Creating a passed pawn in chess endgames is one of the best ways to win the game. You don’t need to wait to the endgame before using the passed pawn to win your games.
You can use many of the qualities that make a passed pawn so powerful in the endgame in chess middlegames. They can form the backbone of your winning chess strategy.
Knowing how to use the passed pawn can help you decide what openings to play. When you know how to make the most of your passed pawn, you can look for openings where there is the potential to create a passed pawn in the middlegame.
GM Arkadij Naiditsch shows you how powerful passed pawns can become in chess middlegames. In this video, he uses a game between Fabiano Caruana and Magnus Carlsen, where Magnus played an exchange sacrifice and later won by creating two passed pawns.
The Strengths of the Passed Pawn in Chess
Before learning the strengths of the passed pawn in chess, it helps to have a clear definition of a passed pawn. A passed pawn is a pawn that isn’t opposed by one of your opponent’s pawns in the same file.
You create a passed either by winning your opponent’s pawn or through exchanges that draw the pawn to a different file.
In this position, white creates a passed pawn by capturing twice on b6. After the exchanges, the black a-pawn and the white b-pawn become passed pawns.
The more advanced a passed is, the more dangerous it becomes!
Passed pawns are extremely helpful in chess middlegames because:
- they tie down the blockading piece.
- The player with a passed pawn can create space behind it to regroup and mobilize his pieces.
- The passed pawn becomes especially dangerous when they reach the sixth rank because they attack squares on the seventh.
Do not try to hang onto the pawn at all costs, but be ready to sacrifice it for other positional advantages.
The Potential Passed Pawn in Chess Openings
One of the best chess openings for white using a passed pawn in chess middlegames is the Queen’s Gambit Declined Semi-Tarrasch Exchange Variation.
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 c5 5.cxd5Nxd5 6.e4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 cxd4 8.cxd4 Bb4+ 9.Bd2 Bxd2 10.Qxd2
After the first ten moves, the black b-pawn is a passed pawn, and the white d-pawn is a passed pawn. The white passed pawn is more active, and it influences the center.
If you are playing white in this position, a strong middlegame strategy to make the most of your passed pawn is to play Bc4 to support the d5 advance and bring your rooks to the center files with Rd1 and Re1.
Placing the rooks behind the pawns supports the pawns, making it harder for black to exchange them. Minor pieces make better blockaders of passed pawns than major pieces.
Some of the strongest chess players have used this simple yet effective strategy. Among them are two world chess champions. There is no reason you cannot learn from these great players and use the same method.
Although the passed pawn appears in different files in these chess games, the piece setup and d5 advance remain a common feature of all three games. Keres played the first of the three games was played in 1937.
Paul Keres – Reuben Fine, 1937.04.11, 1-0, Ostend Round 1, Ostend BEL
Thirty-two years later, Boris Spassky used the same strategy to beat another world champion, Tigran Petrosian.
Boris Spassky – Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, 1969.04.23, 1-0, Petrosian – Spassky World Championship Match Round 5, Moscow URS
Petrosian no doubt remembered this game because he, in turn, used the same strategy to defeat Korchnoi later.
Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian – Viktor Korchnoi, 1977.03.16, 1-0, Korchnoi – Petrosian Candidates Quarterfinal Round 6, Il Ciocco ITA
Sow the seeds for your victory in the opening by looking for opportunities to create passed pawns in chess long before the endgame. While other players are memorizing long theory lines, you can spend your time learning new middlegame strategies.
Pawns play a pivotal part in chess, so the more you know about getting the best from them, the better. There is a wide variety of strategies involving pawns, so feel free to explore and find positions that suit your playing style.
Expanding your knowledge base about chess strategies by studying past masters is an excellent approach. However, do not neglect to learn from the strong players we have today.
GM Arkadij Naiditsch has compiled an impressive collection of strategies you can employ in your games. The clear explanations he provides will deepen your understanding of chess.
You can apply it in different positions when you know why something works. The position might not be the same, but you can use Carlsen’s technique to empower passed pawns in your games.