Chess Terms
Hanging Pawns

Hanging Pawns

Have you ever heard the term "hanging pawns" but didn't know what it is all about? Wonder no more! Here's everything you need to know about this pawn structure in chess.

What Are Hanging Pawns?

The term hanging pawns refers to an important pawn structure in chess. It happens when two pawns stand on adjacent files, with no other pawns being able to protect them. Hanging pawns usually occur on the c- and d- files, but they can also appear elsewhere.

Hanging Pawns in chess
Karpov vs. Smyslov, 1981.

Hanging pawns can either be a weakness or a strength, depending on where both players' pieces are. Since other pawns cannot defend them, they may become targets. However, they can still move forward to execute a pawn break to create a passed pawn. The side with hanging pawns also tends to have a space advantage.

Examples Of Hanging Pawns

Hanging pawns are more common in certain openings, like the Queen's Gambit Declined,  the Symmetrical English, the Queen's Indian Defense, and others. 

Below is an example of hanging pawns appearing on the board in a game between Ossip Bernstein and Jose Raul Capablanca in 1914. They played the Queen's Gambit Declined:

Here's another example of hanging pawns, this time from a game in the Nimzo-Indian Defense played by GMs Max Euwe and Samuel Reshevsky in 1953:

Why Are Hanging Pawns Important?

Learning about the weaknesses and strengths of this structure can help you create plans and guide your moves. 

In general, the side with the hanging pawns wants to avoid trading pieces and try to build their position behind the hanging pawns. Eventually, their idea is to advance one of the pawns to open the position and unleash an attack. This is the strategy GM Svetozar Gligoric employed to win a game against GM Paul Keres in 1958:

On the other hand, the side playing against the hanging pawns wants to adopt the opposite strategy. Usually, they try to trade pieces and blockade the pawns, later attacking them. You can see GM Bobby Fischer using this strategy against GM Boris Spassky to win a world chess championship game in 1972:

Test Your Knowledge

Now that you know what hanging pawns are, it's time to test your knowledge. Look at the position below and identify the hanging pawns:

Hanging Pawns test
What are the hanging pawns?

You're right! The hanging pawns are on the c5- and d5-squares!

Hanging Pawns test answer


You now know what hanging pawns are, how to play with and against them, and more! Head over to our Lessons page to learn about other important chess concepts.  

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