The Most Common Pawn Structure: Plans

As previously mentioned, the most common pawn structure in chess is the “Isolated Queen Pawn,” which can be reached from many different types of openings. In this article, we are going to see what the different plans are for both the player with the isolated queen pawn and the player fighting against the isolated queen pawn

Isolated Queen Pawn push


Because of the space and piece movement advantages that this pawn structure give the player with it, and the fact that the pawn is a long-term weakness, then the plan for this type of position is to play actively. This can either involve attacking on the kingside using your extra space control or initiating play in the center with your half-open e-file.

Another plan that is possible, is to try to push the isolated pawn forward and trade it off so that you no longer have it as a weakness. This can be a good idea when you see that it is becoming more of a liability than a strength.

For example, in the position to the right White could play the move 1.d5! forcing Black to trade his e-pawn for White’s isolated d-pawn with the moves …exd5 2.Nxd5 Nxd5 3. Bxd5 Now, instead of an isolated pawn with a long-term disadvantage, White has a strong bishop on d5 and great control of the central files. When you have the isolated pawn, you should also try to avoid trading pieces if possible, as this will get the game closer to an endgame where the isolated pawn is much weaker.

I learned a lot about positional chess by watching the “Fundamentals of Isolated Queen Pawn Positions” – IM Bill Paschall and would definitely recommend it if you want to learn more about the topic!

Isolated Queen Pawn blockade


Even though the side fighting against the isolated queen pawn does not usually have as much space control, this player has a clear target to attack. The isolated pawn is a weak, but powerful pawn. You should try to attack it so that its owner has to waste pieces defending it.

Before you even try to attack it though, you should make sure you prevent its advance by putting a piece in front of the pawn. The best piece to use to block a pawn like this is a knight. That is because the knight can reach around the pawn and be an attacking piece while also being defensive. Once the pawn is firmly blockaded, then you can begin to attack it from the sides using your pieces. You should also try to trade off as many pieces as possible so that the pawn can have fewer defenders. The fewer pieces on the board, the harder it is to defend the pawn.

In the position to the right Black has solidly blockaded the isolated queen pawn with his knight. He can now look to trade off pieces with the move 1…Nh5! 2. Bxe7 Qxe7 with 3…Nhf4 to come soon, attacking the Queen and bishop.

Now that we know the best plans for each side, we can begin to look at more specific things. In my next article, we will examine the best piece placements for both the side with the isolated queen pawn and the side fighting against it.

“Fundamentals of Isolated Queen Pawn Positions” – IM Bill Paschall
“Positional Chess Guide” – GM Damian Lemos

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