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The Truth About Doubled Pawns

  • GM Gserper
  • | Nov 18, 2012
  • | 23188 views
  • | 61 comments

If I had to choose the most popular misconception in chess, I wouldn't hesitate for a second.  It is the so-called 'weakness' of doubled pawns. I cannot tell you my dear readers how many times I have encountered the same situation during analysis of my students' games.  It usually goes like this:

Me: Why did you play this move?

Student: I was afraid that my opponent would create doubled pawns in my camp.

Me: So, what was wrong with doubled pawns?

Student: (pauses, gives me a surprised look) Well, they are bad for your position, you know...

After having this kind of conversation almost on a daily basis, I started asking my students to show me any position or even just a part of a position where doubled pawns would be bad. As a rule I get a position similar to the next one (please note that we assume that there are many more pieces in all the positions that we discuss today, so this is just a part of the whole position):

After setting up a position like this, I usually get another 'look'. This time it is a mischievous look which says "Told ya, they are bad!"
Then I modify the position a little bit:
Now it is my time to be mischievous. "Please tell me how exactly are these pawns weak?" I ask.  And then to help my student understand what's going on I set up the next position:
Now both Black pawns are weak. So, you can see that in the first diagram Black pawns were weak not because they were doubled but because they were isolated.  In the second position we 'fixed' the problem and the pawns weren't weak even though they were still doubled. In the third position Black's pawns are very weak precisely because they are isolated even though they are not doubled. 
The same way it is easy for me to rebut the other kinds of 'proof' that doubled pawns are bad for your position.  For example my student creates the next position claiming that doubled pawns make the position of the White King very weak:
And as a response I set up the next two positions:
Here doubled pawns are actually giving an extra protection to the White King.
In the last position the White King is extremely vulnerable even though White does not have doubled pawns!  Again we have the case where the alleged "weakness" of doubled pawns is substituted with something else (in this situation it was the open 'g' file against the White King.
So again I ask my student to set up a position or just a part of a position where the game is ruined because of the doubled pawns and nothing else.  After some more fruitless attempts as a rule the student gives up.
Can you my dear readers answer this simple question and show such a position in your comments? Next time we'll see the positions (and games!) where the outcome was decided exclusively by double pawns and by nothing else!

Comments


  • 22 months ago

    Keith5005

    Interesting. Doubled pawns are not always bad.

  • 23 months ago

    Martin0

    @brener, I have done several, but if you mean this one. I would also be interested in how a GM evaluate this position and how to make progress. I am unsure myself.

  • 23 months ago

    INiciOn

    I would like to know how to continue the position Martin0 show us

  • 23 months ago

    Something_Smart

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I rest my case.

  • 23 months ago

    MajorGiggles

    Double pawns surely inhibit your ability to attack, not defend?

  • 23 months ago

    Defence4Gizchehs

    * Below, it is not Maior but Major

     

    I didn't read this Article, just watched the Diagrams.
    Did you talked about the best Doubled-Pawn Structure?:

     

  • 23 months ago

    Alex1968

    The Black pawn structure f7,g7,f6.g6 is dangerous for White! Such structure happens in Caro -Cann Defence. Moving the first pair (pawns f6 and g6) destroys the White castlinng and gives a good attack for Black.

  • 23 months ago

    The_Viking_King

     
     Endgame I recently encountered in one of my own games. Winning because of the (extra) isolated, doubled pawn. Without g3 it's a draw.
  • 23 months ago

    EdTownsend

    Nimzovich said -  probably in "My System" - that you notice the weakness of doubled pawns in the same way that you notice a man with a limp: when they try to move.  The two most common standard doubled pawn positions - White in the NimzoIndian and Black in the exchange Lopez - both have problems if the position revolves around advancing them.  Black in the Lopez will lose if a K and P ending arises where the Q side majority cannot produce the threat of a passer, and White in, say, the Huebner line where the White center is completely blocked so that the Bishops cannot find happiness.

    Defensively, there are known positions where it is BETTER to have doubled pawns - where a pawn breakthrough would be possible against "healthy" pawns but is not against the "weak" doubleton formation.

  • 23 months ago

    Chingstah

    People always think that castling when when your knight on f3 is pinned by bishop on g4 as Bxf3 gxf3 (if the queen is not on that diagonal/row). However, whenever my opponent castles king-side, I always move my queen away. Why?

    Kh1 Rg1 Rg2 Rag1

    Plus if you have your bishop on e3 and queen on d2, that's a nice attack on the opponent's position.

  • 23 months ago

    brutalwizardofEngmar

    I love doubled pawns!!!

  • 23 months ago

    sryiwannadraw

    ty

  • 23 months ago

    Zombie_Agamemnon

  • 23 months ago

    Martin0

    Doubled pawns aren't always bad in endgames either. Here for example it is a draw even though the black king is far superior placed and white has a doubled isolated pawn.



  • 23 months ago

    _Shao_

    I think doubled pawns can be both, good and bad. But you should also consider that in pawn endgames it's important. As, for example if you have a doubled but not isolated pawn, your opponent still has a chance of a breakthrough (if your pawns are on the same side, of course).

  • 23 months ago

    blowerd

  • 23 months ago

    Martin0

    That's good JamieKowalski, I haven't passed that yet though since I can become very afraid of getting isolated doubled pawns, even if I might have compensation. I'm too afraid of a loosing endgame even if I have the initiative. If it's doubled pawns that aren't very weak though I probably wouldn't mind.

  • 23 months ago

    Martin0

    doubled pawns cannot protect eachother and 1 pawn is usually blocking the other to move forward. I think thats the big weaknesses of isolated pawns. Sometimes they can risk becoming isolated and usually there is only a maximum of 1 pawn beside it that can only protect 1 of the doubled pawns. It makes me happy when I see a position that has a double pawn with 2 pawns beside it (which can make the doubled pawns strong). It look like a piece of art in my oppinion. Isolated trippled pawns give me nightmares though.

  • 23 months ago

    JamieKowalski

    Here's the easy take-away from this article: Don't become so frightened of doubled pawns that you don't even consider allowing them. Especially consider allowing them if it would otherwise cost you an important tempo. 

    When I learned to stop caring so much about them, it really freed up my game. When your play is less reactionary, you tend to have more options for creating a good plan. 

  • 23 months ago

    Martin0

    It cannot be stated like fact that doubled pawns are bad. It depends on the position, but it's an easy rule of thumb to low rated players that it is bad like castling should be made in the opening and bringing the queen out early is always bad (without tactic). Rules like that shouldn't be taken litterally, but is generally correct for most positions. When it comes to doubled pawns things like the squares they control and activation of the pieces makes it complicated to many positions if the doubled pawns are good or bad, a bit like the subject of isolated pawns in that sense which isn't very clear either.

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