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Georg Mohr:

THE MAROCZY PAWN


STRUCTURE:
The withdrawal of the knight
from the center
The strategy of the withdrawal of Whites
knight from the center is as rule very
unpleasant for Black. White can move the
knight to three different squares: to c2,
from where the knight will return into play
in different ways (over a3 to b5, over e3 to
d5) to b3, from where is supporting the
move c4-c5, to e2 (an often withdrawal in
Moscow Variation of the Sicilian).
Why is this withdrawal unpleasant for
Black? Especially because White has more
space and Black wants to exchange pieces
to gain space. Due to that Black is
generally exchanging early (Nd4) against
the Maroczy pawn structure. But
everything has its advantages and
disadvantages. It is true that Blacks bishop
can move to (Bd7-c6): from where it will
be able to put pressure on the center and
also to present a threat to the e4-pawn. But
on the other hand Black is releasing
tension in the center because of the
exchange (Nc6 is pressuring on d4) and
White, which often has problems with the
development, because of the unprotected
knight, can choose between playing on the
kingside and in the center.
Let us see a typical psychological battle in
our variation!
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cd4 4.Nd4 g6 5.c4
The first critical moment. Black is afraid
that White will move the knight as soon as
possible (Nc2). What to do? The taking
5Nd4 6.Qd4 is too early because of the
weakness on the long diagonal 6Nf6
7.e5!). So Black arrives to the first
crossroads. Many chess players choose the
move 5Nf6, which forces White into
6.Nc3 that leaves Black with a significant

FIDE Surveys Georg Mohr

tempo: 6Nd4 7.Qd4 d6.


An ideal move order? Yes and no! Black
has succeeded strategically but White can
develop his bishops. He will develop his
dark-squared bishop to an active g5 square,
because he does not need to protect the
knight on d4. After Qd2 he will put his
light-squared bishop to d3 and he will start
to prepare the play on the kingside.
The move 5Bg7 has its advantages. It is
allowing the withdrawal of the knight
6.Nc2 which for a long time believed to be
less dangerous due to Black not developing
the knight on the kingside. The practice
showed that Black has a good counter play
against the plan with the withdrawal of the
knight to c2 with the move f7-f5. He can
develop the knight to h6 and as soon as
possible play f7-f5 (with the already
developed knight he would need to lose yet
another move to withdraw, usually to d7)
or he can play f7-f5 and only then develop
the knight. White players later on found
good chances for the development of the
initiative.
Most of the players prefer to defend the
knight 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Nc3. Black finds
himself on a new crossroads. He can
exchange a pair of knight with the help of a
typical maneuver 7Ng4! 8.Qg4 Nd4 and
White does not have a better move than
9.Qd1, meanwhile Black can move to an
active square 9Ne6. He can decide for
a classical continuation 7d6 8.Be2 0-0
9.0-0 Bd7 with the idea 10Nd4 and
11Bc6. White play the unpleasant
10.Nc2 (or 10.Nb3 with the idea c4-c5),
which destroys Blacks plans and due to
that the experts improved the move order
for Black. After d4 Black takes already in
the 9. move: 9Nd4 10.Bd4 and only
after that 10Bd7. White needs to move
the knight to the c2 square earlier and that
brought to new researches of the positions
after the immediate withdrawal 6.Nc2!
Firstly let us have a look how White can
effectively defend himself against the early
f7-f5.

Voitsekehovsky S. : Aronian L.
Minsk 1998
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cd4 4.Nd4 g6 5.c4
Bg7 6.Nc2 Nh6 7.Bd2!
This move is allowed by last development
of the knight: 7Bb2? 8.Bh6 Ba1 9.Na1!
Due to that Black often chooses 6d6,
where White fights against 7f5 with a
simple development 7.Bd3!
Very interesting is a recommendation of P.
H. Nielsen 6Qb6, after which White
cannot come up with a good defence of the
b2-pawn. After logical move 7.Nc3
Black takes 7Bc3!? 8.bc3 Nf6 and tries
to play without his pair of bishops against
the weak Whites pawns. In practice White
players have more success. They can
develop a strong initiative with the darksquared bishop, for example: 9.Bd3 d6
10.Ne3 00 11.00 Ne5 12.Nd5 Nd5
13.cd5 Qa5 14.Be2 Qc3 15.Rb1 Qc7 16.f4
Nd7 17.Bb2 f6 18.Qd2 Nc5 19.Qe3 e5
20.de6 Be6 21.f5 gf5 22.ef5 Ba2 23.Ra1
Bd5 24.Qd4 Qc6 25.Ra3 Nd7 26.Rd1 Rae8
27.Bh5 Re5 28.Qd2 Rf5 29.Rg3 Kh8
30.Qh6 Rg8 31.Bg6 Rg7 32.Bf5 Qb6
33.Bd4 1:0, Eljanov : Zubarev, Harkov
2001.
7f5 8.ef5 Nf5 9.Bc3! Qb6 10.Qd2 Bh6
11.Qd5 Bg7 12.Bg7 Ng7 13.b3

