I am having trouble deciding whether I should allow getting an isolated by pushing d5. For instance, this is one of many such positions:

[FEN "rn1q1rk1/pp2bppp/2ppbn2/8/2PP4/2N2N2/PP2BPPP/R1BQK2R w KQkq - 0 1"]

Right away, I can tell that I control more space with such an advance, and I also force my opponent's light-colored bishop to retreat.

Furthermore, I get another open file, but still that does not convince me.
In theory, the isolated pawn should enable me to have a dangerous attack on the kingside but my bishops are not occupying any terrific squares. Another reason which deterred me from playing d5 is that this pawn would become very vulnerable.

After forcing the e6 bishop to c8, I think that I am only forcing Black to fianchetto their bishop, which would exert pressure on the isolated pawn.

All in all, I am not sure how to tell which factors outweigh the others in the push of the d5 pawn so I can decide if such move is correct or not.

  • By the way, Stockfish 10 gives a 0.56 advantage to White after d5, after searching to a depth of 38. It continues 1. d5 cxd5 2. cxd5 Bf5 3. O-O Re8 4. Re1 h6 5. Nd4 Bh7 6. Bd3 Nbd7 7. Bxh7+ Kxh7 8. Be3 a6 9. Nf3 Rc8 10. Bd4 b5 11. a3 Kg8 12. Qd2 Qc7 13. Nh4 Bf8 14. Nf5 Ne5 15. Ne3 Qb7 16. Rad1 g6 17. h3 Bg7 18. b3 Ned7 19. Ng4 Nxg4 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. Rxe8 Rxe8. Sep 4, 2019 at 7:18
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    I wonder how this position came to be in the first place because it looks like white has made 7 moves so far (c4,d4,e3,exd4,Nc3,Nf3,Be2) while black made 8 moves (c6,d6,e5,exd4,Nf6,Be7,Be6,O-O). Are the moves up to this position available? Sep 4, 2019 at 12:32
  • The link of the game is: lichess.org/fqUkvFvz6f5P
    – Maths64
    Sep 4, 2019 at 16:36

4 Answers 4


Your understanding and judgment about a couple of things is way off.

First, you really need to understand that all isolated pawns are not created equal. If it were on an open file, then you need to worry about it becoming a weakness more (frontal attack by rooks, in particular), but here, because after d5 cd; cd it is shielded by the pd6, it is hard for black to attack d5, let alone win it. Also, again, you are mistaking the famous "isolani" positions, which is an isolated d-pawn on the open file, which can often go to d5 and create k-side chances. This is not that position. This gains space, which in some types of positions can lead to an attack if the center is closed, but here, although I like d5, there are too many open lines in the middle to hope that a k-side attack will work.

I like d5 because it gains more space, and you will have the excellent d4 square for the Nf3 after you finish developing a bit more. That is a tangible and relatively permanent plus in your position.

If you do not do it now, black should play d5, and the position is closer to level. It is now, or never, and you are not losing anything on your development because black has to move the B twice also.

Positions like this typically will come down to who can seize the e-file. Even though the c-file is also open, in practice, it is not as important as the e-file. If you can double rooks, and black cannot oppose them, often due to his pieces tripping over each other in the lack of space, you will win. Also, then, and only then, you may be able to execute that k-side attack with Re3-g3 or h3.

Also, after d5 cd; cd, there is no really good square for the B to go to. c8 undevelopes it, d7 and the Q or N also want that square. f5, and Nd4 will come with tempo. g4, and white will play h3 and either gain the B pair, or at least gain luft with tempo.

Lastly, I also noticed that black's q-side will be vulnerable after the B goes to e3. For the Ra8 to move, then a6 will need to be played, and then maybe Nc4-b6 might happen. Also, if Na6-c5, black might try to secure the N with a5, and then b5 could lead to something.

All, and all, as a Master for 34 years, I really like d5.

The following is in response to the question below. It was too long to just add in as a comment.

First, let’s discuss the idea of Bc8 with b6 and Bb7. It is very bad for the following reasons: You are talking about spending three moves to reposition the B to b7, and you weaken c6, which white will get to soon. Nd4 supported by an eventual Rc1, and then the N will go to c6 severely cramping black. A white Nc6 will be absolutely intolerable, so you will be forced to spend yet another move to trade the Bb7 off for it. This will create a strong passed pawn for white on c6, and it will then expose the black pd6, which will then be on an open file, and possibly give white use of d5 for a piece, although there is no immediately good piece that could go there. Of course, white will not play Nc6 until he is sure that it will not simply be lost. In addition, all these moves are sure to put you way behind in development.

