Doubled pawns

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a b c d e f g h
8
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e8 black king
c7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
b6 black pawn
e6 black pawn
h6 black pawn
b5 white pawn
e5 white pawn
h5 white pawn
b4 white pawn
c4 white pawn
g4 white pawn
e3 white pawn
e1 white king
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6 6
5 5
4 4
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2 2
1 1
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White's pawns on the b-file and on the e-file are doubled

In chess, doubled pawns are two pawns of the same color residing on the same file. Pawns can become doubled only when one pawn captures onto a file on which another friendly pawn resides. In the diagram, the pawns on the b-file and e-file are doubled. The pawns on the e-file are doubled and isolated.

In most cases, doubled pawns are considered a weakness due to their inability to defend each other. This inability, in turn, makes it more difficult to achieve a breakthrough which could create a passed pawn (often a deciding factor in endgames). In the case of isolated doubled pawns, these problems are only further aggravated. Several chess strategies and openings are based on burdening the opponent with doubled pawns, a strategic weakness.

There are, however, cases where accepting doubled pawns can be advantageous because doing so may open up a file for a rook, or because the doubled pawns perform a useful function, such as defending important squares. Also, if the opponent is unable to effectively attack the pawns, their inherent weakness may be of little or no consequence. There are also a number of openings that accept doubled pawns in exchange for some prevailing advantage, such as the Two Knights Variation of Alekhine's Defence.


Tripled and quadrupled pawns[edit]

Tripled pawns
Kavalek–Fischer, Sousse interzonal 1967
a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
a8 black rook
c8 black bishop
e8 black king
h8 black rook
e7 black bishop
a6 black pawn
c6 black pawn
e6 black pawn
e5 black pawn
h5 black pawn
a4 black queen
c4 white pawn
e4 black pawn
b3 white rook
a2 white pawn
d2 white queen
e2 white bishop
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
f1 white rook
g1 white king
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6 6
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2 2
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Position after 19...fxe4
Quadrupled pawns
Kovacs–Barth, Balatonbereny 1994
a b c d e f g h
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c6 black knight
g6 black king
h6 black pawn
c5 white pawn
c4 white pawn
d4 white bishop
h4 white king
c3 white pawn
c2 white pawn
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Final position, Black to move, draw

It is possible to have tripled pawns (or more). The diagram shows a position from the Lubomir Kavalek versus Bobby Fischer game in the 1967 Sousse interzonal. The pawns remained tripled at the end of the game on move 28 (a draw).

Quadrupled pawns occurred in the game Alexander Alekhine versus Vladimir Nenarokov in 1907, in John van der Wiel versus Vlastimil Hort in 1981, and in other games. The longest lasting case of quadrupled pawns was in the game Kovacs versus Barth in 1994, lasting 23 moves.[1] The final position was drawn, demonstrating the weakness of the extra pawns (see diagram).

Types of doubled pawns[edit]

a b c d e f g h
8
Chessboard480.svg
e8 black king
b7 black pawn
a6 black pawn
e6 black pawn
f6 black pawn
h6 black pawn
b3 white pawn
c3 white pawn
f3 white pawn
h3 white pawn
b2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
e1 white king
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5 5
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Different types of doubled pawns (from Berliner)

There are different types of doubled pawns (see diagram). A doubled pawn is weak because of four considerations:

  1. lack of mobility
  2. inability to act as a normal pawn
  3. likelihood that it cannot be exchanged for an opposing normal pawn
  4. vulnerability to attack, as the front pawn cannot be defended from behind by a rook

The doubled pawns on the b-file are in the best situation, the f-file pawns are next. The h-file pawns are in the worst situation because two pawns are held back by one opposing pawn, so the second pawn has little value (Berliner 1999:18–20). See Chess piece relative value for more discussion.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ longest quadrupled pawns

References[edit]