The Isolated Pawn:
Part of the Advanced Beginner's Chess Guide (Section 1) and the
Chess Strategies Guide (Section 2: Studying the Pawns)

The Isolated Pawn
Point Count Chess: [-]


Point Count Chess, Examples
The Isolated Pawn

Important: The majority of the following examples focus just on the Isolated d-Pawn, whether it belongs to White or Black.

H&M-S's reason for doing so is because the d-Pawn is the one that "most frequently becomes isolated in the opening."

When it comes to handling or dealing with other Isolated Pawns, (e.g. on the e-file, or on one of the Flank files, H&M-S say to weigh up the same factors in the same way as dealing with an Isolated d-Pawn, but that it's usually easier to judge how to deal with these other Isolated Pawns, than it is for the Isolated d-Pawn.
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 71A to 71D - Page 101-106 PCC, The Isolated Pawn. Example #1
The Isolated Queen Pawn

(p101-106) Diagram NO.71A to No.71D
Rubinstein v. Marshall, 1912
The Isolated Queen Pawn

In this example, both sides incur Isolated Pawns: Black's e-Pawn becomes Isolated on the d-file; White's b-Pawn becomes Isolated on the c-file.

Includes a Comparison of the two Isolated Pawns, revealing why, of the two, Black's Isolated d5-Pawn is considered the stronger. Despite this, White is able to make use of his weaker Isolated c-Pawn, to lure Black's d-Pawn to its doom, en route to winning the game.
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 72A - 72B - Page 106-107 PCC, The Isolated Pawn. Example #2
Blockade, Attack, Destroy! (1 of 2)

(p106-107) Diagram NO.72A to NO.72B
Kan v. Bondarevsky, 1937
Blockade, Attack, Destroy! (1 of 2)

In this example, Black's e-Pawn becomes Isolated on the d-file.

White then proceeds to follow Nimzovich's three step formula, for dealing with your opponent's Isolated Pawn:
  1. "Blockade" the Isolated Pawn;

  2. "Attack" the
    Isolated Pawn;

  3. "Destroy!" the Isolated Pawn.
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 73 - Page 108 PCC, The Isolated Pawn. Example #2
Blockade, Attack, Destroy! (2 of 2)

(p108) Diagram NO.73
Denker v. Pinkus, 1940
Blockade, Attack, Destroy! (2 of 2)

In this example, Black's e6-Pawn becomes Isolated on the d-file, in a similar way No.72.

The usual strategy for success is to combine the Attack on the Isolated Pawn, with "collateral threats" (secondary threats) that work to tie-up the enemy Pieces that try to defend the Isolani.

In this case, White's Mating Threat is the collateral threat, which forces Black to leave his Isolated Pawn unguarded, enabling White to Attack it, before Destroying the Isolani.
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 74 - Page 109 PCC, The Isolated Pawn. Example #3
The Mobile Isolani (1 of 2)

(p109) Diagram NO.74
Rubinstein v. Tartakower, 1925
The Mobile Isolani
(1 of 2)


In this example, White's e-Pawn becomes Isolated on the d-file.

However, White shows how the weakness of an Isolated Pawn can be turned into a disposable strength or asset, if it can be kept Mobile.

The idea is that the player with the Isolani gets to choose when to push and use his Isolated Pawn, to his own advantage.

It shows what can happen if the opposition cannot Blockade, Attack, and then Destroy the Isolated Pawn.
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 75 - Page 109-110 PCC, The Isolated Pawn. Example #3
The Mobile Isolani (2 of 2)

(p109-110) Diagram NO.75
Denker v. Siff, 1933
The Mobile Isolani
(2 of 2)


In this example, White's e-Pawn becomes the Isolated Pawn, on the d-file.

Once again, as in No.74, White employs a collateral threat (focusing on Black's Pinned f7-Pawn), which buys time for White to be able to mobilize his Isolated Pawn, at a time when it's to White's advantage (in this case, it's following the capture of Black's Pinned f7-Pawn, and the subsequent Simplification, which enhances White's Mobile Isolani).
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 76 - Page 111 PCC, The Isolated Pawn. Example #4
The Role of the Initiative (1 of 2)

(p111) Diagram NO.76
Capablanca v. Fine, 1937
The Role of the Initiative
(1 of 2)


In this example, we see how White uses the Initiative, owing to his Superior Development, to ensure he has the superior game, in spite of incurring the Isolated Pawn (d4).

H&M-S determine a player to have the Initiative if they have "the superior development that lets him pick his own battleground and initiate tactical threats."

