Question: Is there a rule(s) of thumb that every chess player should know about the double pawns?

  • Doubled pawns are not a tactic. – limits Sep 15 '15 at 0:24
  • Ok, thats helpfull. let me try and ask it differently. – Dave Sep 15 '15 at 0:36
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  • What are double pawns? – David Jul 13 at 6:31
  • Because you asked for a rule of thumb, here it is: 'avoid doubled pawns'. Yes, there are exceptions, but especially for beginners, following general rules religiously is better than not following general rules at all. – Joe Jul 14 at 14:31

Since it hasn't been mentioned yet, I will also put that double pawns loses control of the squares infront of them.

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  • ill take note of that as well, thank you cognisMantis. – Dave Sep 18 '15 at 2:35

Bad: They can't defend each other like adjacent pawns can.

Good: They give you an extra open file for your rooks.

Usually the bad outweighs the good, but there are a zillion exceptions. Most beginners are overly afraid of having doubled pawns.

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    haha, your right. I panic like hell if that happens. Mostly for having hardly any knowledge. Time to work on that. thank you for your answer. – Dave Sep 15 '15 at 1:07
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    If you capture towards the center with your c- or f-pawn, it can also help controlling important squares near the center. – Steinar Lima Sep 15 '15 at 15:54
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    If it were down to me, barely worth 1750 FIDE, I would say as a real beginner don't worry about doubled pawns. Instead make sure you don't give away material at each move, learn some of the basic checkmates, make sure you get your pieces out, keep your king covered and on a really good day see if you can make some kind of plan. Doubled pawns are a few levels above. – Ian Bush Sep 17 '15 at 19:27
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    haha, you are spot on ian bush..i move move, then i lost a bishop and a knight. I was really worried my double pawns were the main cause of my misery on board. – Dave Sep 18 '15 at 0:32
  • That is not a really good approach to learning chess and things in general I believe Ian. Double pawns is part of the same game either you are a beginner or not. Beginners lose games because they give away material but also sometimes because of double pawns so that concept affects their games directly. The sooner you get the big picture for chess the sooner you will start improving your game, otherwise if you skip things because mistakenly you think your level is not ready for them you will remain beginner forever. – kostas Sep 30 '15 at 11:53

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.

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  • Thanks again kostas. I made another few notes in my book. – Dave Sep 18 '15 at 0:33

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!

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  • Wouldn't g5, g4, f5 be enough to break through on the kingside? – David Liu Jul 15 at 21:33
  • Well that would attack the pawn on g6, but after exchanges it's completely stuck I am afraid. Important is, black should do nothing and definitely not take on f5. – David Miedema Jul 16 at 22:03
  • Ah that makes complete sense. Thanks for clarifying. – David Liu Jul 16 at 23:50

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.

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  • It is hard to think of a rule that does not have an exception, A strength of doubled pawns, even in pawn endings, is defensive. Suppose your opponent has pawns on the a,b,c files, You have doubled pawns on the b-file. You opponent cannot create a passed pawn without also handing one to you. This may leave you free to play on the k-side. – Philip Roe Jul 13 at 21:01

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 :

  1. Avoid on flank files
  2. Quite valuable to maintain an adjacent pawn.
  3. Advance at least the lead pawn as soon as possible.
    Cramped if they remain on 2nd & 3rd ranks.
  4. Use to support outposts. Occupy adjacent open files with rooks.
  5. Caution trading down. Doubled pawns weak in endgame.

If opponents pawns are doubled :

  1. Blockade with pawn or piece ( Nimzowitsch )
  2. Attack either pawn that is unguarded.
  3. Don't hesitate to trade down.
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