For the Love of Doubled Pawns

Having doubled Pawns in a chess game is rightfully taught as being potentially disadvantageous, and a vital step toward improvement in chess understanding comes from learning how to play against them as a static positional weakness in one’s opponent’s position that has ramifications in the middlegame as well as in the endgame. However, to dive into deeper into the subtlety of chess, it is important to also know of the potential dynamic strengths of owning the doubled Pawns.

For example:

  • If you get doubled Pawns from recapturing toward the center, that may increase central control, which could be very important in the middlegame.
  • If you have doubled Pawns, you have an at least half-open file that you can potentially use for attack by putting Rooks on the file.
  • The front Pawn of the doubled Pawn pair can be used for attack, while the back Pawn of the pair can be used to defend the squares that were otherwise abandoned when the front Pawn moved forward.

Examples of the power of doubled Pawns

Bent Larsen was a great chess player who was famous for playing in unusual styles. One thing that he seemed to do often was invite having doubled Pawns and then making use of them effectively. Here are two games showing off how to make doubled Pawns effective. Notice that the doubled Pawns enabled setting up a “wall” behind which gradual positional maneuvering and improvement of pieces was possible while waiting for the opponent to go astray. Playing with doubled Pawns often takes patient regrouping.

Franklin Chen

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About Franklin Chen

Franklin Chen is a United States Chess Federation National Master. Outside his work as a software developer, he also teaches chess and is a member of the Pittsburgh Chess Club in Pennsylvania, USA. He began playing in chess tournaments at age 10 when his father started playing in them himself but retired after five years, taking two decades off until returning to chess as an adult at age 35 in order to continue improving where he left off. He won his first adult chess tournaments including the 2006 PA State Game/29 and Action Chess Championships, and finally achieved the US National Master title at age 45. He is dedicated to the process of continual improvement, and is fascinated by the practical psychology and philosophy of human competition and personal self-mastery. Franklin has a blog about software development, The Conscientious Programmer and a personal blog where he writes about everything else, including his recent journey as an adult improver in playing music.