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White has a slight advantage. His pawns
are more connected and without
weaknesses. The exchanges in the center
brought to life a light-squared bishop,

FIDE Surveys Georg Mohr

which is not weaker than the opponents


light-squared bishop.
13Nf5 14.Nc3 d6 15.Bd3 Nfd4 16.Nd4
Qd4 17.Qd4 Nd4 18.000 Nc6 19.Rhe1
Whites play is simple: he will put pressure
on the central lines, on the backward
pawns d6 and e7.
1900 20.f3 Bf5 21.Be4 Be4 22.Ne4
Rf5 23.Kb2 Re5 24.f4 Rh5 25.Rh1 Rf8
26.g3 a5 27.a3 Rhf5 28.Rd2 Nb8 29.Re1
b5!?
Of course Black wanted to get some
counter play but the outcome will be good
for White.
30.Nc3 bc4 31.Re7 g5 32.fg5 Nc6 33.Rc7
Rf2 34.Ne4 Rd2 35.Nd2 Rf2 36.Rc6 Rd2
37.Kc3 Rh2 38.Kc4 Rg2 39.Rd6 Rg3
40.Rd5 a4 41.ba4 Kf7 42.Re5 Ra3 43.a5
Ra1 44.Kb5 Rb1 45.Kc6 1:0.
The young Levon Aronian definitely
learned a lot from the defeat and due to
that he later on probably started to play this
variation with white pieces.
Aronian L. : Vorobiov E.
Moscow 2004
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cd4 4.Nd4 g6 5.c4
Bg7 6.Nc2 Nf6 7.Nc3 00 8.Be2 d6 9.00
Nd7!?
An interesting plan. Black wants to take
Bc3 and set up the blockage on the dark
squares. The plan is practically stolen
from the English Opening: 1.c4 c5 2.Nc3
Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.cd5 Nd5 5.Bg2 Nc7 6.Qb3!?
(a provocation White is waiting for Nc6)
6Nc6 7.Bc6!? bc6 8.Qa4. White even
gave up a tempo, because he believes in his
pawn structure. There is no reason for
Black not to act the same way
Most of the players do not like the
positions with the destroyed pawn structure
and because of that they almost
automatically respond with:
10.Bd2 Nc5 11.b4!?
A very interesting pawn sacrifice.
Especially because 11.f3 Qb6!? 12.Kh1

Qb2!? 13.Rb1 Bc3 looks promising for


Black.
11Ne6
Critical is the taking: 11...Bc3 12.Bc3 Ne4
13.Bb2 (a new comparison with the
English Opening is interesting and again
with the pieces of the opposite color: 1.c4
c5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.cd5 Nd5 5.Bg2
Nc7 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.0-0 e5 8.d3 Be7 9.Nd2
Bd7 10.Nc4 0-0 11.Bc6 Bc6 12.Ne5).

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A very popular position almost equal to the
previous one. The only difference is that
Black cannot play b7-b5 and he is forced
to withdraw 12Be8. This position was
played even by the World Champions!
You can imagine how much easier is the
position on the diagram where White can
move his bishop to the most logical square
b2 13.Be6 (Black players also tried
with 13...e5 14.Qe1 Qg5 15.Rd1 Be6
16.Bd3 f5 17.f3 Nf6 18.f4 or 13...Qb6
14.a3 Be6 15.Ne3, in both cases with a
strong initiative for White - Aalgard) 14.b5
Ne5 (because of the move being practically
lost, the commentators later recommended
14...Na5 15.Qd4 Nf6 16.Ne3 Qc7 17.Rac1
Qc5 18.Qh4 Rac8 19.Rfd1 or 14...Nb8
15.Qd4 Nf6 16.g4 Qb6 17.g5 Qd4 18.Bd4
Ne4 (18...Nfd7 19.Bf3) 19.Bf3 d5 20.Bg2,
again with the initiative for White) 15.Qd4
Nf6 16.f4 Ned7 (16...Neg4 17.h3 Nh6
18.g4) 17.g4 Qb6 18.f5 White won a piece
and quickly won as in the game Svidler :
Tivjakov, Halkidika 2002.
12.Rc1 Ned4

