The Queen Side Majority

  • GM thamizhan
  • | Nov 28, 2011

Greetings, in many of the openings that I play, I end up with a 4:3 kingside pawn majority while my opponent has 2:1 on the queenside. We generally both have at least one rook and a minor piece. What would you suggest is the best way to solve this problem? I have intensively studied the endgame, but to no avail.




Dear Chessisgood,

This is a very good question as such positions are very common in one's tournament play. As you start getting better and better in chess, the quality of your game will keep going higher. Higher standard generally implies that the times when your opponent handed over the point to you with a silly mistake are long gone and it is time for you to extract that win from no where. Extracting such skillful wins requires a thorough understanding of the position. The position you are talking about in your question is what we refer to as queen side pawn majority positions. Such positions require more of an understanding rather than meticulous calculation.

Queen side majority positions generally work in favor of the side that has the pawn majority on the queen side rather than the king side, since it is much easier to push your extra pawn in the queen side rather than the king side. There are two main factors that are going to influence positions with pawn majorities on opposite sides. The first one would be the control of the central file (most commonly the 'd' file). You might think this is just a simple theory you read in some old chess book a while ago, but in this case it plays a much more important role. Basically, the side that controls the open file will have more chances to control the game and push for a win through-out. The second factor is using your minor piece, in particular your bishops. The long diagonals and the general open nature of the position gives a lot of scope for your bishops.

Let us take a look at some examples to better understand such positions. Our first example is by one of the finest chess players to have ever played the game and a world champion, Alexander Alekhine.



I guess in the end Alekhine made it look pretty simple, going from what looked like a slightly better position to a completely winning position in just no time. Alekhine barely had to break a sweat to win the game.

Our second demonstration is from the man who was known to literally be able to feel his pieces, a world champion with a great natural talent, Jose Raul Capablanca. Let us take a look at how he handled his pawn majority.



If Alekhine made it look simple, Capablanca barely did anything to win this one! Rook penetration and pawn advancement simply did the job for him. The reason for white's quick demise was his completely inactive rook.

Our next example is from another Word champion, Mikhail Botvinnik, who shows his thorough technique to convert this barely equal position.



A very clean execution from Botvinnik, clearly demonstrating the importance of the queen side pawn majority.

The last example we will study today is a demonstration of the bishop's power. This is from one of my own games played against a good friend, GM Davorin Kuljasevich. Once I understood the plan in the middle game it was much easier to play the position.



Again, from nothing to a clearly winning position without doing anything drastic. Of course it still requires a mistake from your opponent to be able to win, but knowing the right plan is the main key to success in such positions. 

From the above examples these are the major points that I believe the readers should focus on. 

  • Take control of the 'd' file

  • The king's activicty is most important in an endgame – Centralize your king

  • Since these positions tend to be open, bishops have a much better chance against knights

  • Take control of key squares (against knights in particular) from your opponent's pieces to make them inactive

Hopefully these pointers have helped you understand the queen side pawn majority positions.  


  • 4 years ago


    I liked that, gained a good fundamental knowledge as to why one should exploit pawn majority

  • 5 years ago


    very greet.

  • 5 years ago


    Recommended further reading:

    Endgame Strategy, by Mikhail Shereshevsky. A must read for 1600+. Soon I will study it again for the third time.

    Actually, the first two examples (and possibly the third) are included in this book. 

  • 5 years ago


    Highly instructive article, I learned a lot about a pretty fundamental idea.  Thanks!

  • 5 years ago


    Another excellent article with great examples from GM games, thanks!

    One reason things tend to work out as they do is that when there are competing majorities, most often the holder of the K-side majority has the e-pawn as the "majority pawn," the natural candidate to become a passed pawn.  This can be a middlegame advantage, but only if the e- and (usually also) f-pawns can be advanced quickly to create attacking chances.  Where the e-pawn remains on the 3rd rank, the Q-side majority will generally take over the initiative.

  • 5 years ago


    Loved it...a great article.  I feel like I learned a lot.

  • 5 years ago


    The example taken from your own game is a position I have had little luck with despite seeing it frequently.  This article was excellent.  Not a trace of the humor of IM Silman but just as instructive, if not more.  Thanks so much!

  • 5 years ago


    Wonderful article.

  • 5 years ago


    comparing great's is awesome!!!

  • 5 years ago


    The pawn structure you mention is just part of the landscape in many queen's gambit positions. White is supposed to  win the game somehow BEFORE the endgame arrives, when Black will have an advantage because his pawn majority is futher away from the king. White can win the game with central or k-side play, or can advance his two pawns to break up the pawn majority and make it a target before it gets moving -the minority attack.If you just passively trade down into an endgame with white, you can be in trouble, there is no general way to  stop a mobile pawn majority if the opponent knows his endgames well. You are looking in the wrong place if you are studying endgames to solve this problem, you need to learn the middle game plans for your opening better. If you want the Q side pawn majority as white in the endgame, you should look at the Colle system.

  • 5 years ago


    thank you that was very interesting...

  • 5 years ago


    Thanks for the excellent article.

  • 5 years ago


    Well there is material for all day of endgame training.Exelent artical for intermediate players like myself because I think our main weeknes is endgame

  • 5 years ago


    Great article. My endgame needs a lot of work.

  • 5 years ago


    excellet as usual..
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