigious Tal Memorial Chess Tournament, which began June 13 and ends Monday. Caruana is white; Nakamaru, black. Nakamaru’s move weakens white’s overextended pawns. With this hint in mind, please try to find the move played by Nakumaru.  

Caruana has advanced his pawns on both the queen-side and king-side. The advanced pawns on the king-side expose his king, and the advanced queen pawns are vulernable. Nakamura shows that these pawns have overextended themselves by advancing his b7 pawn to b5.

Because black threatens to win a pawn, either white’s a4 or c4 should capture the b5 pawn. Caruana took b5 with his a4 pawn (best move), which was then captured by black’s a6 pawn.

Because Nakamura’s knight on f6 hits d5, which is weak because of the b5 pawn’s pressure on the d5 pawn’s support — namely white’s c4 pawn — Caruana opted to eliminate that knight by capturing it with his bishop. Black’s bishop on g7 then took white’s bishop on f6.

White cannot capture black’s b5 pawn without losing its d5 pawn to black’s queen. And if the c4 pawn is lost, black’s rook penetrates white’s position. The advance of the pawn to b5 compelled Caruana to trade his dark-squared bishop for black’s knight. Now black’s dark-squared bishop is unleashed and will soon occupy d4 with check.

Additionally, the overall activity of black’s pieces has been increased with Nakamura’s pawn advance to b5. White must to fight to hold its position. Eventually Caruana would lose this fight, as Nakamura used the pressure on the queen-side to initiate a king-side attack, which in turn allowed a black rook to penetrate white’s position on the “c” file.

As of this date, Nakamura is leading the Tal Memorial. If he wins, it will be the greatest success of his career.

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