Pawn Structure Guide: Part of the Beginner's Chess Guide (Section 2)

Beginner's Guide to
Pawn Structure


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Because of its restricted movement, a Pawn is inferior to all the other pieces on the Board ...

Pawn Structure - GraphicNo major or minor piece would freely allow itself to be captured by a Pawn - they're far too important and are needed to successfully attack key enemy positions.

BUT, it's precisely this "inferiority complex", of the heavy-duty pieces, that gives Pawns a surprisingly deceptive strength ...

Because the Knights, Bishops, Rooks and Queen(s) would rather move away to a safer square, than be captured by a lowly Pawn, the Pawn's influence on the game can be significant.

Pawns work on that age old maxim:
"United we stand, divided we fall".

Success with Pawns lies in good development in terms of Formations and Structures ...

Pawn Structure Guide Index

  • PAWN STRUCTURE: General Formations
    These General Formations are neither good or bad - they're just common situations that can arise in any game ...

    Sometimes you'll control their creation; other times it'll be your opponent that manages to dictate Pawn Structure development and your job will be to recognize the situations, so you can prepare your army to deal with the unique circumstances, as they unfold.

    1. Open Positions (page 1)
      Looking at the Center of the board ... if the Pawns are spread, enabling the Bishops to pass through, without having to deviate along the Flanks, then it's likely to be an Open Position.

    2. Closed Positions (page 2)
      Looking at the Center of the board ... if the adverse Pawns are 'locked', preventing the Bishops from passing through, forcing them to deviate along the Flanks, then it's likely to be an Close Position.

    3. Full Pawn Center (page 3)
      When a player gets both central Pawns into the Small Center, it creates what is known as a Full Pawn Center.

    4. Pawn Chains (page 4)
      When Pawns advance into a formation that has a few of them in a line, along a diagonal path, this group is known, collectively, as a Pawn Chain.

    5. Phalanx Formation (page 5)
      A Phalanx formation is when two or more friendly Pawns sit alongside each other, on adjacent Files, on the same Rank.


  • PAWN STRUCTURE: Good Pawns
    While the General Formations were neither good or bad situations, there are situations that can be defined in positive or negative terms.

    First, the Good situations ...

    1. Passed Pawns (page 1)
      A Passed Pawn is GOOD because no enemy Pawn is able to prevent it from advancing towards Promotion.

    2. Cramping Pawns (page 2)
      Cramp occurs when any piece finds itself restricted in terms of movement. If your Pawns are restricting the movement of enemy pieces, then they're known as Cramping Pawns (they're GOOD for YOU, not for the enemy!).


  • PAWN STRUCTURE: Weak Pawns
    Now to the Weak Pawn Structure situations ... Unsurprisingly, because of their inferior talents, Pawns have a few more Weaknesses than they have good attributes.

    1. Backward Pawns (page 1)
      A Pawn is said to be Backward if it cannot be advanced without loss, and it is subject to attack on the file.

    2. Pawn Islands (page 2)
      If you think of actual islands, being a body of land surrounded by water; then, imagine a cluster of friendly pawns as an 'island', then the next square without a friendly Pawn being the like the water. Then you come to another Pawn or cluster of Pawns.

    3. Isolated Pawns (page 3)
      Also known as an "Isolani", this is any Pawn whose friendly Pawns have left the adjacent file(s), leaving a Pawn on its own, without friendly Pawn support.

    4. Doubled Pawns (page 4)
      Two friendly Pawns that end up on the same file, due to one having captured enemy material, results in Doubled Pawns.

    5. Tripled Pawns (page 5)
      Not as common as Doubled Pawns, but much more serious for the owner (very weak!). Tripled Pawns is the result of Three friendly Pawns that end up on the same file, due to one having captured enemy material.



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