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roblear 47 ( +1 | -1 )
am i right? i've had a bit of good luck recently and my rating's improved to the point where i'm now regularly playing 1500+ rated players (who are all way better than me in my opinion, but that's another matter)...
i've noticed that higher rated players don't seem to play pawn moves such as a3 to prevent Nb4 or Bb4, or conversely h3 to attack the g4 square.
i've often used these kinds of moves in the past, but i don't see them much from better players. maybe it's a reflection on my poor development?
tim_b 22 ( +1 | -1 )
I can't speak for anyone else, but those sort of moves can be a waste of time. Sometimes it's better to kick away a piece once it invades rather than pre-empt the incursion. As usual, it depends on the circumstances!
ionadowman 392 ( +1 | -1 )
Possibly... ... one needs to think about what the value of these bishop and or knight moves may be. tim_b is right. The value of the pawn move depends on situation; but so does the value of a N or B move to b5/g5/...b4/...g4.

When making the piece move, the mover ought already to have planned a response to an attack by a flank pawn: an exchange on the c-file (if it's a bishop); a sac on f7 (if you've just played Ng5); a retreat - and where to? Sometimes it's not a bad idea fort White, say, to develop a bishop at d2 via g5, losing a tempo, but inducing a small but exploitable weakness in Black's K-side. I've done that myself.

On the Black side of a Sicilian Defence, ...a6 is often useful even if it doesn't hit a bishop, partly as apreparation for a central thrust, but also because Q-side expansion is on Black's agenda anyway. So 1.e4 c5. 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxc4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6, the Najdorf Variation, is a very popular line. That little move hides a good deal of aggression. The Sicilian Kan System also involves an early ...a6.

Conversely, the Two Knights' Defence often features an early advance of a White Knight to g5:
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5!? ...
I think the debate whether this is sttronger than 4.0-0, 4.d4 or 4.d3 is still ongoing. Of course it's pointless hitting the knight now. Black will usually play 4...d5 5.exd5 and now 5...Nxd5 is very risky owing to the enormous attack White whips up: the Fegatello, a.k.a. the Fried Liver: 6.Nxf7 Kxf7 7.Qf3+ Ke6 (forced if Black wants to keep the material); 8.Nc3 Ncb4 (the irony of it!) 9.a3! (biffing the knight , hoping to dislodge it fronm its defence of d5. The fork on c2 looks tempting, at that!) 9...Nxc2+ 10.Kc1 Nxa1 11.Nxd5 etc. All this is theory, which continues for several moves more yet.

Black has better alternatives at move 5, 5,,,Na4, the "Main" line turning out rather well for Black, despite the pawn deficit.

But even at move 4, Black can seriously consider ignoring the attack on f7 by playing 4...Bc5!? Now, if 5.Nxf7 Black has the astonishing 5...Bxf2+!! 6.Kxf2!? (6.Kf1 may be better) ...Nxe4+ 7.Kg1 (I had someone play 7.Ke1?? against me once on GK 7...Qh4+ 8.g3 Nxg3 9.Rg1 Ne5+ 10.Rg3 Nxg3 0-1) 7...Qh4 with an attack probably strong enough at least to balance White's.

The alternate capture at f7, 5.Bxf7+, less ambitious is perhaps the harder for Black to meet: 5...Ke2 whereupon White usually retires the bishop to b3 or d5. In the following OTB game, the presence and absence of the flank pawn moves under discussion prove to have further impact:
White: N.N. Black: IAD
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Bc5
5.Bxf7+ Ke2 6.Bb3 Rf8 7.0-0 h6
The first of the flank pawn moves, played to drive back the knight, and relieve some of the pressure on the light squares - in other words, to prepare to advance the d-pawn.
8.Nf3 d6
w
9.d3?! ...
Now this is one point where White might have been better advised to prevent Black's next move by 9.h3!
9...Bg4!
Threatening, among other things, to bring a knight in to d4 thence to break up White's K-side pawns.
10.Be3 ... (10.c3 came into consideration)
10... Nd4 11.Bxd4 Bxd4 12.c3 Bb6 13.Nbd2 Qd7
14.Qc2 Rae8 15.h3? ...
b
A real bad-luck pawn. Correct at move 9, here it is merely weakening:
15...Bxh3!
Something you sometimes have to watch for if you want to biff bishops!
16.gxh3 Qxh3 17.Nh2 ...
Played to protect g4, but maybe a strike at the centre by 17.d4 offered more hope?
17...Ng4! 18.Nxg4 Qxg4+ 19.Kh1 Qh3+ 20.Kg1 Rf4
21.Qd1 Qg3+ 22.Kh1 Rh4#.

I guess in the end you have to think beyond the flank pawn move, and indeed beyond the piece moves against which the flank pawn move is directed, whether as an attack or a deterrent. If the move is part of a longer term plan, or if allowing a piece to land on the "Knight-5" square will really cause you trouble (as indeed it can, quite often) then probably it's OK, but if it's "off the cuff" or "can't think of anything better to do right now", then it's probably un-OK.

Cheers,
Ion
savage4731 185 ( +1 | -1 )
You're right. Strong players almost never play a3/h3 without a good reason. Here's why, in general, its usually bad:

1) It wastes a move that could be used to develop a piece.
2) You can always play it after the pin without a loss of time.
3) It weakens the kingside pawns.
4) Pins arent always bad. For example, the Bxf7+ then Ng5+ then Qxg4 sac. Or the Bg4, Be2, Nd4, Nxd4 trick. Also, using the g-file to attack after Bxf3, gxf3. Also, Legall's mate.
5) The h3 pawn can become a target esp for bishop sacs.
6) After h3, g3 can become weak. Esp. If black is pinning the f2 pawn with a bishop.
7) If your opponent captures the knight with the bishop that gives you the two bishops.
8) Its a bad habit to get into: i.e. making mechanical moves and not paying attention.
9) Its passive. Which not only hurts your chances in the game but passive play will slow down your development as a player.
10) You shouldnt automatically assume things like doubled pawns are bad.
11) You should be careful with pawn moves because you cant move them back.
12) You should be playing to control the center in the opening not making pointless flank pawn moves.
13) When I see those kinds of moves against me I know its usually an easy win.
14) A lot of times beginners will think they can easily win a pawn. For example: 1.e4, e5 2. Nf3, Nc6 3. Bb5, a6 4. Bxc6, dxc6 5. Nxe5. But they miss 5...Qd4!. Chess isnt that simple otherwise no one would play it. If you find yourself losing pawns like that its because you're making mistakes and/or not seeing the whole position not because you didnt prevent the pin in the first place.

Usually beginners make that kind of move because they're afraid of missing something. Its better not to play out of fear but to play your best and if you make a mistake to learn from it.

roblear 32 ( +1 | -1 )
am i right? cheers guys. i do appreciate you taking such time to reply on this.. such down to earth comment is hard to find in books sometimes, but i'm taking the time to practice on the board more often nowadays. i've found youtube is great too - loads of instructional stuff there
thanks again
rob
savage4731 26 ( +1 | -1 )
roblear I didnt mean to imply that you were a beginner. A 1500 rating is very respectable whether you think you deserve it or not. But it is a beginner's move. I was venting some pent-up frustration from what I frequently see on this site especially in blitz.
roblear 9 ( +1 | -1 )
to savage4731 hey mate there was no offense taken whatsoever. i consider all the responses as pure help..
rob