The Extremely Important Manipulation Of Pawn Structures
Pawn structure is important.

The Extremely Important Manipulation Of Pawn Structures

IM Silman
Feb 10, 2018, 12:00 AM |
44 | Other

Take a look at this game. As you can see, the pawn structure makes the whole dance work. To make this clear, if you don’t understand pawn structure, you will find yourself making moves that have nothing to do with the position.

You’ll be playing in the dark without knowing it.

Clearly, understanding pawn structure is something that needs to be discussed over and over again. Lower-rated players (beginner to 1799) rarely understand the importance of pawn structure. And even masters (2200) often get it wrong. Everyone knows that “pawns are the soul of chess,” but what does that really mean?

It means that pawns create structure, and if you don’t know how to make use of many different kinds of structures, you aren’t going anywhere.

Our first look into pawn structure is a game I have already used in a article. Why should I show it again? Well, most of you haven’t seen it. Others might have seen it, but never really understood it. And finally those few that remember seeing it and actually understand it should be happy to see it again. After all, in chess, repetition is critically important. When I was young (I am very old now, but no, there were no dinosaurs around in those days!) and saw a profound game (or at least I thought it was), I would look at it several times, and then look at it again as the years went by. Each time I looked at the same game, I understand some nuance that I didn’t notice before.

chess pawns

So, first look at this game, and then we’ll see if you can solve puzzles that, though you might not have realized it, are all about pawn structure.

This kind of position tends to terrify amateurs, and I can fully understand why they think that Black’s already in trouble. White’s ahead in development, White has more central space, and White’s pawns on e5 and f4 might continue forward and create a kingside attack.


These puzzles won’t help you at all unless you read the hidden prose. After you go through the moves, press the “?” and all the prose, often full of wonder (I hope), will appear.


Before doing the puzzle moves, I want you to break down the position for both sides (what both sides want). Also, what are the pawn structures telling us? And then try to understand who is better or worse—or perhaps it’s dead even. Then (since White has many choices) play 12.Bg5 and then play the other White moves in the puzzle.



Black to move, I’m sure there are several reasonable moves but what would be your choice?


Black is attacking the a-pawn. What is the best way to deal with it? You should be aware that White’s central pawn structure “kills” Black’s knight and bishop, which have nowhere good to go. All that’s left for White is to say, “thank you pawn structure!”

The puzzle will be given after the following moves:




White has just played g2-g4, obviously changing his solid pawn structure into a pawn structure designed to wipe Black’s king off the board. How can Black deal with this?

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