The Not-So-Hanging Pawns

  • GM vbhat
  • | Apr 6, 2010

While the Isolated Queen Pawn (IQP) structure is probably the best-known general structure, the closely related structure of Hanging Pawns is also quite important.

For the serious player, I think it's quite useful to study typical middlegame patterns and pawn structures. Even if you don't play IQP or hanging-pawn structures in the normal course of your games, a grounding in such structures is useful as they can arise from all sorts of openings and in surprising ways. Having a foundation in the typical ideas will give you a leg up on your opponent (or at least level the playing field). Here's a typical Hanging Pawn structure that arises from the Nimzo-Indian, but it surprisingly can also arise from a Semi-Slav as in the game below.

Strangely enough, we've transposed into a Nimzo-Indian Rubinstein (4.e3), where White has an extra tempo! This is because Black lost a tempo with ...c7-c6-c5 in the opening phase. Although I didn't really need to know this to play the position, it was a useful bit of info - I play the Rubinstein Variation of the Nimzo while Cori doesn't play the Nimzo, so I could be satisfied from a practical point of view and an objective point of view (I think White is better here).

With his pawns on c4 and d4, Black has no real central squares for his knights. Meanwhile, White has a number of possible plans. His most common plan is to complete his development and then push forward with his d-pawn (d5 in this case, or ...d4 with black) in order to open things up for his pieces (especially the bishops). He has other ideas too: if he moves the Nf3, he can think about f2-f4-f5. He can also play on the queenside with a4-a5, softening up the b6-pawn. Black's traditional plan is to put his queen on f4, but by retreating my knight to d2 and then playing Qe3, Cori faced a tough decision - exchanging queens would leave my potentially weak center strengthened, while moving to h4 leaves it a bit out of play after h2-h3.

Now here's the actual game:

Question 1: Black wants to add some pressure to d4 with ...Nc6 next. What would you play here as White?

Question 2: Black has plugged the long diagonal with 28...e5. How would you continue to press as White?

And here's the entire game in one viewer:


  • 3 years ago


    The tension of even a single passed pawn is heavy. Your pieces remain engaged in controlling this. pawn and eventually you lose your energy in that particular part of the board.

    Hanging Pawns

  • 6 years ago


    Thank you for a brilliant articel.Very instructive and easy to understand

  • 6 years ago



  • 7 years ago



  • 7 years ago


    Instead of resigning why not take the pawn with the light squared bishop?

  • 7 years ago


    good game great article

  • 7 years ago


    Very useful article.Many thanks

  • 7 years ago


    what you think about 29. f4 ? it seems irressistible to me !

  • 7 years ago


    Slow and deep white moves...well done!!!

  • 7 years ago


    Remarkable analysis of the game, I would have difficulties reaching peace of mind to make moves like 23.Bc1 or 29. a4: I usually try to lead a pressing attack, and "quiet" moves are often disregarded on behalf of daunting-looking ones...

    But I have suffered from that one pawn that wrecks everything once it reaches certain ranks. Great match.

  • 7 years ago


    not one of the moves makes a lick of  sense

  • 7 years ago


    Very instructive........ Thanks.

  • 7 years ago


    Great game, thanks for the article!

  • 7 years ago


    thanks for the answer, yeah, two passed pawns are really troublesome, and now add to this that they are connected, and with many defenders, ind already in the five rank, i would resigned even in the move 32, in view that here comes the bishop to reinforce those pawns! really nice played.

    by the way, in your analysis, after, 39 Nxb6, 40Qxb6, it wouldt be better Qd6? i think after this move i would do such as: 41c7 Qxb6 42Rxb6 Rc8 and then 43d6 i think this holds the position a bit longer even its absolutely a win for white, they were good moves? or did i miss something? and what would you do? thanks a lot!

  • 7 years ago


    Good ideas, 10x for the article, i find it remarcable how GMs always prepare their attacks so paciently.

  • 7 years ago



  • 7 years ago


    nice game. the annotations make the logic flow seamless. thanks for the instructional article.

  • 7 years ago


    Thanks for the article!

  • 7 years ago

    GM vbhat

    Nope, you're right - 37...Rd8 would have saved the bishop, but I think he decided that facing the two connected passers would be painful as well. For example, 37...Rd6-d8 38.c6 Ba8 (he can't go to a6 becuase of the Bf1) 39.Bxb6 Nxb6 40.Qxb6 and the pawns should be impossible to stop. If now 40...Qxb6 41.Rxb6 Rxd5 42.c7 Rc8 43.Rb8 takes the pawn through.

  • 7 years ago


    Thanks for your effort!

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