Tonight I worked through the first section of Kotov’s article about central pawn formations from the book The Art of the Middle Game. Kotov discusses the different types of pawn centers and the typical plans and responses for those pawn centers.
A closed center is where the opposing pawns are interlocked. Kotov says that play therefore must be sought on the wings.
In positions with a closed center it is usually a question of an advantage on the wings. It is there that an attacker tends to be superior in matters of space, powers of mobility, and numbers of pawns. To utilize this advantage, the attacker must advance these pawns until the lines are opened up and breaches have been made by an assault with the major pieces.
The opponent can in this case organize his defense passively by lying in wait for the adversary’s pawns and preventing his pieces from ensconcing themselves in their positions, even if the lines are opened up. But there also exists another type of game. That consists in quickly organizing a powerful counter-attack on the opposite wing. This counter-thrust completely diverts the opponent’s forces and compels him to suspend his offensive on the other side of the board for a time, short or long.
Sometimes it is necessary to set in motion a counter-attack in the center. With a closed center this happens most often by a piece sacrifice, with the aim of breaking down the pawn position; or else it may be done by blasting it with the aid of one or more pawns. An attacker must be careful to maintain a watch on such counter-thrusts since a counter-attack in the center is the most effective answer to all the blows of a flank attack.
He uses the game Kotov – Spassky, from the USSR Ch 1958 as an example of a counter-thrust in the center. He also uses Janowski – Nimzovich, St. Petersburg 1914 as an example, and Alekhine – Capablanca, AVRO 1938. He summarizes the section with the following:
In positions where the center is closed play must proceed slowly and is always situated on the flanks. The player who is attacked organizes a counter-attack on the other wing and at the same time he constructs special obstructions to impede the oncoming infantry. As quickly as the opportunity allows a counter-attack in the center must be carried out, almost always in conjunction with a sacrifice, so as to get at the enemy King which eventually will be left in the lurch by its own pieces under the pressure of the attack.