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Half-open File
Half-open Files in the Sicilian

Point Count Chess, NO. 155, p223
Aronin v. Boleslavsky, 1952

The Sicilian Defence typically leads to two Half-open Files:

In this example, Black is first to gain his Half-open file, with White's being created on his very next turn.

Beneath the ChessFlash viewer, you'll find my analysis of the position featured in Point Count Chess:
  1. PCC, p.223, No. 155, after 8.Qd2
  2. Result of the Half-open Files in the Sicilian.
  3. Summary of the Half-open Files in the Sicilian.
  4. PGN

Half-open Files in the Sicilian
My Analysis

Position #1, My Analysis
PCC, p.223, No. 155, after 8.Qd2

After: 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 O-O 8.Qd2

Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Page 223
After: 8.Qd2

1. Creation of the two Half-open Files

Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 3...cxd4
Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 3...cxd4
After 3...cxd4, Black gains his Half-open c-file, with the capture of White's d-Pawn, by his c-Pawn (3...c5xd4).
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 4.Nxd4
Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 4.Nxd4
After 4.Nxd4, White gains his Half-open d-file, completing the Pawn exchange, with his King Knight (4.Nf3xd4).

2. Who's Half-open file is preferable?

White went on to win this game, so it's reasonable to assume that, somewhere along the line, his Half-open d-file was somehow superior to Black's; that it somehow helped contribute to White's victory. So, where did this happen?

The first thing that needs attention is the Queenside Pawn structure, following the creation of the two respective Half-open files ...

Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 4.Nxd4
Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 4.Nxd4
After 4.Nxd4, White has a Qualitative Pawn Majority on the Queenside, from the very moment when the two Half-open Files are created (3...c5xd4 4.Nf3xd4).

While Black has an equal number of Queenside Pawns, there is a weakness in their structure -- they're not all "connected."

White has three Queenside Pawns all sitting together on adjacent files, meaning they can work more effectively against Blacks two-Pawn Minority, on the a & b files.
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 4.Nxd4
Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 4.Nxd4
In addition, Black gains a 2-v-1 Center Pawn advantage.

But White has also gained an advantage, with a Pawn on the 4th v Pawn on the 3rd.

This is a game where the 4th v 3rd advantage wins, as White demonstrates how to neutralize the 2-v-1's numerical advantage, blockading their path with his Nd4, plus a Pawn at e5, where they all remain at the end of the game.

But, before all that, White must successfully complete the Development, and subsequent Expansion of his army ...

Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 4...Nf6 to 8.Qd2
Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 4...Nf6 to 8.Qd2
After 4...Nf6 to 8.Qd2, there is a brief period of Development, during which White takes a small lead in the Tally of Developed Pieces ...

White Black has already Castled, which is one Developing move in itself, White has developed 4x Pieces from their game-starting positions, to take a 4:3* Piece-lead in Development.

* Castling is counted as just 1x Developing move.

Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 8...d5 to 10...f6
Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 8...d5 to 10...f6
After 8...d5 to 10...f6, there is a brief period of Expansion -- units already developed are moved again (expanded) to improved positions -- during which Black's King Knight is forced to return to its back rank.

Black is left with only one Piece off its back rank -- and that's his King Bishop (Bg7), which is a rather Bad Bishop (not good!).

To compound Black's problems, White has also managed to create an Advanced Chain (f4,e5). H&M-S say "If Black cannot smash up the pawn chain, his game is no good."

So far, White clearly has the Superior Development.

Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 11.O-O-O
Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 11.O-O-O
After 1.x, White has made an important decision to Castle Queenside. This developing maneuver achieves a number of positional benefits for White:

First, Queenside Castling, in this situation, relieves the need for his Kingside Pawns to remain at base camp (as they don't have to sit and defend a Kingside Castled King).
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 11.O-O-O
Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 11.O-O-O
Second, it Castles the King to a side where the Pawn Guards are all fully intact and haven't been moved ...

Without the dark-Bishop's involvement in defence (because it being deployed in an offensive capacity, bound for Black Kingside territory), the often played b2-b3 otherwise creates Holes at a3 & c3, plus an avenue into White's back rank, via the vacated b2-square.
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 11.O-O-O
Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 11.O-O-O
Third, and most significant to this example about the Half-open Files in the Sicilian (Defence), it immediately propels the Queen Rook onto White's Half-open d-file, where it forms a Battery with its Queen (Rd1, Qd2).
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 11...fxe5 12.fxe4
Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 11...fxe5 12.fxe4
After 11...fxe5 12.fxe4, Black demolishes White's Advanced Chain (11...f6xe5), but that very action shows the true benefit of an Advanced Chain, as it enables White to maintain an Advanced Pawn at e5.

Without the Chain formation, White would have lost the original e5-Pawn, in that Advanced position, and that would have been the end of White's positional advantage within enemy territory.

