Question: Are there rules of thumb that every chess player should know about the double pawns?
Isolated double pawns are considered as weakness in general except rare occasions where they play a crucial role in defending important squares. There is no general rule of pawn islands with double pawns close to the centre and each case should be analyzed separately. These pawns are not considered as a weakness since they can either establish a strong centre or can be un-doubled easily.
There are two important things to note about doubled pawns.
1: They are good at defense.
2: They are bad at moving forward.
[fen "8/5p2/6p1/ppp5/5PP1/1P4P1/1P6/8 w - - 0 1"]
In this diagram from A practical guide to Rook endgames by Nikolay Minev. The author shows that on the kingside the extra doubled pawn is a weakness because White is not able to break through at any point. Highlighting their inability to play aggressively.
On the queenside however, the black pawns can get attacked more easily. What's more, when black plays either ...c4 or ...a4 white exchanges a pawn and black is left with weaker split pawns as a result. This underlines the defensive capability of doubled pawns.
So go forth and double your pawns if you know you are defending on that side!
Excellent discussion of doubled pawns by Gserper on chess.com Nov 2012. Botvinnik was first World-class player who liked doubled pawns. Kasparov noted Botvinnik loved to grab the center and was not hesitant to use doubled pawns to achieve that. He doubled pawns on central files, viz. c, d, e, f , never on extreme flank files. He usually advanced at least the lead pawn early. The pawns were used to control central squares and support outposts.
If your pawns may be doubled :
- Avoid on flank files
- Quite valuable to maintain an adjacent pawn.
- Advance at least the lead pawn as soon as possible.
Cramped if they remain on 2nd & 3rd ranks.
- Use to support outposts. Occupy adjacent open files with rooks.
- Caution trading down. Doubled pawns weak in endgame.
If opponents pawns are doubled :
- Blockade with pawn or piece ( Nimzowitsch )
- Attack either pawn that is unguarded.
- Don't hesitate to trade down.
Yes, there is a rule(s) of thumb that every chess player should know about doubled pawns.
Avoid double pawns in pawn endings.
Double pawns prevent the ability for a pawn majority to create passed pawns in a pawn ending against perfect play. This is because the side without a doubled pawn will be able to create a passed pawn with their majority and the side with the doubled pawn will not (against perfect play).
Whereas most rule(s) of thumb concerning doubled pawns aren't necessarily critical (e.g. double pawns can open files, double pawns can strengthen influence in the center (see Botvinnik-Sorokin 1931), etc), not following the above rule of thumb can lose you the game. Therefore, every chess player should know this rule of thumb about doubled pawns.