This Nd4-c6 idea protected by a pd5 is a very common idea, and compare it to Yusupov-Kuzmin 1981 (PGN below). Go through that game around the move 15.Ne5. The threat of e5 forced black to take drastic measures, but try to make other reasonable moves, and see just how much that N hinders black, and look at what happens when he takes it because he cannot tolerate it. Neither is a good option.

I do not like the B going to g4 because as white I am happy for you to trade it off on f3 giving me the two Bs. Also, if I do not lose a tempo playing h3 (“luft”, which is German for air, meaning you will not be able to backrank mate me later), which will probably be helpful later, that is another small plus. Chess is a game of accumulating small plusses at least when playing similarly-rated opponents. I am also a very positional player, and like closed and semi-closed positions, so that type of position is right up my alley. I am willing to make your position uncomfortable, and wait for you to crack.

This game comes from the 11/26/2008 version of ChessBase.

[Title "Artur Jussupow-Gennadi  Kuzmi, Moscow, URS Team Tournament-ch15 Final A Tournament, 5/16/1981"]
[FEN ""]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. cxd5 Nxd5 5. e4 Nxc3 6. bxc3 Bg7 7. Nf3 O-O 8. Be2 c5 9. O-O Nd7 10. Bg5 cxd4 11. cxd4 Nf6 12. Qd3 b6 13. Rac1 Bb7 14. d5 Qd7 15. Ne5 Qd6 16. Nc6 Qd7 17. e5 Nxd5 18. Nxe7+ Kh8 19. Bf3 Rae8 20. Rfd1 Rxe7 21. Bxe7 Qxe7 22. Bxd5 Rd8 23. Qb3 Bxd5 24. Rxd5 Rxd5 25. Qxd5 Bxe5 26. g3 Bd6 27. Qd4+ Qe5 28. Rd1 1-0
  • Good remark! It's really amazing how people often get confused between a generic isolated pawn and that very particular pawn structure!
    – David
    Sep 4, 2019 at 9:02
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    @PhishMaster. Thanks for your detailed answer. I am wondering if after the bishop retreat to c8, isn’t the b7 a good square for it after fianchettoing? Or is this only inconvenient because it takes up many turns to be done? Plus, I am not sure about why going to g4 is that bad. After h3, White is not kicking that bishop away unless g4 is played and in doing so, incurring in a permanent weakness in White’s kingside.
    – Maths64
    Sep 4, 2019 at 18:44
  • Agree. Using a lower-value piece (pawn) to "kick" a higher-value piece (bishop) which has no really good square to flee to, is the decisive factor here. The d6 pawn's existence is a big factor too. Besides blocking any open-file threat to d5, d6 is also blocking in e7.
    – Jeff Y
    Sep 4, 2019 at 20:52
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    Nice edit @Rewan Demontay adding the board to read the PGN I posted. Thank you! Sep 4, 2019 at 22:26
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    @PhishMaster, Thanks a lot for your extremely helpful update to the answer.
    – Maths64
    Sep 5, 2019 at 6:34

While the push could result in an isolated pawn, it would saddle Black with an isolated pawn as well. Furthermore, this Black pawn would make your own isolated pawn less vulnerable than most isolated pawns. It couldn't be attacked from straight ahead and doesn't provide a nice blockade square for an enemy piece. Furthermore, the Black isolated pawn cramps its position. In the long term, your isolated pawn might be more vulnerable than Black's, but if you are going for an attack the extra space could be worth it. That doesn't mean that you should push the pawn here. I would probably just castle since I'm a wimp who likes to think about my own safety before worrying about storming my opponent's kingside.

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    I agree with your analysis, but I would probably push, since after 1. 0-0 black has 1...d5 and white doesn't the opportunity anymore.
    – Akavall
    Sep 3, 2019 at 18:34

It looks like a d5 push is premature.

Keep in mind is that you have not completed development. You correctly noted that your bishops are not at terrific squares. Besides, your rooks are also not ready. Castle, develop the dark-squared bishop, position rooks. Only then consider the push.

  • 2
    Why is it premature? How would Black counter it? There will be no push to consider if you allow ...d5 to be played. Furthermore, pushing the pawn right now won't delay your development, as you are doing it gaining a tempo
    – David
    Sep 4, 2019 at 9:00

In general, isolated pawns aren't necessarily bad. I've been studying the Alapin sicilian recently (from the black side) and I'm amazed at how much activity white has. I thought it would be very fairly easy to equalize but stockfish keeps coming up with idea after idea. Every time I think I have it beat there's some new crushing line that I missed. i recommend trying that if you want to learn about IQP. Prove that black is equal in the Alapin. Whether or not you succeed you'll learn a lot.

More specifically, the line you gave isn't a true IQP position. I often read in books the comparison of an IQP to a "battering ram" smashing its way through the opponent's structure. That's not happening here. Everything is situational.

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