When starting out in chess, most people first learn about how the pawn moves. After all, it seems like a relatively simple piece that simply moves one or two squares forward at a time, and captures diagonally. But in truth, the pawn is one of the most complicated pieces on the board and, when working together, can completely control the game.
Understanding how pawn structures influence chess games is the hallmark of a strong player but it’s often a mystery to club players. There is much to consider, and it doesn’t always come naturally to club players. The positional knowledge that comes with understanding pawn structures is key to taking your game to the next level.
Usually, because pawns don’t move very far each move, the pawn structure is relatively static and largely determines the strategic nature of each position. That’s why when you’re learning an opening, you’ll often hear the advice to learn not only the moves of the opening, but the pawn structures that arise in the middlegame. They play a key role in how you go about attacking the opponent’s king.
The best players think carefully before moving any pawn because it can’t move backward! It changes the structure permanently and can create weaknesses the opponent can attack.
In the video, IM Valeri Lilov reveals how your pawns affect every other piece on the board and the typical plans that accompany the different structures. Valeri specifically takes a look at pawn chains, which are some of the most important attacking structures in chess. How can you build and use pawn chains to your advantage?
Knowledge of these pawn chain ideas will prove useful in just about any position, helping you to come up with a winning plan based on the pawn structure in all of your games.
Let’s look at the first position from the video. You can see this position in the diagram on the left.
This position is from a game between Jose Raul Capablanca against Karel Treybull in 1929. White has two strong pawn chains, on e3-f4-g5, and e3-d4-c5 (and b4). These pawn chains give White a lot of space, and a lot of options!
How can White proceed? White needs to find a purposeful move. When you have space, you don’t need to think so much about how you’re going to destroy your opponent’s position, but rather you can approach it by asking how you can expand your space advantage. It’s not always easy, but look to take control of even more squares in the opponent’s position.
Capablanca did it here with the move 1. b5, which is a move many people might not consider because at first glance it looks like it gives up a pawn. So, what is the idea?
White wants to open up files on the board. By maintaining pressure, White wants to find a way to break through with his pieces on open files. Black played 1…axb5, and then White played 2. h6+. This is an excellent in-between move! It helps White to cement his control over the a-file. After 2…Kf8 3. axb5, White is in control because Black’s king blocks in both of his rooks! You can see this on the position on the right.
Next, Black played 3…Ke7. If 3…cxb5, White has 4. Rb1, looking to win back the pawn on b5, and also putting pressure on the b7 pawn indirectly.
How did Capablanca continue? You’ll have to watch the video to find out!
Pawn Structures Explained for Club Players
Ever run out of good moves but don’t know where you went wrong? Chances are you’ve misunderstood the pawn structure. In Pawn Structure Explained for Club Players, IM Lilov will help you build positions where your pieces have all the activity while your opponent gradually gets squeezed off the board. IM Lilov reveals how your pawns affect every other piece on the board and the typical plans that accompany the different structures.
As well as examining the hidden strengths and weaknesses of backward, doubled and hanging pawns, Valeri shows how to turn a pawn majority (equal material but more pawns on one side of the board) into victory and how to protect and attack pawn chains. Everything you need to know to take your game to the next level! Click here to get instant access to Pawn Structure Explained for Club Players with 35% off.