FIDE Surveys Georg Mohr

The opening of the a-file seems more


logical, where Black is prevailing: 12...a5
13.a3 ab4 14.ab4 and only then 14Ned4
15.Nd4 Nd4 16.Be3. Black can continue
actively 16e5, practice showed that the
most active continuation for White is
17.Nb5 Nb5 18.cb5 Be6 19.b6 f5 20.Bc4
Bc4 21.Rc4 f4 22.Qd5 Kh8 23.Bd2 Qb6
24.Rfc1 with a good compensation.
(Aalgard)
13.Nd4 Nd4 14.Be3
In the position where the a-file is not
opened yet, the maneuver seems even
better. The bishop pair is not important
because White can exchange the darksquared bishops any time he wants.
14Ne2 15.Qe2 b6 16.Rfd1 Bb7 17.Bd4
Bd4
17f6 is possible, weaker seems to be
17...Rc8 18.Bg7 Kg7 19.e5.
18.Rd4 Qc7 19.h4!
Again a typical plan with the attack on the
king. Look at the kingside where Black has
no pieces! He is facing the unpleasant
choice: whether to let the h-pawn progress
or weaken himself even more with the
move h7-h5.
19Rac8 20.h5 a6 21.Nd5 Bd5

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A typical position: considering the rules
that we were following the best move for
White would be the taking 22.Rd5!? But
even the taking with the e-pawn, which
was Aronians choice, is not bad in the
current position. White is combining the
positional play with the attack on the king

and opening the fourth rank for his rook


for the possible transposition to the h-file.
At the same time the e7-pawn is weak.
22.ed5 Rfe8 23.Re4 Qd7 24.Re1 b5
25.cb5 ab5 26.h6! Kf8 27.Qb2 f6

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28.Re7!
The transposition to a winning endgame.
28Qe7 29.Re7 Ke7 30.Qe2 Kf7 31.Qb5
Rc1 32.Kh2 1:0.
Black can fight against the withdrawal of
the knight to c2 with the plan a7-a6 and
b7-b5, like love to play the Scandinavians
(in the past Bent Larsen and Ulf
Andersson, nowadays P. H. Nielsen).
Short N. : Felgaer R.
Argentina 2001

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1a6
The weaker plan is 1Qa5? 2.f4 Rac8
3.Rb1! a6 4.b4 Qd8 5.Qd3 and White was
much better in the game Short : Andersson,
Wijk aan Zee 1990.

FIDE Surveys Georg Mohr

2.f3
A typical move an additional defence of
the e4-pawn. White wants to free from this
assignment his knight on c3, which is also
actively preventing the move b7-b5.
2Rc8 3.Qd2
Possibly the strongest move is 3.Rac1 Ne5
4.Na3 Qa5 (preparing b7-b5) 5.Qb3! with
an unpleasant threat Bb6.
3Re8 4.Rac1 Qa5 5.Rfd1
The plan 5.Na3 Be6 6.Nab1 is interesting
but too slow, it did not bring success to
White in the game Gulko : P. H. Nielsen,
Esbjerg 2000.
5Ne5
Or 5Red8

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6.b4! a typical trick, linked with the
placement of the queen and the undefended
e7-pawn: 6Nb4? 7.Nd5 Nc6 8.Qa5 Na5
9.Ne7 and 10.Nc8. Remains 6Qh5
7.Nd5 and White is better.

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6.b4
Much better than 6.Na3 h5 7.Kf1 Ba4!?

8.Re1 Bc6 with an excellent counter play


for Black, Anand : Larsen, Roquebrune
1992 0:1.
The game would be practically decided
after 6.c5! and Black would be facing big
troubles.
6Qd8 7.Na3 a5 8.b5 Be6 9.Na4 Nfd7
10.b6! and White had a huge advantage.
For some years was very popular a plan
with the withdrawal of the knight on b3
and with the preparation of the move c4c5. We have in mind the next position:

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Black can choose between two plans:
1a5 with the play against the unusual
placement of the knight or 1b6 with
placement of some kind of wall, which is
preventing Whites planned move. The
first plan is concrete and the second one is
connected with a complicated strategic
play.
Kortschnoj V. : Anand V.
Wijk aan Zee 1990
1a5!?
The old rule says that the progression with
a rook pawn, with the unpleasant threat a5
(a4), is always good against the placement
of the knight to b6 (b3) .
2.Nd2
It threatened 2a4 in 3a3 with the
destruction of the queenside and because
of that White gave up another tempo. The
knight on d2 is defending the e4-pawn and

