How do I decide what color squares to place my pawns on?

I often hear people say "I have my pawns on the dark/light squares like I'm supposed to" or something similar. I have no idea what actually dictates which squares to try to place your pawns though. Does it depend on the bishops the opponent has or doesn't have or is it more in relation to the opponents pawn structure? Or is it something else completely?

• "Update the question so it focuses on one problem only." It does focus on one problem. It just happens to be a complex problem with many situations....that is chess! Stop closing questions willy-nilly. Reopen. Feb 1, 2020 at 10:31
• disagree. it is nonsense. depends on the opening. pawn structure is more important than color of squares. Feb 1, 2020 at 14:17
• @edwinaoliver not sure why you consider it nonsense, even just an answer saying "it depends on the opening for these reasons..." can be very helpful for someone like me who is still learning the aspects of this game. Like I said in my question (before edits), I've watched videos and streams of super GMs who will mention the color of their pawns' squares and how it is right or wrong. I am sure there are others who, like me, have wondered what makes this true and may not know if that is a simple or very complicated question. Asking on a chess Q&A forum seems like the perfect place to be. Feb 2, 2020 at 19:50
• I consider the color of the square nonsense. You pick formations that fit the position best no matter what color squares they are on. The question also implies that they are all on one color which rules out many useful pawn formations. Feb 2, 2020 at 19:51
• Those comments may be made in context of the preferred opening by the person who said it. Sometimes the pawns are side by side on different colors and that is often more better than a chain depending on the position. Feb 2, 2020 at 20:00

This is a very complicated subject since there are a lot of other factors that come into play so I will give some examples, but there are no general rules that apply in all circumstances.

First, let's take this common opening structure from the Slav. In this equal position, black wanted in imbalance, and traded off the light-squared bishop, so in order to keep some control of the light squares, he played e6. In addition to wanting to keep some control of the light squares, it also does not contribute to potentially making the Bf8 bad later.

`````` [FEN ""]

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 Bg4 5. h3 Bxf3 6. Qxf3 e6
``````

Next, lets talk about an endgame position with a bishop versus a knight or a same-colored bishop. In general, you do not want to put pawns on the same color of the bishop as that makes the bishop "bad". A bad bishop lacks scope due to its own pawns, and in addition, it often leads to zugswang.

Here is a position that is equal, but one bad move putting a pawn on the same color as the bishop, and it is over. In addition to limiting the Bf8, it weakened the light squares, and in many positions, it might have given white another target to attack.

`````` [FEN "5b2/3kpp2/1p1p4/5P2/3K2P1/1PP3B1/8/8 b - - 0 0"]

1... f6 \$4 2. Kd5 Bh6 3. Bf2 Kc7 4. c4 Bf4 5. Ke6 Kd8 6. Bxb6+
``````

An exception might be if all the pawns are compact, and you want a draw. Consider this position where black plays e5, but then can put the king on the unassailable e6 square. Even losing f6 here would lead to a draw.

`````` [FEN "8/4k3/4pp2/8/4P2B/2b2P2/8/5K2 b - - 0 1"]

1... e5 2. Ke2 Ke6
``````

Next, let's talk about opposite colored bishops. In general, if you are winning, you want your pawns on the opposite color as your bishop, but often if you are worse, it is fine to put the pawns on the same color as the bishop since they cannot be attacked by two pieces.

Note in this ending how white advances the pawns, but always only when they can both stay on the light squares.

`````` [FEN "8/8/3k4/1b6/3PP3/4K3/8/4B3 w - - 0 0"]

1. Bb4+ Ke6 2. d5+ Ke5 3. Bc3+ Kd6 4. Kd4 Be2 5. e5+ Kd7 6. e6+ Ke7 7. Ke5 Kd8 8. d6 Bb5 9. Ba5+ Ke8 10. Kd5 Ba4 11. Kc5 Kf8 12. d7 {and queens}
``````

This last one is an example of the latter type discussed above. Black is worse, and has multiple ways to draw, but the immediate f5 makes it virtually impossible for white to win, let alone attack any of the black pawns. At best, they will trade some, and black will sacrifice the bishop for the last pawn.

`````` [FEN "8/4kp2/2b1p3/8/8/4B1P1/3KPP2/8 b - - 0 1"]

1... f5
``````

Summing up, and these are VERY general rules, most of the time, you want the pawns on the opposite color of your bishop, or if you are going to trade a bishop, trade the one that is of the same color as most of your pawns. Occasionally, you may find positions where you are worse, but the bishop can defend everything well if the pawns are on the same color, especially in opposite-colored-bishop endings, but if they are not opposite colored, you must look out for positions that are ripe for zugswang, so be VERY careful breaking the first rule about putting them opposite your bishop.

Lastly, in opposite-colored-bishop endings, if you are winning, keep them on the opposite color of your bishop, or they will be easily blockaded, but if you are worse, and trying to draw, often you can create a fortress by putting them on the same color as the bishop.

• Personally, I still do not think you should edit unless the English is just not correct, or clear. You deleted a lot of what the OP was saying. Feb 1, 2020 at 1:19
• @lukehod, if you have any other questions about my answer, I will gladly answer them, and add any examples that might clarify it. Feb 1, 2020 at 1:20
• @PhishMaster welcome to my world. in this case though the question is nonsense. but too many others get closed that are just whims by the people who like closing questions cause they can. Feb 1, 2020 at 14:20
• @PhishMaster incredibly helpful thank you. I'm sure I have many other questions I could ask, but are there any resources you would recommend on learning correct pawn structure and movement principals? Feb 2, 2020 at 19:51
• @lukehod, unfortunately, they are all over the place. I cannot say that I learned them in any one place. I would suggest starting with the endgame, and look at a lot of bishop endings, same color, bad bishop, opposite-colored bishop endings. As you start getting a better sense there, and compare them to the rules I gave above, you will then have a better idea of what you want to do earlier in the game. Feb 2, 2020 at 20:05