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In a hypothetical variant of chess, before the start of the game black is allowed to remove one white pawn and one black pawn. Which pawns should they remove? The pawns don't have to be on the same file.

My hope is that the answer should give some insight into opening dynamics and the relative value of pawns in normal chess.

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If you are trying to remove the pawn to cause the most damage to the starting position, I'd go with the f pawn. Since f2/f7 is already a tender spot, as it is only covered by the King in the early parts of the game, it's a bit more likely to cause overall positional damage.

You could make the argument that removing the d or e pawn could be worse, as they are important for central control. However, removing them does add a certain value, in that the pieces can develop more quickly from the starting position.

If you are trying to cause the least damage to your own position, definitely either the a or h pawn. They have the least influence on the board, and there is something to be said for having that open file for the rook.

As to which one to remove...if you followed the above advice and removed the f pawn of your opponent, I'd remove my own a pawn, so that they don't feel comfortable castling on either side of the board.

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    Your answer might be the best one, but anyway I'll give some arguments against it. Couldn't the half open f-file be useful for a white's attack? Perhaps he can play the Evan's gambit against 1...e5 and in some other openings also organize a quick attack against f7. – Dag Oskar Madsen Aug 29 '13 at 13:22
  • There are definitely scenarios where it would be useful, yes. But unless we can come up with something concrete, I'd think objectively starting without the f-pawn would put you at more of a disadvantage against best play than any of the others. – Bort Aug 29 '13 at 13:33
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did the following experiment using Fritz

  1. setup the board at the start and removed one black pawn at a time (a7 --> h7).
  2. the computer evaluation was strongest (for white) when the f7 pawn was removed.

similarly repeated the experiment for white. Again the evaluation was strongest for black when the f2 pawn was removed.

What i found interesting was that there was significant first move advantage for white if the f7 pawn was removed for black and non F file pawn was removed for white.

Please note that these tests were done at very shallow depths.

I guess a strong chess player like yourself can make a better evaluation of these tests.

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As black, I would remove the white f2 pawn and the black e7 pawn. This way, the dark squares around the white king are weakened, while black's dark squared bishop and queen are ready for action. Optionally, I would remove the white g2-pawn and the black h7-pawn. This would leave white with an isolated h-pawn already under attack by the black Rh8. Optionally, I would remove the white d2 or e2 pawn against either of black's h7 or a7 pawns. In this way, white would have traded a center pawn against a flank pawn, which should give black a stronger control in the center.

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