I would like to know why it is so disadvantageous to have an advanced artificially isolated pawn when it can be exchanged by another pawn. I refer to situations where a side cannot mantain such square with a pawn.

Examples: In the Caro-Kann, after 1.e4 c6 2. e5 d6 3.exd6?! What is so wrong with this last move? Is it a matter of tempos (White lost two moves to go to e5 only to be exchanged ) or is there any more fundamental reason? I know that the common thing to do for White is trying moving pawns to d4 (maybe f4, though it d be weakening).

Another example, for instance is when Black c pawn is on c5 (with a White pawn on d4) and then it is pushed to c4 before recommended. Then if White can play b3, Black tries to play b5, a6. Why not simply trade this pawn already?


4 Answers 4


The shortest explanation I can think of: if you play 1.e4 and 2.e5, presumably you want that pawn there for a reason. If you then immediately trade it off, you've lost whatever you were trying to achieve, like maybe space or central control.

In the case with ...c5-c4 followed by b2-b3: again presumably you want that pawn to be there for some reason (queenside space?). If instead you allow simply cxb3 axb3, then:

  • You don't have your pawn anymore
  • White has got rid of his a-pawn in return, rook pawns are least valuable pawns (can only capture one direction)
  • White has freed his a1 rook
  • White still has a single groups of pawns, while yours are split in the a/b pawn "island" and the c/d/e/f/g/h "island".

By adding ...b5/a4/a6/axb5/axb5/bxc4/bxc4 black also frees his rook and gets rid of the a and b pawns that could otherwise become weak later. And the c-pawn that you presumably wanted on c4 to gain space is still there.

However, I disagree that 3.exd6 is bad. White doesn't have good options there. After 1.e4 c6, 2.e5 is a bad move. It can't be maintained there and it doesn't help with the main goals in the opening (development, control of the center, and preventing the other side from achieving those).


To be frank, you hit the nail on the head: "White lost two moves to go to e5 only to be exchanged". After some explanation, in the last paragraph, I will give some basic lines as to why exchanging is probably best already.

White is not developing, and since he cannot maintain the pawn on e5 easily, it is not good. That whole line starting with 2.e5 is also questionable. I have never seen that played, and with good reason.

In your second example, c4 is also not a good move since it also wastes time, and can be attacked at the head with b3 and if b5, then a4.

There was a similar question recently, "Why not 1.d4 Nf6 2.d5?". Again, to move a pawn early in the opening a second time is usually not good, but the underlying question is "can you maintain it there?". If not, it is probably bad. In the 1.d4 Nf6 2.d5? question, I showed that it would come under attack quickly, and could not be maintained. Compare that to normal Benoni 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3. d5. C5 took away one of the potential attackers of d5 by passing that square, and black played a second move also losing a tempo, so it is OK.

In your line 1.e4 c6 2. e5, it is hard to maintain e5 already after d6. E4 is clearly not good after de de Qd1. Nf3 is easy equality for black after de Ne5 Nd7 challenging the Ne5. And f4 just looks horrible positionally.


In chess you want to play for advantage. Your moves may seem playable, but they are far from optimal.

1.e4 c6 2.e5?

Sending a foot soldier beyond the central line ahead of his forces can't be a good strategy. In fact, openings like the Alekhine's 1...Nf6 seek to tempt that pawn forward.

Goals in the opening are typically to occupy and/or control the center. From there you are able to launch attacks at each sector of the board.

Your second example of a c5 pawn going to c4 (not taking the d4 pawn) then trading itself for a b3 pawn:

In essence you are trading your c-pawn for whites a-pawn when the c-pawn should have happily traded for the d-pawn. It is all about the center. If c5-c4 made sense it was to gain something in that region and thus it needs to be maintained with b7-b5 etc.

"Pawns are the soul of chess", They dictate the terrain of the battlefield and should be moved with care.

  1. I have no idea what you mean by "artificially isolated pawn" esp when there is no iso pawn in the pawn structure in the position given.

  2. Black is roughly equal because no matter what white plays d5 is at least equal in the center.

I'll explain it this way: Black is equal because white has no advantage. Why does white have no advantage? Because white wasted two moves.

  • 1
    It is a term which I first heard from PhishMaster. It refers to a pawn whose defense becomes troublesome after advancing it.
    – Maths64
    Oct 21, 2019 at 12:40
  • An isolated pawn is one that can't be defended by other pawns. ie no pawn on either side of it. I would assume "artificial" means a pawn that has other pawns that could theoretically defend it but can't because of the position. Just a guess because I've never heard the term in the literally thousands of books I've read. Still, I don't understand how it applies here.
    – Savage47
    Oct 22, 2019 at 0:16
  • Your guess is right. You cannot easily keep the pawn on e5 in that dubious Caro-Kann line. After 2. ...d6, Black has started to question White what they want to do with that pawn.
    – Maths64
    Oct 22, 2019 at 6:28

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