In positions with asymmetrical pawn chains, the quantitative advantage in the pawn structure (Pawn Majority) often determines the side the player needs to develop his initiative. Attacking with the pawn majority is one of the most important and natural strategic plans. However, sometimes it is also possible to attack with the pawn minority and put pressure on the flank where the opponent has an advantage in quantity of the pawns. This is called “Minority Attack.”
Using the Pawn Minority
The Minority Attack may have few goals:
- Destroying the opponent’s pawn chain by creating an isolated or backward pawn, and then pressuring it with the pieces.
- Trying to open the files.
- Trying to open the enemy king’s position and finish him later with a piece attack.
Note: In order to justify the Minority Attack, you need a very good coordination and a concentration of pieces on the flank where you advance your pawn minority. This will compensate for the opponent’s quantitative advantage in the pawn structure. Otherwise, an incorrectly started Minority Attack may damage your own position and create undesirable weaknesses for you.
Correct Minority Attack
In the first example, we see the famous asymmetrical pawn chain called the Carlsbad Structure. White played 1. Rab1!, preparing a Minority Attack with b2-b4-b5. If Black tries to stop the b2 pawn with a7-a5, then White plays a2-a3 and advances the b-pawn anyway.
The idea of this Minority Attack is to exchange on c6 and create a backward pawn on that square. After this, White is going to put pressure on the c and b files. The c6 pawn is going to be a permanent problem for Black. If Black exchanges pawns himself after b2-b4-b5, then he gets weak d5 and b7 pawns.
Later, he may advance b7-b6, trying to solve at least b7 pawn’s weakness, but then White will start another Minority Attack with a2-a4-a5!.
Incorrect Minority Attack
In the second example, Black is lost objectively. However, some technique is required from White to finish the game. A few moves ago, Black started to push his Queen’s side pawns, and now the final mistake has been made: 1… b6-b5?. In contrast to the previous example, there was no background for a Minority Attack, as Black’s pieces were passive and there were no real recourses to get counterplay. After 2.axb5 Rc5-b5 3.Kb2, White just exchanged one pair of rooks and went with the king to win a weak a5 pawn.
The game was finished very quickly. As we see, Black helped the opponent a lot, as he damaged his own position by creating an unprotectable weakness on a5.
In asymmetric pawn structures, there will always be possibilities to choose between Majority or Minority Attacks. You have to evaluate all the factors of the position before you take the final decision, as it may both give benefits or damage your own position.