The Pawn exchange has also created an Open File (f-file), with Black's Rook already occupying it. This further highlights the benefit of White's earlier decision to Castle Queenside (11.O-O-O), taking his King as far away from this threat as possible. This minimizes the advantage Black has, by having the Rook on the Open f-file.

Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 17.h4
Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 17.h4
After 17.h4, White's h-Pawn halts the potential for Black's g- & h-Pawns to begin advancing towards White's territory.

Period of Simplification

Throughout the point from 17...Qf7-f4, to 26...Kg7xh8, comes a period of Simplification, as White engages in a series of trades to remove the Black Pieces that will otherwise prove a threat to his success.

Scraping away these Pieces will amplify the superiority of his game-winning Qualitative Pawn Majority (over on the Queenside).

So, in order of exchange:

Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 14.Bh6 and 16.Bxg7 Kxg7
Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 14.Bh6 » 16.Bxg7 Kxg7
After 14.Bh6 » 16.Bxg7 Kxg7, Dark-Bishops are traded ...

White first invited the trade (14.Be3-h6); then done the dirty deed himself, when Black failed to comply (16.Bh6xg7).

Black's King reluctantly completed the trade of his dark-square defender (16...Kg8xg7).
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 17...Qf4 18.Qxf4 Rxf4
Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 17...Qf4 18.Qxf4 Rxf4
After 17...Qf4 18.Qxf4 Rxf4, Queens are traded.

It would appear that Black, having put his Queen within the attack path of White's Queen (17...Qf7-f4), has chosen to seek an exchange of Queens.

The motive is most likely to be to prevent White from placing his Queen on g5, which would place Black's g-Pawn in an Absolute Pin, enabling White's h-Pawn to march all the way up to h6, which would increase Black's Cramp on his Kingside flank.

The exchange of Queens takes place immediately, with Black's King Rook completing the trade (18.Qd2xf4 Rf8xf4).

Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 19.h5 and 20.hxg6 hxg6
Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 19.h5 » 20.hxg6 hxg6
After 19.h5 » 20.hxg6 hxg6, h-Pawns are traded.

White marches his h-Pawn into a Pawn exchange, on g6 (19.h4-h5 » 20.h5xg6 h7xg6).

This is key to White's Queenside ambitions, as it will enable his g-Pawn to block any further advance of Black's own g-Pawn, enabling White to focus on mobilizing his Qualitative Pawn Majority, for an winning endgame.

The trade of Pawns has also Opened the h-file, which is significant as it will lead to the exchange of White's Rh1 and Black's Ra8.

Incidentally, see how much more potent White's Open h-file is, compared to Black's Open f-file, due to the proximity of the respective Kings. White's King is still relatively safe and secure; Black's King is now vulnerable on the h-file, and at f6 (due to the earlier installation of White's Advanced e5-Pawn).

Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 21...a6 22.Nbd4 Nxd4 23.Rxd4
Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 21...a6 22.Nbd4 Nxd4 23.Rxd4
After 21...a6 22.Nbd4 Nxd4 23.Rxd4 , one set of adverse Knights are exchanged.

At first glance, it appears that White was forced into the trade, by the advance of Black's a-Pawn (21...a7-a6).

However, White could have chosen either b5-a3 (saves Knight); or b5-d6 (onto the d6-Outpost, and a possible trade with Black's Ne8) ...

Instead, White places his Knight (22.Nb5-bd4) deliberately in a Fork against Black's Nc6 and e6-Pawn. Black wouldn't want to lose that Pawn and create for White a Passed Pawn (e5), so he enters into the Knight exchange (22...Nc6xd4).

White's Queen Rook completes the trade (23.Rd1xd4), which leads straight into another exchange of material ...

Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 23.Rxd4 Rxd4 24.Nxd4
Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 23.Rxd4 Rxd4 24.Nxd4
After 23.Rxd4 Rxd4 24.Nxd4, one set of Rooks are exchange.

The completion of the Knight exchange by White's Queen Rook (23.Rd1xd4) puts it on the same path as Black's King Rook, which goes for the Rook exchange (23...Rf4xd4).

White's remaining Knight completing the trade (24.Nf3xd4).
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 25...Rh8 26.Rxh8 Kxh8
Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 25...Rh8 26.Rxh8 Kxh8
After 25...Rh8 26.Rxh8 Kxh8, the last set of Rooks are exchanged.

It seems Black didn't like the presence of White's King Rook, so made the invitation with his Queen Rook (25...Ra8-h8), which White accepted (26.Ra1xh8).

Black's King completed the traded (26...Kg7xh8).

That takes care of the trades. White has now Simplified the position and the game has arguably transitioned into the Endgame phase (Pawns and a few Pieces on either side).

