I was watching a video by NM Dan Heisman and in the video he mentions what is called the Pointing Rule. He also makes mention that like many rules in chess, it should be taken lightly and not followed all the time. He states that the Pointing Rule dictates where you should attack your opponent, so if your pawns are pointing towards the queen side, attack that side and if they are pointing towards the king side, attack that side, but what if they are pointing in two different directions? Besides the Pointing Rule, what other factors should one consider when deciding which side to attack? I have always thought you should attack where they castled. To illustrate the pointing rule, I will make 3 diagrams with some random moves

Both White and Black should attack the King side since both their pawn formations point towards each others king side:

[FEN ""]
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d3 d6

Both White and Black should attack the Queen side since both their pawn formations point towards each others king side:

[FEN ""]
1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f3 f6

The pawns for both sides point in both directions, so where to attack now?:

[FEN ""]
1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.d3 d6 4. f3 f6

2 Answers 2


The examples in your question are not great for this "pointing rule". In general, this rule of thumb only holds when there is a locked pawn structure. In each of the examples, both colors can play for a pawn break by pushing the d pawn.

Here's a better example:

[FEN ""]

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3

Already, the plans for both sides are clear: white must play on the kingside with an eventual f2-f4-f5 push, and black must attack the c and d pawns with moves like Nc6 and Qb6. In general, the extra space can be utilized to maneuver the pieces to support the necessary pawn break or to attack a focal point.

Look at another example from the Bayonet Attack in the King's Indian Defense:

[FEN ""]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Be2 e5 7. O-O Nc6 8. d5 Ne7 9. b4 Ne8 10. a4 f5

Once again, the center pawns show the correct plans for both sides - white defends on the kingside and attacks on the queenside while black goes all out for a kingside attack. White has a huge lead in space - enough to be nearly "positionally winning", however black has sufficient play in the form of the attack and the opening is dynamically balanced and has been seen in top level play over the last few years when black is playing for a win.

  • Thanks Andrew, I wasn't sure what examples to come up with. I just wanted to make some random moves so the were actually pointing.
    – xaisoft
    Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 11:46

The so called Pointing Rule underlines a simple concept: you should attack where you have more space and where you can manouvre freely.

When you "build" a "pawn chain", you can notice some elements:

  1. Bishops and Queen can be developed very quickly with moves that "follow" the chain. On the other hand, "crossing" the chain isn't always possible.
  2. If you advance pawns on the "open side" of the chain, the chain itself doesn't get weak. That's not true on the opposite side, since many pawn moves will weaken the "base" of the chain.

That said, in your last example 1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.d3 d6 4. f3 f6 the formation cannot be considered a "double chain" for both Black and White. Simply, these are not chains. A closed formation like this will get in the way of Bishops and Queens (see point 1) and advancing a pawn on either side can weaken the pawns of the formation (see point 2).

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