Pawn Power in Chess by Hans Kmoch - Glossary of Terms


I don't remember where I've found it and who is the author but he definitely did a good job!

Backward pawn, Straggler A half-free pawn on the second or third rank whose stop square lacks pawn protection but is controlled by a sentry.
Basic duo A duo where one of the pawns constitutes the base of a chain.
Buffer duo Two opposing duos facing each other with one rank in between.
Candidate Unopposed or half-free pawn.
Center lever A lever wholly within the two center files.
Center pawn Pawn on the d- or e-file.
Centerswap A capture from and to the d- or e-file that produces a doubled pawn.
Chain A diagonal pawn formations, identified by the number of their links (pawns).
Chain lever Adjacent levers in a diagonal formation, where the respective headpawns attack the base of the opposing chain, e.g., f5, g4 vs. g6, h5. Produces passed pawns.
Compound formation A formation consisting of several descriptive categories whose
defining characteristics depend on the perspective from which it is viewed, e.g., d4, e4 vs. d5 - could be described as a center ram, center duo, tight duo, lever duo, center lever, tight lever, duo lever, etc.
Conditional backwardness A pawn that is backward in only certain respects.
Counterpawn Directly opposing pawn.
Cross lever Four immediately and directly opposing pawns, two of each color, e.g., d4, e4 vs. d5, e5.
Dispersion The vertical splitting of pawns (most commonly, isolation) caused by captures.
Distortion The horizontal splitting of pawns caused by advances.

Double lever An innerpawn under simultaneous attack from both adjacent files. It may be loose or tight.
Double pawns, Twins Friendly pawns on the same file.
Doubling, Undoubling The creation or elimination of a double pawn formation.
Duo Two adjacent pawns of the same color on the same rank that mutually cover the other's stop square.
Dynamical Obstruction Opposing pawns on adjacent files.
Faker A half-free pawn with inadequate helpers.
Fork lever A lever attacking two units at once (can include a piece).
Free pawn, passed pawn, passer A pawn with no counterpawn and no opposing sentries.
Frontspan Vertical distance between a pawn and the forward edge of the board.
Front-twin The foremost doubled pawn.
Half-free pawn Pawn with opposing pawns or pawn on adjacent files.
Hanging duo An isolated pair of half-free pawns.
Head-duo The headpawn and a friendly pawn in contact with it.
Headpawn The foremost pawn in a pawn formation.
Helper A candidate's own pawn on an adjacent file.
Home pawn Pawn on the castled side of the board.
Home side The castled side of the board.
Inner lever A lever where the capture would move toward the center.
Innerpawn Pawn on one of the files b-g.
Interspan Vertical distance between two opposing pawns.
Innerswap A capture towards the center that produces a doubled pawn.
Lee Shorter side of the horizontal beam of the pawn cross.
Lever Two opposing pawns in contact that can capture each other.
Local majority A pawn majority on one wing.
Loose duo A duo not in contact with an opposing pawn(s).
Loose lever A lever where each side has the option of capturing or bypassing.
Loose twin A double pawn whose undoubling is a possibility.
Luff Longer side of the horizontal beam of the pawn cross.
Mechanical Obstruction Opposing pawn on the same file.
Mute chain lever A chain lever in which the bases of the opposing pawn chains are not attacked, e.g., a5, b4, c3 vs. a7, b6, c5. Doesnt produce passers.
Outer lever A lever where the capture would move away from the center.
Outerswap A capture towards the rim that produces a doubled pawn.
Outside passer A passed pawn removed from the bulk of opposing pawns.
Passed pawn, passer, Free pawn A pawn with no counterpawn and no opposing sentries.
Passer duo A duo of two passed pawns.
Pawn-cross Cross formed along the rank and file on which the pawn sits with the pawn itself at the center of the cross.
Pincer lever Two levers that convergingly attack a chain of two pawns, including it's base, e.g., b2, c3 vs. a3, d4.
Protected passer A passed pawn protected by one or more helpers.
Quart Four horizontal friendly pawns.
Quartgrip Prototype of the siege. A formation of four vs. four pawns in which the shorter frontspan constitutes a great advantage.
Ram Two deadlocked, directly opposing pawns.
Ranger Pawn on the uncastled side of the board.
Ranger side The uncastled side of the board.
Rearspan Vertical distance between a pawn and the rear edge of the board.
Rear-twin The least-advanced doubled pawn.
Rimpawn Pawn on either the a- or h-file.
Saw A zigzag pawn formation (most commonly seen in the Stonewall formation).
Sentry Opposing pawn on an adjacent file.
Sham twin A double pawn whose undoubling is assured beforehand.
Shielding A pawn or a piece being protected from frontal assault by the opposing pawn whose stop or telestop it is occupying.
Siege Shielded backwardness that paralyzes a whole formation of pawns.
Sneaker An unfree pawn or faker that may become a passer through a sacrificial combination.
Span The pawn's vertical distance from the edges of the board.
Straggler, Backward pawn A half-free pawn on the second or third rank whose stop square lacks pawn protection but is controlled by a sentry.
Stopsquare, stop The square directly in front of a pawn.
Symmetrical exchange An exchange eliminating a pawn and its counterpawn. Reduces
chances for levers and opens a file. Typically stabilizing. E.g., 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3. cxd5 cxd5.
Telestops Squares beyond the stop square in the frontspan of a pawn.
Tight duo A duo in contact with an opposing pawn(s), whose axis forms a ram.
Tight lever A lever including a ram, that offers only one side the option of both capture and bypass, e.g., c4, d4 vs. d5, e6.
Tight twin A double pawn whose undoubling by force is theoretically impossible.
Triad A group of three pawns including a non-isolated twin, e.g., b2, b3, c2. A triad of unfree pawns is unable to produce a passer against a duo.
Trio Three horizontal friendly pawns.
Twins, Double pawns Friendly pawns on the same file.
Undoubling, Doubling The creation or elimination of a double pawn formation.
Unfree pawn Pawn with a counterpawn.
Unsymmetrical exchange A dynamic exchange resulting in a half-open file and half-free
pawn for each side. E.g., 1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3. cxd5 exd5.
Wedge Two converging chains reaching into enemy territory.
Wing pawn Pawn on the files a-c or f-h.


Thanks for posting this. I had meant to go through the whole book and do something like this. Saved me a lot of time.


I will repost here what I said in another forum:

I tried to read Kmoch's book few times and was so irritated by the jargon that had to stop.

I am curious about  2 things:

  • is it worth an effort to translate Kmoch's book to "normal" language?
  • is Kmoch's book still indispensable now that we have a book by Soltis, 2 books by Marovic and many general strategy book that cover pawn play too?

Right now I am reading recently reseased The Power of Pawns (Chess Structures Fundamentals for Post-Beginners) by Jorg Hickl - this book is excellent IMO.



I'm thinking about purchasing this book and would be interested to know what others make of it.


I've also found this Youtube videos devoted to Kmoch's book:


Like a lot of people, I was at first very much put off by the jargon. Still am, to be honest. But you have to admit that, in his day, Kmoch was trying to put words to ideas that, at that time, had not been well explored. So he invented. Being classically educated, he leaned heavily on what he had already learned. Can't say I blame him there. But for students of a later age, when study of classical antiquity is, well, something our grandparents did, it sticks in the craw.

I actually enjoyed going through the book, but then I wan't obsessed at the time with studying it as a school text; rather I wanted to gain as much chess knowledge (actually more review of what I had already picked up the hard way) as possible, and so I cheerfully ignored the jargon.

(Well, not entirely. I am interested in historical linguistics, but that has little to do with chess so lets leave that out of it)


What does it mean that friendly pawns or groups of pawns are in contact?




Pawn Power In Chess by Hans Kmoch…

For me, Hans Kmoch's "Pawn Power In Chess" is an immortal masterpiece of the chess literature.

One often encounters complaints about the book's "descriptive" chess notation and/or the "idiosyncratic" terminology invented and employed throughout the book by the author.  These complaints have the effect of putting off many who would otherwise benefit from reading this great book.   It does take dedication and perseverance to get through it (what worthwhile chess book doesn't), but the results are well worth it.  If chess required no intellect or effort, we wouldn't enjoy it as much.  

My response to those who have issues with Kmoch's terminology is this:  As reasonably intelligent chess players (hopefully not an erroneous presumption), from the beginning of your journey in chess you have been able to learn many new terms and concepts in order to be able to read and communicate about the game.  The point, and value of Kmoch's terminology is that of attempting to improve the efficiency of communicating structures, positional concepts and ideas.  Just consider the “creative” terminology to be a part of the continuing process of growing your chess vocabulary.

Here is a good YouTube video explaining Hans Kmoch's "Pawn Power In Chess" terminology.....

In fact, I'm guessing that once one embraces the terminology and appreciates its concise efficiency of description, one will learn to appreciate it.  For example, when I come across the terms ram, lever, and duo, etc., I know what they mean and what they imply.  This simple terminology enables the writer/reader to precisely define a position, a structure or an action, which otherwise would take a lot of words and explanation to communicate.  Brilliant!

As one reads the book, and the terms become more embedded in your chess vocabulary, the book becomes easier to read, and the lessons and concepts are more readily absorbed.  Studying the book will pay dividends for the rest of your chess career.

As for the (now supersceded) "descriptive" notation.  Yes, most would agree that (the now mainstream) “algebraic” notation is generally more efficient in terms of writing/reading chess literature. Nevertheless, any reasonably serious chess player should be capable of easily learning descriptive notation.  And, I submit, there is no better book than "Pawn Power..." as motivation for learning and practicing your descriptive notation reading skills.

If you’re not familiar with descriptive chess notation...this may explanation of descriptive notation.....not necessarily the best presentation, but bear with it and you will get the idea....

Finally, there was an algebraic edition of Kmoch's book published in 1990 by American Chess Promotions (ref my post #31 above).  One can quickly find it by searching on the ISBN number - "ISBN 0939298791”.  I own a copy but have only scanned it briefly as I prefer to work with the Dover, descriptive notation edition.  However the algebraic edition does look to be a very well-produced book - binding, typography, paper quality etc.


Another forum thread on the topic of Hans Kmoch's "Pawn Power In Chess"...