Weak Pawns As Targets
Seirawan Strategy Example #1

Winning Chess Strategies, Diagram 84, p138

If the Weak Pawns hadn't been been revealed (by Yasser Seirawan), we'd have to scan the board to check for them ourselves.

Take a look at the position in the ChessFlash viewer, below, (before the first move in the sequence: 1.Rxb6). Beneath that, you'll find the questions I started asking myself in order to cobble-together a strategy for identifying and attacking Weak Pawns ...

Questions to ask yourself to help
Identify and Attack Weak Pawns

So, the first question to ask yourself (Q1): "Are there any Weak Pawns in the current position?"

Next, recall Yasser Seirawan's quote, where he said "In chess, a pawn or square is only weak if it can be attacked".

That reveals the second question for you (Q2): "(Assuming Q1 reveals there are Weak Pawn structures) Are they being guarded or protected?"

A quick note about the Pawn Islands, in reference to Q2...
In this situation, the Pawn Islands are also the three solitary Isolated Pawns. It would have been double the workload to mention the Pawns in the Pawn Islands, and then mention them again when listing the Isolated Pawns. So, to save time, I just focused on the individual weakness (Isolated Pawns), instead of the group weakness (Pawn Islands).

So far, those two questions have revealed that Black has two Weak Pawns that are undefended.

Looking at the position in the ChessFlash viewer, we can see that it's White's turn to move, which in itself suggests a third question, (Q3): "Who's turn is it to move?"

• Q3. Turn to Move:
» White

This is important because, if it's not your turn, you won't be able to attack the enemy's Weak Pawn(s), no matter how exposed and undefended they are. And, if it's your opponent's turn and YOU have exposed and undefended Weak Pawns, you could be in for one hell of a beating!

Now that we know it's White's turn to move, we can focus on Black's Weak Pawns and determine which one to try and attack first; it may be obvious, or White may need to play his troops into positions that will enable an attack.

So, the fourth question, (Q4): "Compare Weak Pawns. Does one appear weaker than the other(s)?"

• Q4. Black's Isolated b6-Pawn:
» (+) Undefended;
» (+) Can be attacked immediately (1.Rxb6);

• Q4. Black's Isolated h7-Pawn:
» (+) Undefended;
» (+) Can be attacked immediately (1.Qxh7);

Okay, on first glance, it would appear that both of Black's selected Weak Pawns are fairly evenly matched in terms of being the first candidate to attack: they are both undefended and can both be attacked in one move.

Regardless of the opportunities on offer, perhaps one of the final questions should be introspective ...

Before launching your attack, look at your own army and ask, (Q5): "Which attack will leave my army less vulnerable?"

• Q5. After attacking Black's Isolated b6-Pawn, (1.Rxb6):
» (+) White's Rook is supported by Qb1;
» (+) White's Rook-Queen Battery will exist after 1.Rxb6.

• Q5. After attacking Black's Isolated h7-Pawn, (1.Qxh7):
» (-) White's Rb5 will be left unguarded.
» (-) White's Ra2 would be lost to Black's Qc4 (1...Qxa2).
» (-) White's King would be immediately in Check after 1...Qxa2+.
» (-) Black's Rooks on the b-File are waiting to infiltrate!

That analysis just leaves you to decide the course of action, (Q6): "Which Weak Pawn is your First Target?"

• Q6. The Weak Pawn to attack first:
» Black's b6-Pawn with the Rook on the b-File (1.Rxb6)

Note: This may seem long-winded, but it's not, as you're seeing each potential Weak Pawn and assessing the strengths and weaknesses in quick succession ... and unlike this example, you're not rabbiting on for the sake of a detailed explanation.

Click here to view the Strategy -- the refined set of Six Questions, that are much easier on the eye!

PGN

[Event "?"]
[Site "Budapest"]
[Date "1955.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Petrosian"]
[Black "Barcza"]
[Result "*"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "2r1k3/2r1bp1p/1p3p2/1R1p3N/2qP1P2/4P3/R4KPP/1Q6 w - - 0 0"]
[PlyCount "31"]

1.Rxb6 Rc6 2.Rxc6 Rxc6 3.Ra8+ Kd7 4.Ra7+ Rc7 5.Rxc7+ Kxc7 6.Qxh7 Qa2+ 7.Kf3 Qd2 8.Qb1 f5 9.Ng3 Bh4 10.Ne2 Be7 11.h3 Bb4 12.Ng3 Kc6 13.Nxf5 Kb5 14.Nd6+ Ka4 15.Nxf7 Ba3 16.Ne5 *

End.