Locking down the Kingside

White has one last task to perform on the Kingside, before he can switch focus to the Queenside attack, with his Qualitative Pawn Majority ...

Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 27.g4 and 28.g5
Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 27.g4 » 28.g5
After 27.g4 » 28.g5, White marches his g-Pawn up to block any further advance by Black's own g-Pawn.

White's play on the Kingside is now at an end. From this point on, he can focus on his Queenside attack, to close out the game.

[Jump to ChessFlash Viewer]

The Result of the Half-open Files in the Sicilian...

Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 28.g5
(RESULT) Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 28.g5
After 28.g5, White has transitioned into a superior Endgame.

After all the preliminary work, first to Develop, then to Expand his army. And after the period of Simplification, White has two clear advantages:
  1. Qualitative Pawn Majority
    White can focus his attack on Black's two-Pawn Island, and gang-up on it with his three Queenside Pawns.
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 28.g5
(RESULT) Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 28.g5
And the second of White's two advantages:
  1. Better King Position
    It's already off its back rank (having mobilized after 25.Kc1-d2), and is closer to the Queenside action, than Black's King, which is a long way away, up in his Kingside quadrant.

In the final sequence of the game, White continued to bring his King out, closer to Black's a- & b-Pawns; eventually finding his way to a3, where it could support the advance of his Queenside Pawns.

Throughout all this, White's Nd4 and e5-Pawn performed crucial Blockades, to keep Black's Center Pawns at bay and White's Half-open d-file functionally useful.

Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 155 - Half-open File, Half-Open Files in the Sicilian, After 43.b4
(RESULT) Half-open File,
Half-Open Files in the Sicilian,
After 43.b4
After 43.b4, Black never once managed to take advantage of his Half-open c-file. Compare that with White, who got full use out of his Half-open d-file.

After the Simplification, White brought the remainder of his Endgame Pieces (King & light-Bishop, specifically) to positions where they could coordinate support for the assault with his superior Queenside Pawn structure.

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Summary of the the Half-open Files in the Sicilian...

  1. First, the opposing Half-open Files were created -- Black's c-file (3...c5xd4), followed immediately by White's d-file (4.Nf3xd4).

  2. White gained his Qualitative Pawn Majority, on the Queenside, during the creation of Black's Half-open c-file (3...c5xd4). This turned out to be a decisive advantage in the Endgame phase, as its supported advance, towards Black's weaker Pawn structure, caused Black to resign.

  3. White continued the completion of the Development phase, mixed with Expansion of his army. This included the creation of an Advanced Chain (f4,e5). Black was forced to capture the lead Pawn (11...f6xe5), else his game would be ruined. But that enabled White to replace his e-Pawn with the f-Pawn (12.f4xe5), as the Advanced Pawn at e5. And this was a key part of White's plan to Blockade Black's Center Pawns, so they couldn't ruin White's Endgame attack, on the Queenside.

  4. There followed a period of Simplification, as White traded Black Pieces off the board, that would otherwise threaten his Endgame attack, with his Qualitative Pawn Majority. The game transitioned into the Endgame phase, at the end of this period (26...Kg7xh8).

  5. Toward the end of the period of Simplification, White began to mobilize his King (25.Kc1-d2), so it could play an active role in the advance of his Queenside Pawns.

  6. White Blockaded the remaining Kingside Pawn (27.g2-g4 » 28.g4-g5), and then turned his attention to his Queenside attack, which ended with Black's resignation.

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PGN

[Event "Moscow, URS Ch"]
[Site "Moscow, URS Ch"]
[Date "1952"]
[EventDate "?"]
[Round "?"]
[Result "1-0"]
[White "Lev Aronin"]
[Black "Isaac Boleslavsky"]
[ECO "B76"]
[WhiteElo "?"]
[BlackElo "?"]
[PlyCount "85"]

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 {PCC p.223 No.155} d5 9. e5 Ne8 10. f4 f6 11. O-O-O fxe5 12. fxe5 Nc6 13. Nf3 e6 14. Bh6 Qc7 15. Nb5 Qf7 16. Bxg7 Kxg7 17. h4 Qf4 18. Qxf4 Rxf4 19. h5 Bd7 20. hxg6 hxg6 21. Be2 a6 22. Nbd4 Nxd4 23. Rxd4 Rxd4 24. Nxd4 Nc7 25. Kd2 Rh8 26. Rxh8 Kxh8 27. g4 Kg7 28. g5 Kf7 29. Kc3 b6 30. Bd3 Be8 31. Kb4 Bd7 32. Kc3 Be8 33. a3 Bd7 34. Kb4 Be8 35. Bf1 Ke7 36. Be2 Kf7 37. Bf1 Ke7 38. Be2 Kf7 39. Bd3 Ke7 40. a4 a5+ 41. Ka3 Bf7 42. c3 Be8 43. b4 1-0

End.

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