Chess, like war, is about TACTICS and STRATEGY.

You've learned quite a lot about TACTICS but not much yet about STRATEGY.

TACTICS are short-term operations. Examples of TACTICS in chess are CHECKMATES, FORKS, PINS and so on.

STRATEGY is about long-term planning. And in chess that means making the most of your pieces. Putting them on the best squares.

Good things happen to kids who put their pieces on good squares.

And bad things happen to kids who put their pieces on bad squares.

If you get the STRATEGY right the TACTICS will work in your favor and your well placed pieces will win your opponent's badly placed pieces.

In this lesson we're going to look mostly at PAWNS. What to do with them, what not to do with them. What makes a good PAWN FORMATION and what makes a bad PAWN FORMATION.

The first think you need to know is this.

It's REALLY IMPORTANT to keep a pawn in the middle of the board.

Or two pawns if you can.

Look at this position. Black cannot use any of the squares c5, d5, e5 or f5 for his pieces.

White's pawns are ready to advance and drive back the Black Knights.

(This is a Giuoco Piano (remember?) where Black played his Bishop to b6 instead of b4.)

A simple demonstration of the importance of having a pawn in the center.

What should Black play here?

A very simple move.

White's Bishop on c4 is looking pretty foolish, isn't it?

But if White had his Pawn on e4, rather than e3, the Bishop would have been safe from attack.

And again, what should White play here?

The same idea again.

By playing d2-d4 White gains SPACE in the CENTER and TIME by kicking the Bishop, which has to move again.

Watch out for this idea in your own games.


You'll learn more about it in a later lesson.

But tell me, what do you think White's most popular move is here?

d2-d4 Ng1-f3

Bf1-c4 Qd1-h5

Let's go through the options.

Qd1-h5 is useless - Black can drive back the Queen with Ng8-f6.

Bf1-c4 is also useless - Black can drive back the Bishop and gain the center with d7-d5.

Ng1-f3 can't be bad, but is not the best move.

d2-d4 is the move usually played here.

If your opponent gives you the chance to put two pawns together in the center, you should take it.


Can you guess what White usually plays here?

d2-d3 d2-d4

e4-e5 Ng1-f3

Again we'll take you through the options.

Black's THREATENING a Pawn, neither d2-d4 nor Ng1-f3 do anything about this so, sorry, no good.

d2-d3 is OK but pretty feeble.

The usual move is e4-e5, kicking the Knight (although Nb1-c3 is also OK). Black's best move is then Nf6-d5, when White can kick the Knight again with c2-c4.

Here's a position from the VIENNA GAME.

What would you advise White to play here?

The same idea again - e4-e5 to kick the Black Knight.

In this case the poor beast has only one safe square - back home to g8!

Watch out for opportunities to use center pawns to drive back enemy pieces like this.

Let's look at this position again.

If you remember the Giuoco Piano (Italian Game) you'll know that to reach this position White played c2-c3 and then d2-d4.

When Black played e5xd4, White replied with c3xd4.

So, if you look at the diagram you'll see that White has, in effect, exchanged his c-pawn (a side pawn) for the black e-pawn (a center pawn).

You've also seen the same idea in the Ruy Lopez (Spanish Game).

There are many other openings where one player tries to swap a side pawn for an enemy center pawn.

This is the KING'S GAMBIT.

White's trying to exchange his f-pawn for Black's e-pawn.

He's even prepared to SACRIFICE it to gain control of the CENTER.

You'll learn more about this in another lesson.

This is the QUEEN'S GAMBIT - the same sort of thing on the other side of the board.

White's exchanging his c-pawn for his adversary's d-pawn.

A very popular - and very strong - opening which you'll learn much more about later.

And this is the SICILIAN DEFENSE.

Another very popular opening.

The main idea is that, if White plays d2-d4, Black will play c5xd4, exchanging his c-pawn for White's d-pawn.

So, what you've learned so far is this:

1. Center pawns are really important - try to get two pawns together in the center whenever you can.

2. Look for ways of using your center pawns to drive enemy pieces to bad squares.

3. Look for ways of exchanging your side pawns for your opponent's center pawns.

Next, we'll learn some words to describe different TYPES of Pawn.

First, look at the Black Pawns on f6 and f7. Two pawns on the same file are known as DOUBLED PAWNS. (Three pawns on the same file are, you've guessed it, TRIPLED PAWNS!)

Now look at the Black Pawn on d5. This is an ISOLATED PAWN. An ISOLATED PAWN is a pawn with no friendly pawns on the files on either side.

Look again at the Black Pawn on d5, and also at the White Pawn on b5. They are both PASSED PAWNS. A PASSED PAWN is a pawn which can reach the end of the board without being taken or blocked by an enemy pawn. The b5 Pawn is a PROTECTED PASSED PAWN - it is defended by a colleague.