FIDE Surveys Georg Mohr

his partner on c3 is already prepared for


action (on b5 or d5).
2Nd7
The second logical possibility is 2Ne8
with the play against the d4 square, for
example: 3.Rc1 (3.Nf3 Nf6!) 3Nd4
4.Nb3 Ne2 5.Qe2 a4! 6.Nd4 Nc7, like in
the game Cvetkovic : Martinovic,
Yugoslavia 1991.
3.Rc1 Nd7
After the principled 3.c5 dc5 4.Bc5 Be6
5.Nc4 Nd7 6.Be3 Rc8 the position is at
least equal for Black.
4.Nb3!?
Korchnoi in his provocative style! The
knight that recently spent two moves for
the maneuver Nd4-b3-d2 will in the
following two moves return over the same
squares: Nd2-b3-d4! What an absurd
action!
3b6 4.Nd4
Anand probably did not understand
Whites play, though it was not so
unreasonable. What did achieve Black
while the Whites knight was dancing
around? He moved the a7-pawn and b7pawn to a5 and b6, which has its pros and
cons. The pawns did set up a blockage on
the dark squares but they made many light
squares weak (b5, c6). The bishop did
move to c8 and left an important d7 square
to the knight, which has a task on c5.
After the return of the knight to d4 Black
has no choice but to exchange a pair of
knights. Because of the weak light squares
it would be unforgivable for one of the
knights to move to b5 and for the other one
to threat with moving to d5. And the fact is
that the knight on c6 is not playing a
significant role in the position.
4Nd4 5.Bd4

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5Bh6!
A very instructive moment. Black won a
tempo and for him is even more important
to keep the dark-squared bishops. If not so
Whites attack would become very
dangerous. For example: 5Bb7 6.Bg7
Kg7 7.Qd4 Kg8 8.f4 Nc5 9.f5. Black
would not have enough pieces on the
kingside and Whites pieces would be able
to attack freely. (Nd5, Rc3-h3).
6.f4
After 6.Rc2 e5! 7.Be3 Be3 8.fe3 Nc5
9.Bf3 Bb7 Blacks position would be at
least equal.
6Bb7 7.Be3 Nc5 8.b3!?
White already had problems. After 8.Bf3
e5! does not work 9.Qd2 ef4 10.Bf4 Bf4
11.Qf4 Nd3. For this reason Korchnoi
decided for complications.
8Ne4 9.Ne4 Be4 10.Qd4 Bc6 11.f5!?
Korchnoi understandably did not like the
endgame after 11.Qb6 Qb6 12.Bb6 Rfb8
13.Be3 a4, when only Black would be
playing with his a5-pawn and b4-pawn.
The pawn sacrifice is quite unpleasant. In
the case of Black taking on the challenge:
11Be3 12.Qe3 Kg7 (it
threatened13.Qh6), White would after
13.Rf4 achieve an unpleasant initiative,
which is certainly not in Anands style.
11Bg7 12.Qb6 Qd7
Why not 12Qb6 13.Bb6 Rfb8 14.Be3 a4,
with the transposition to the already known
position with an undoubted advantage for
Black?

FIDE Surveys Georg Mohr

13.fg6 hg6 14.Bg5 a4 15.Qe3 ab3 16.ab3


Ra2 17.Rf2 Qe6 18.Bf3 draw.
Despite the good experiences with the
move 1a7-a5, many players like the
setting up of the wall.
Polugaevsky L. : Ljubojevic L.
Monaco 1992

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1b6
Quite illogical move is 1Na5 2.Nd2!
with the threat b2-b4.
2.f3
White tried many moves. After 2.a4 a5!
Black would win yet another dark square
on the queenside (b4) and Blacks knights
on c5 and b4 would be very unpleasant for
White, but the most consistent is the set up
with f2-f4, Be2-f3 and the play in the
center. However White does not have a
direct and clear plan in the center and due
to that the position is easier for Black,
which is simply following the dark-squared
strategy, preparing the dark squares for his
knights and directing them towards the
dark squares (especially to c5).
Polugaevsky chose a slow plan, connected
with the conquering of the space and with
putting pressure on Black.
2Ne8
With the idea 2Bc3.
3.Qd2 Rc8 4.Rac1 Ne5 5.Nd5 e6!
Whites knight does not have a good
square to withdraw (because of the
undefended c4-pawn) and Ljubojevic took

advantage of the favorable moment. It


would be very difficult for White to attack
the d6-pawn.
6.Nf4 Qe7 7.Rfd1 f5 8.ef5 Rf5
Even better would be 8gf5 9.Nd4 Ng6
10.Nh5

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10Bd4! 11.Bd4 (11.Qd4 e5 12.Qd2 f4)
11f4! 12.Bf2 (it threatened 12Qh4)
12Bc6 with an excellent play for Black.
The maneuver, which needs to be
remembered!
9.Nd4 Rf8
With a very complicated play and draw in
52 moves.

FIDE Surveys Georg Mohr