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Positional Concept: Overprotection

The term "overprotection" is best defined in "Complete Book of Chess Strategies" by IM J. Silman:

"Overprotection refers to a strategically important pawn or square that is given more protection than it seemingly needs. Essentially a prophylactic maneuver, the side that overprotects does so in order to dissuade the opponent from launching an attack against that point."

"White has overprotected the e5 pawn in earnest. Why? You must understand that this pawn is very important; it virtually cuts the board in half and makes it difficult for blacks forces to come to the aid of their king. White doesnt want black to challenge this important pawn by f7-f6. By overprotecting e5, white dares black to play ...f7-f6. The reply exf6 woukld suddenly unleash the power of all the white pieces down the newly opened e-file and the newly opened f4-b8 diaganol."

Nimzovich was a strong believer in the overprotection of strong points, especially central strong holds. An illustrative game shows how white develops with the over-protection of his center the main focus of his play.

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. c3 Qb6 6. Be2 cxd4 7. cxd4 Nh6 8. Nc3 Nf5 9. Na4 Qa5+ 10. Bd2 Bb4 11. Bc3 Bd7 12. a3 Bxc3+ 13. Nxc3 h5 14. O-O Rc8 15. Qd2 Qd8 16. h3 (in order to meet 16...g5 with the riposte 17. g4 e.g. 17...hxg4 18. hxg4 Nh4 19. Nxh4 Rxh4 20. Kg2 followed by 21. Rh1 with advantage to white) 16...Na5 17. Rad1 Qb6 18. Rfe1 d4 and to a certain degree e5 are now systematically over protected, and this strategy makes it possible later for white to be the master of the situation whatever complications may arise (Nimzovitch) 18...Nc4 19. Bxc4 Rxc4 20. Ne2 Ba4 21. Rc1 notice how an avaiable over-protector is avaiable for service on all directions 21...Bb3 22. Rxc4 Bxc4 23. Ng3 white has the better position and eventually grinds down his opponent 23...Ne7 24. h4 Ng6 25. Nf1 Bxf1 26. Rxf1 Ne7 27. Rc1 O-O 28. b4 Nf5 29. Rc5 Qa6 30. Qc3 Qe2 31. Qc2 Nxd4 32. Qxe2 Nxe2+ 33. Kf1 Nf4 34. Rc7 b5 35. g3 Nd3 36. Ke2 Nb2 37. Rxa7 Rc8 38. Nd4 Rc4 39. Nxb5 d4 40. Rc7 d3+ 41. Ke3 Rg4 42. Rc1 g5 43. Nd6 gxh4 44. gxh4 Rxh4 45. Rb1 Rh3+ 46. Kd2 Na4 47. b5 Nb6 48. Rb4 Rf3 49. Nc4 Nd7 50. b6 Nc5 51. b7 Rxf2+ 52. Ke3 Re2+ 53. Kd4 Nxb7 54. Kxd3 Rg2 55. Rxb7 h4 56. Ne3 Rg5 57. Kd4 h3 58. Rb2 Rh5 59. Rh2 f6 60. Nc4 Kf7 1-0 Nimzovitch-Spielmann, Stockholm 1920

The next game illustrates the overprotection of a strong central point that is used as a base for an attack.

1. e4 c5 2. c3 e6 3. d4 d5 4. e5 Nc6 5. Nf3 Qb6 6. Bd3 cxd4 7. cxd4 Bd7 8. Be2 Nge7 9. b3 Nf5 10. Bb2 Bb4+ 11. Kf1 Be7 12. g3 a5 13. a4 Rc8 14. Bb5 Nb4 15. Nc3 Na6 16. Kg2 Nc7 17. Be2 Bb4 18. Na2 Na6 19. Bd3 Ne7 20. Rc1 Nc6 21. Nxb4 Naxb4 22. Bb1 White has overcome the difficulties of development and the base d4 is thoroughly protected. Blacks kingside is cramped by the pawn on e5 and white is now ready to launch an attack 22...h6 23. g4 Ne7 24. Rxc8+ Bxc8 25. Ne1 Rf8 26. Nd3 f6 27. Nxb4 Qxb4 28. exf6 Rxf6 29. Bc1 Nc6 30. g5 hxg5 31. Bxg5 Rf8 32. Be3 Qe7 33. Qg4 Qf6 34. Rg1 Rh8 35. Kh1 Rh4 36. Qg3 Rxd4 Despair. Both 37. Qxg7 and 37. Bg5 were threatned. 37. Bxd4 Nxd4 38. Qxg7 Qf3+ 39. Qg2 Qxg2+ 40. Rxg2 Nxb3 41. h4 1-0 Nimzovich-Tarrasch, San Sebastian 1912

Here is another good example from "My System:"

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 Bc5 4.Bg2 d6 5.e3 Nge7 6.a3 a5 7.Nge2 O-O 8.d4 Bb6 9.O-O Bd7 10.b3 Qc8 11.Bb2 Bh3 12.Qd3 Bxg2 13.Kxg2 exd4 14.exd4 Qf5 15.Rad1 Rae8

In the following diagram what point of white needs overprotecting?

16.Rd2! (answer: d4)

16...Qg5 17.Rfd1 Ba7! 18.Nf4 Nf5 19.Nb5 Bb8 And now white should have replied Re2 and Rde1 when the overprotectors would have reaped their due reward.

Another fine example is the following position:

Black to move. What point is worthy of overprotection?

1...Qb8! (overprotection of e5) if 2. Ne3 a5 and black has the better game.

Here is one last example of overprotection from one of Nimzovich's games which demonstrates the large radius of activity that is eventually obtained by the pieces engaged in that service.

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Bd3 Bxd3 5. Qxd3 e6 6. Ne2 Qb6 7. O-O Qa6 8. Qd1 Nd7 9. Nd2 preparing to overprotect the e5 pawn 9...Ne7 10. Nf3! Ng6 11. Re1! Bb4 12. c3 Ba5 13. Bf4! the third over-protector of e5 13...O-O 14. Bg3 Bc7 15. Ng5 and now the seemingly lifeless overprotectors make themselves felt 15...Rfe8 16. Nf4 Nh8 17. Qg4 Nf8 18. Re3 b6 19. Nh5 Nhg6 20. Rf3 Re7 21. Nf6+ Kh8 22. Qh5?! (white could win immediately with 22. Nfxh7 Nxh7 23. Nxf7+ Rxf7 24. Rxf7) 22...h6 23. Kh1 Bd8 24. b4 Qe2 25. Rg1 a5 26. Ng4 Kg8 27. Nxf7 Qd2 28. Nxd8 Rxd8 29. bxa5 bxa5 30. Bh4 Nxh4 31. Qxh4 Ng6 32. Qh5 Kh7 33. a4 Rb8 34. h3 Rb3 35. Rg3 Nf4 36. Qxh6+ gxh6 37. Nf6+ Kh8 38. Rg8# 1-0 Nimzovich-Giese, Riga 1914