Think twice before moving a pawn

Think twice before moving a pawn


“Pawns: they are the soul of chess, they alone determine the attack and the defense, and the winning or losing of the game depends entirely on their good or bad arrangement." 

 Francois Andre Danican Philidor

If a chess player is looking for improvement, he needs to spend some time analyzing the grandmasters of the past to figure out how they used to think about one position, what factors they used to pay attention to, how they used to find good moves. This exercise is highly recommended, so much so that even Garry Kasparov did this job in his series of books “My Great Predecessors”.

This kind of study also helps you find some quotes, some little sparks that can mark your life, one of those was the classical “pawns are the soul of chess” something I obviously did not understand at all the first time.

When I was younger, I was the typical super aggressive chess player who wanted all his games to be decided by a beautiful checkmate. I used to hate the positional boring games and that is why I was always looking for moving pawns to create quick attacks, basically giving 0 value to these pieces.

This should stop if I really wanted to get better at chess, analyzing my games I found this pattern of moving unnecessary pawns, creating what I thought were “aggressive chances” when I was actually weakening my position for free.

During this process, I found again the quote of Philidor, and it started to make sense to me that pawns were more complicated than I thought, realizing that just a single pawn move can be the difference in a game.

Noticing that a pawn move can be the difference is quite difficult when someone is starting to learn chess, but if that person can give this important value to the pawns from the beginning, he would improve a lot his general understanding of this sport.

The next questions come to mind, “How can I improve this skill? How can I play better pawn moves?”

Sadly, I can not fully answer that question in a single post, it requires hard work, learning from the grandmaster of the past, analyzing tons of positions. But there is something that can help, think twice before moving a pawn.

The first step to improve in something is to realize what are you doing wrong, the next time you are going to move a pawn be aware of this, are you creating active chances or are you weakening your position for free?

Think twice before moving a pawn does not mean that you should not move any of them at all (how are you going to develop your bishops if you don’t?) it means that before moving a pawn you need to be sure that you have considered:

The weaknesses you are creating

The activity you are obtaining

Imagine that you have the option that with one pawn move you can coordinate all your pieces to attack the opponent’s king, so how not to move that pawn?

Again, this is probably one of the most difficult topics in chess, but if you at least know the real value of pawns, you might be a step above your opponent.

I am Gabriel Salazar, Fide Master, and chess coach. Available for new students, contact: