Chess Terms
Pawn Storm

Pawn Storm

Pawns are the weakest piece in chess. Individually, they can do little to cause damage. But once pawns unite and start marching together, you'd better run for cover! When a pawn storm takes form, one of the players can get quickly wiped off the board.


What Is A Pawn Storm In Chess?

A pawn storm happens in chess when a player moves connected pawns multiple times in rapid succession to attack the opponent. A pawn storm usually occurs on one of the board's flanks, but it can also happen on the central files.

A pawn storm in chess.
GM Leonid Yudasin vs. FM Dennis Monokroussos, 18th New York Masters. White's extra rook is no match to Black's well-coordinated pawn storm.

Why Is The Pawn Storm Important?

Pawn storms are powerful weapons for those who know how to use them with mastery. A well-executed pawn storm can open lines for an attack on the king. It can also lead to immediate material gain or a decisive strategical advantage. Not only that, but it is a typical plan of widely used openings, such as the King's Indian and Sicilian Defenses, the Benoni, and others.

In the position below, we see opposite-side castled kings. In such a game, pushing pawns to harass the opponent's king is usually a good idea.

An invitation to a pawn storm.
A pawn storm can be deadly when kings are on different sides of the board.

Two great players of the past, GM Akiba Rubinstein and Richard Teichmann, reached the above position in 1908. This game shows a classic example of a pawn storm in action. Rubinstein shows how a pawn storm can rip open a king's defense and leave it helpless.

Great weapons to demolish a king's defense, pawn storms can also provide strategical gains that will eventually overwhelm an opponent.

An example of this strategical use of a pawn storm comes from the inhuman play of two of the most potent chess engines of our time, Leela Chess Zero and Stockfish. Leela demonstrates how advancing multiple pawns can lead to a space advantage and increase piece mobility. Watch the video below as NM Sam Copeland goes over this fantastic display of positional awareness by Leela.

As you can see, pawn storms can be devastating. However, it is imperative to understand that advancing your pawns too far can backfire. If you launch an ill-prepared pawn storm, a skilled opponent can take advantage of the weaknesses you create and shatter your position.

The position below comes from a game played in 1970 between GM Dragoljub Minic and GM Bobby Fischer. You can see that White has started to march his pawns up the board on the kingside.

Minic's pawn storm against Fischer.
White has started a pawn storm and made contact with Fischer's kingside pawns.

However intimidating, Minic's pawn storm was rendered ineffective by Fischer's skillful play. The former world champion quickly transferred the battle to the queenside, giving White no time to execute his plan. Minic resigned a few moves later after Fischer got a winning position with extra pawns and an outside passed pawn.

Knowing how to attack with your pawns and how to defend against a pawn storm are critical skills for every chess player. When you master this concept, you will be a dangerous player.

Conclusion

You now know what a pawn storm is and how you can use it to win more chess games. Read more about the subject in this article or head over to our Lessons page to learn more about pawn storms and how you can use them to create lethal attacks.