Finally, the White Pawn on g2 is a BACKWARD PAWN on a HALF-OPEN FILE. A HALF-OPEN FILE is a file on which only one player has a pawn. And an OPEN FILE is a file without any pawns at all. A BACKWARD PAWN is a pawn behind its colleagues. In this case the g2 pawn cannot advance without being taken because of the Black Pawn on h4 (don't forget the EN PASSANT RULE!).

Of these pawns, PASSED PAWNS are usually strong, but DOUBLED, ISOLATED and BACKWARD PAWNS are often weak and should be avoided.

Now to look at each of these types of pawns in more detail.

DOUBLED PAWNS are usually weak, but can on occasion be strong.

You've seen this sort of position before.

Black's DOUBLED PAWNS weaken his King's defenses. It's not easy for him to avoid getting mated by the White Queen.

Here's a King and Pawn ending.

You'll learn much more about how to play these in a later lesson.

For the moment, let's just say that White should win with best play.

If he plays correctly, he will eventually obtain a PASSED PAWN on the King side.

But Black, because he has DOUBLED PAWNS, will not be able to obtain a PASSED PAWN on the Queen side unless White makes a mistake.

DOUBLED PAWNS can also be weak because they cannot defend each other.

In this simple example, although material is level White wins easily.

Black's King is tied down to defending the Pawn on c6, and, in fact, will have to move away and let White take it.

But sometimes DOUBLED PAWNS can be useful.

In this position White's happy for Black to exchange on e3. The resulting DOUBLED PAWNS will give White more CENTRAL CONTROL and if he castles on the King side his Rook will have a HALF-OPEN f-file.

In this sort of position Black often plays Bc5-b6. Now if White exchanges on b6 Black will have a HALF-OPEN file for his Rook on a8.

Here's a typical position where White has an ISOLATED QUEEN'S PAWN.

At present White's ISOLATED PAWN gives him more space in the center of the board.

But the pawn could also become weak because if it's attacked it can only be defended by pieces, not pawns.

Usually, you should try to avoid ISOLATED PAWNS if you can.

Now take a look at this position, from the DRAGON VARIATION of the SICILIAN DEFENSE.

From what you've learned earlier in the lesson you might think it's a good idea for Black to play e7-e5 here to advance in the center and kick the Knight on d4.

But just have a look at what happens next.

If Black plays e7-e5 White replies with Nd4-b5, giving this position.

Black now has a BACKWARD PAWN on a HALF-OPEN FILE.

This can often be a very serious weakness.

In this case it is under attack and cannot be defended. Check the position for yourself to make sure.

Here's the position after White's 4th move in the SCOTCH GAME.

Black should play either Ng8-f6 or Bf8-c5 here, but I sometimes see kids playing Nc6xd4 and, after Qd1xd4, c7-c5.

They think they're doing something clever by forcing White's Queen out early and then forcing it to move again.

They're not doing anything clever at all, though.

White has a big advantage here.

Why? Because Black has a BACKWARD PAWN on a HALF-OPEN FILE!

It's high time you answered a few questions.

Is White's Pawn on b3...

Backward Doubled

Isolated Passed

Yes, it's ISOLATED. Not really BACKWARD because there are no pawns either side of it.

What about the Pawn on e3?

Backward Doubled

Isolated Passed

Yes, the e3 Pawn is BACKWARD. How would you describe the Pawn on g3?

Backward Doubled

Isolated Passed

Correct! White has DOUBLED PAWNS on g2 and g3.

Another way of judging your PAWN FORMATION in the ENDGAME is to count PAWN ISLANDS

A PAWN ISLAND is a group of Pawns separated by an OPEN FILE or a HALF OPEN FILE. The fewer PAWN ISLANDS you have the better.

How many PAWN ISLANDS does White have here?


b3 is one, d4 and e3 another, and g2, g3 and h3 a third.

And how many PAWN ISLANDS does Black have?

Black has only TWO PAWN ISLANDS.

The PAWN CHAIN on b7, c6 and d5 is one. The Pawns on f6, g7 and h7 are another.

So Black has the better PAWN FORMATION. (In fact this position is drawn, but, with a few pieces on for either side Black would be better.)

Now, a few questions where you have to decide what sort of pawn formation you want.

It's White's move in this position.

What would you play?

g2xf3 Qd1-f3

Quite right! You want DOUBLED PAWNS in front of your castled king like a hole in the head.

Which way would you recapture here?

a2xb3 c2xb3

You should definitely take with the a-pawn here.

Three reasons:

1. One PAWN ISLAND, not two.

2. Taking with the c-pawn leaves a BACKWARD PAWN on d3.

3. Taking with the a-pawn leaves your Rook well placed on a HALF-OPEN FILE.


You have now completed the PAWN FORMATIONS assignment.