The Deadly Opening Sin.

  • GM Gserper
  • | Oct 24, 2010

There are many ways to go wrong in the opening and lose quickly.  Today we'll talk about one of the Opening's Cardinal Sins : pawn grabbing.  Everyone knows that in the opening we are supposed to develop our pieces as quickly as possible and castle. Yet one of the oldest opening mistakes is still one of the most popular ones. I am talking about pawn grabbing which, as the name suggests, is a try to win material in the opening before finishing your development.  I can almost hear a chess player's thought "Yeah, I know, don't worry, I will finish my development for sure, but first let me take the tasty little pawn that my opponent left unguarded".  The usual result of such a strategy is miniature games where the poor King get sstuck in the center and minor pieces never have a chance to leave the initial positions. 

Games like the next one are very popular in scholastic tournaments.

(Just like in most of my articles I give you a chance to test your attacking skills, so the games are given as a Quiz.  Please remember that you can always replay the whole game from the first move if you click "Solution" and then "Move list".)



But you shouldn't think that only beginners make such a typical mistake.  Masters and Grandmasters are only human too and from time to time they produce games like the next one.  Please notice that after his 11th move Black already had four extra pawns!
 Two pawns that are the most popular target for pawn grabbing are the b2 and g2 pawns.  They are almost like magnets for opponent's Queens. The next two games are very typical.
In conclusion I would like to mention that just like any rule, there are exceptions here as well.  The notorious "Poisoned pawn variation" of the Najdorf Sicilian is one of them.  But my personal opinion about this subject is pretty simple.  To me pawn grabbing is similar to jaywalking: even if you managed to get unscathed once, sooner or later you'll get fined or even worse, hit by a car!


  • 6 years ago


    never capture h7,h2,a2, or a7 because after g6,g3,b6, b3 the bishop is trapped

  • 6 years ago



  • 6 years ago


    nice article and good examples. Right to the point.

  • 6 years ago


    but pawn snatching is so fun...

  • 6 years ago



  • 6 years ago


    Great article!  Years ago, playing Sargon II computer program, the computer

    often grabbed my g2 pawn.  Thanks for the help.

  • 6 years ago


    thank you sir it was instructive article

  • 6 years ago


    Rashidarvioreyhan - If you simply take the bishop, then Queen to d8 is check mate since the bishop on e7 is pinned.

  • 6 years ago


    Very important article, takes me back on basis and foundations. Thanx for sharing...

  • 6 years ago


    good puzzle

  • 6 years ago


    In chess, it's often better to give than to receive...especially in the opening!

    BUT, didn't players like Capablanca & Petrosian manage to win games by being "greedy?"

  • 6 years ago


    great article.

  • 6 years ago


    @Hypocrism 9. c5 with ideas of bc3 and ra1 looked strong for white

  • 6 years ago


    Great one Helps lot

  • 6 years ago


    thanks for sharing!

  • 6 years ago


    I generally find that if two minor pieces are developed and your king can castle reasonably quickly, grabbing a pawn is sometimes all right (situation dependent).


    This is a game I played yesterday when I spend 10 mins deciding to snap the h pawn. I had to check my queen wouldn't be trapped and my king wouldn't be overwhelmed.


  • 6 years ago


    i'll never accept another gambit Smile

  • 6 years ago



  • 6 years ago


    I've had people just misplay where I more or less had to take the pawn.  e4 d6 d4 Nf6 Nf3 for example.  Or leaving the b7 pawn unguarded after Qb3.  But even then I've noticed how tricky it can be to get one's pieces coordinated afterwords.  It really is an interesting dynamic between material and time.  Someday, I hope I can look at pawn sacrifices around moves 7-12 that allow for some zip to an attack.

  • 6 years ago


    I found the last 3 puzzles to be easy.

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