Isolani Weapons: Knight Invasion at c6

Bruce Pandolfini’s Weapons of Chess is a good primer on chess strategy. He devotes several chapters to the isolated pawn, the topic I am currently studying. Since I want to practise and improve my attacking chess before focusing on strategy (following the logic that you can always make a closed game open but not vice-versa), I am building my opening repertoire around isolated pawn positions. According to Pandolfini, isolated pawn positions also force you not to be lazy — a serious challenge for players such as myself and others, who profess to have a tendency to play impatiently and shun thorough calculation. In Pandolfini’s words:

Naturally, great demands are placed on the player who accepts an isolated d-pawn. You must play with exceptional energy, never allowing your attention to wander. You must see the entire board, not just a specific sector. Pieces may shift into action across the center, from one side of the board to the other, at a move’s notice. Calculation of possible variations is a necessity. Your analysis must be precise and penetrating. In short, if you want to improve your game, try to play openings that generate isolated d-pawns. Be willing to take either side; to play with the isolated d-pawn and to play against it. All aspects of your play will improve.

Goodness me.  Well, I don’t doubt that calculation is paramount, but I still believe that ideas are half the battle. And so I’ll be presenting some of the ideas mentioned in Weapons of Chess to illustrate how you can use the isolani to your advantage. The first idea in this series is “knight invasion at c6”. If you manage to use the squares protected by your isolated pawn as outposts, your knights may become very powerful. A knight on e5, for instance, can challenge your opponent at c6:middlegame_isolani_knightc6

Here’s the same idea combined with another one, the “removing of the defender” of the c6 square:middlegame_isolani_knightc6_02

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4 Responses to Isolani Weapons: Knight Invasion at c6

  1. tommyg says:

    Hey that is good stuff on the isolani! Your post is helping push me towards a different opening as Black against 1 d4. I played the King’s Indian for a year and decided it was time to change. I was going to play the Dutch but after reading Katar’s effusive recommendation of the Tarrasch Defence and now reading your post I think I am definitely going to switch to the Tarrasch instead of the Dutch! I want to embrace the isolated pawn! Thanks for a great post.

  2. […] again to Bruce Pandolfini’s Weapons of Chess. This theme resembles the previous one — knight invasion at c6 — except here the knight teams up with the bishop at g5 to remove the defender of the d7 […]

  3. chunkyrook says:

    Thank you, kind sir. Of course, isolated pawn positions *are* quite difficult, so prepare yourself for some losses and draws. I’ve only just started my journey into isolani-land, and my first game where I made a considered effort to play with the IQP turned into a drawish slugfest. The fact of the matter is: in isolated pawn positions, it is often quite clear what you (and your opponent for that matter) have to do; this makes it easier to focus on and learn and hone certain skills (active piece play above all), but sometimes you want to maintain the tension in a game and don’t make things so clear-cut from the start. In other words: don’t obsess over the isolated pawn if you see a better, more feasible plan.
    If you are interested, we could team up and compile a collection of annotated IQP-games, perhaps discuss them or simply share. I already have a bunch of games worth looking at which I could send you. Let me know if you’re interested. Cheerio!

  4. tommyg says:

    Hey there!

    I would love to trade some knowledge on Isolated Pawns! I did a mild study of them late last year. I annotated two games and made a pgn that sort of describes an overview of the information that I had found regarding the IQP.

    I am a little better at annotations now so I might want to go back and mull over those games again before I sent them to you so that the annotations are a little clearer and more organized. Also I am going on tour again this Thursday so next week would be a better time. Maybe if I get a chance before I leave I will take a look at those annotations, and then when I get back we can get to solving the IQP riddle! Thanks for the offer, I think this will be fun. I like analyzing Morphy’s games so I might try to find one where he had an isolated pawn as well.

    Talk to you soon.

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