The Initiative has an impact on the player who is in possession of an Isolated Pawn: If the player has the Initiative, his Isolani "is likely to be strong." If the player doesn't have the Initiative, his Isolani is likely to be weak.
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 77 - Page 111 PCC, The Isolated Pawn. Example #4
The Role of the Initiative (2 of 2)

(p111) Diagram NO.77
Eliskases v. Landau, 1938
The Role of the Initiative
(2 of 2)


In this example, White's e-Pawn becomes the Isolated Pawn, on the d-file.

Following on from No.76, it's another example of how White's Superior Development enables him to pick his own battleground and initiate his tactical threats, despite incurring the Isolated Pawn, on the d-file.

White then maintains the Initiative, by attacking Black with a string of tactical threats, en route to victory.
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 78 - Page 112 PCC, The Isolated Pawn. Example #5
Inviting the Isolani (1 of 2)

(p112) Diagram NO.78
Example Sequence
Inviting the Isolani
(1 of 2)


In this example, White's d4-Pawn becomes the Isolated Pawn.

White invites the Isolani in order to gain Control of the Center. White can then proceed to build his plan around his Mobile Isolani (see No.74, for an example of this).
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 79 - Page 113 PCC, The Isolated Pawn. Example #5
Inviting the Isolani (2 of 2)

(p113) Diagram NO.79
Faehndrich Kaufmann v. Capablanca Reti, 1914
Inviting the Isolani
(2 of 2)


This very short example sees Black invite the Isolani, with the intention of gaining Control of the Center, in a reversal of roles from No.78, where White invited the Isolani.

Once more, the Isolated Pawn can be turned into an asset, if it can be kept Mobile (see the Mobile Isolani, No.74 & No.75).
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 189 - Page 269 PCC, The Isolated Pawn. Example #6
Acceptable Isolani (1 of 2)

(p269) Diagram NO.189
Burn v. Tarrasch, 1911
Acceptable Isolani
(1 of 2)


In this example, Black's e-Pawn becomes the Acceptable Isolani, on the d-file. Its position gives Black's Pieces cover to move about with greater freedom and security (especially in the case of Black's light-Bishop). Black also uses his Isolated d-Pawn to Cramp White's development.

At no point does White manage to take-out Black's Isolated d-Pawn, which remains steadfast in White's territory, at the point when White resigns, and reinforcing its status as an Acceptable Isolani.
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 190A - 190B - Page 269-270 PCC, The Isolated Pawn. Example #6
Acceptable Isolani (2 of 2)

(p269-270) Diagram NO.190A to NO.190B
O. Bernstein v. Tarrasch, 1914
Acceptable Isolani
(2 of 2)


The majority of the Isolated Pawn examples have focused on either player incurring an Isolated Pawn on the d-file. Here, Black's f-Pawn becomes Isolated, on the e-file.

Two main factors that will make Black's f-Pawn an Acceptable Isolani, on the e-file:

First, it will be fairly safe from immediate attack.

Second, it leads to Black gaining the advantage of a Qualitative Pawn Majority, against White's severely weakened Queenside Pawn structure (the key benefit to Black, which outweighs incurring the Isolated Pawn).
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 191 - Page 271 PCC, The Isolated Pawn. Example #7
Acceptable Doubled Isolani (1 of 2)

(p271) Diagram NO.191
Teichmann v. Tarrasch, 1894
Acceptable Doubled Isolani (1 of 2)

In this example, Black incurs Doubled and Isolated Pawns, in the same structure (the Doubled Isolani), on the c-file.

A series of cumulative advantages (Bishop-pair; two Half-Open Files; and a lead in development) were deemed "ample compensation" that made Black's Doubled Isolani an Acceptable weakness.
Point Count Chess - IE - Diagram 192 - Page 271-272 PCC, The Isolated Pawn. Example #7
Acceptable Doubled Isolani (2 of 2)

(p271-272) Diagram NO.192
Ivkov v. Taimanov, 1955
Acceptable Doubled Isolani (2 of 2)

In this example, White incurs Doubled Isolated Pawns, on the e-file.

Similar to the example in No.191, a lead in development, and having the benefit of two Half-Open Files (d & f), proves to be sufficient compensation that makes White's Doubled Isolani an Acceptable weakness.

Further Reading

Point Count Chess (Horowitz & Mott-Smith, 1960)
  • The Isolated Pawn, (p103)
  • Acceptable Isolani, (p269)
  • Acceptable Isolani, (p270)
  • The Isolated Pawn SUMMARY, (p113)


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Return to the Chess Strategies Guide,
Studying the Pawns (Weak Pawns)
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