If Black has castled kingside and White castled queenside or kingside, and White wants to launch an attack by a pawn storm. How do you know that you should start with h4 first or g4 first? I know that it depends on the pawn structure of Black.

1) Black can have a kings-indian or dragon sicilian setup around the king (Bishop on g7, knight on f6, and pawns on f7 g6 h7). In these examples, how should white start the pawn storm

[fen "rnbq1r2/pp2ppbk/2pp1npp/8/2PPP3/2N1BP2/PP1Q2PP/R3KBNR w KQ - 2 9"]

[fen "r1bqr1k1/pp2ppbp/2np1np1/8/3NP3/2N1BP2/PPPQ2PP/2KR1B1R w - - 6 10"]

[fen "r1bq1rk1/p4p1p/2p1p1p1/3n4/3Q4/2N2P2/PPP3PP/2KR1B1R w - - 0 14"]

2) A QGD pawn setup (knight on f6, pawns on f7 g7 h7).

In this example where black committed g6, how should white start the pawn storm?

[fen "r3r1k1/pp2bp1p/4pnpB/q3N3/2Pp1Q2/8/PP3PPP/3RR1K1 w - - 4 20"]

If Black plays pawn to h6 to defend, then with which pawn should White start the attack? g4 or h4? And if Black doesn't move the pawns (pawns on f7 g7 h7), then how should white start the pawn storm?

  • 6
    Since the pawn is on g6 in all of these examples, I'd say that the h4 push is more effective in most of these cases. This is because the g6 pawn is what is known as a 'hook' in the position, meaning that it's a more exposed point in the kingside pawn chain than the other pawns. Also worth mentioning is that a g4 push means that black can sacrifice a piece for the pawn on g4 to get play against the pawn on e4 in some rare cases, so this always needs to be taken into consideration. In the last position though I'd probably just go g4-g5, since the pawn on f7 is a serious weak point.
    – Scounged
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 21:46
  • 2
    @Scounged And we should play g4 when Black plays h6 (and the rest of the pawns are on f7 and g7) because h6 now is the hook? And for the first example we have both h6 and g6 as hooks, so how do you choose between h4 and g4 in this case?
    – Guess601
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 22:44
  • 1
    @Scounged Moreover, the second position is a theoretical position in dragon sicilian, and the best move is g4. Why g4 is better than h4 here?
    – Guess601
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 22:52
  • 1
    These points are quite valid. Indeed, a g4-g5 push is quicker and harder to handle for black in the case of an h6 'hook'. But as you note, it's not always just about where the hook is, sometimes you need to push g4 with a g6 hook to gain control over the h5 square as indicated in the answers below. As for why g4 is better than h4 in the dragon position, I'd reckon it is because it denies black's knight access to h5, from where it may get to g3 which could cause some issues for white. As for the first example, it may be an idea to 'wait and see' before committing to anything.
    – Scounged
    Commented May 21, 2020 at 8:30

3 Answers 3


Typically you use a pawn storm to exchange pawns around the castled enemy king and thereby to open lines and diagonals for an attack. Most of the time you want a closed (to some extent) center in order to avoid counterplay in the center.

In this sense your example 4 is not a typical use case for a pawn storm. It might make sense to push the pawns here as well, but the reason for that are concrete tactical motifs. E.g. by playing g4-g5 you seem to force black to exchange the bishop for the knight after which there are ideas with Qg7 mate...

Other than that, it depends a lot on the actual position.

A typical defensive strategy is to block the advancing pawns, thereby halting the pawn storm. In your first example you need to consider that if you play g5 black can block with h5, if you play h5, black can block with g5. To break such blockades, you could consider piece sacrifices (for a pawn or two) or what options you have by pushing the f pawn.

In your second example, if you play g5, black can block with Nh5. In your third example, playing first g4 leaves you with lots of weak dark squares that are eyed by the black queen and knight. Playing first h4 here seems like a much better choice (if you had to decide between g4 or h4).

Some general guidelines (but as mentioned above, don't follow these blindly) depending on the opponent's pawn structure (of course the same applies to exchanged colors):

Pawns on f7-g7-h7

  • typically broken by playing g6 supported by a pawn from h5. See English attack in the Najdorf Sicilian.
  • You could also attack with h6, but this really only makes sense if you can make use of the dark squares, e.g. if you have a queen, dark squared bishop... that can enter via the a1-h8 diagonal or if you have a knight that could use the outpost that forms on f6.

Pawns on f7-g6-h7

  • Break with h5. Most of the time you want rooks on the h-file for the attack, when the h-file opens. See Yugoslav attack in the Sicilian Dragon.
  • Need to consider whether black can close the position with g5 after you play h5. Therefore in some cases, white wants to play g5 before h5.

Pawns on f7-g6-h6

  • This is a flexible setup for black, because whether you play h5 or g5, black can always block replying g5 or h5 respectively.
  • One idea to break it is with a pawn on f4, so as white you aim for h5 but have a pawn on f4 (ready or can play later) in order to prevent the blocking with g5.
  • Another idea to break it is tactically. Often you end up with such positions, like in your first example, with Qd2, Be3 and Kh7. A typical tactical idea then is to play Ng5 with a white pawn on h4 and a rook on h1. If black takes the pawn hxg5, white opens the h-file with hxg5 check which very often is deadly.

Pawns on f6-g7-h7

  • You'd go for the f6 pawn by playing g5. Need to consider, whehter black can reply with f5 after which there is not much of an attack.
  • Sometimes you could follow up with h5-h6 with the idea that the g7 pawn moves and cannot recapture on f6.
  • See attacks against the Sämisch in the Kings Indian. (i.e. pawn storm by black)

As mentioned these don't work all the time and depend on the concrete position. If you consider the potential for blocking the pawn advance, by closing the structure, which pawn to push often comes naturally.

I'd recommend to look at some of these attacks in actual games. You can use the openings mentioned above as a guideline.


The main purpose of a pawn storm is to exchange pawns and open lines. Therefore, in the ideal case you should push the pawn that can easily be exchanged. With a Black pawn on g6, it makes sense to play h4-h5. The only way White's g-pawn could be directly exchanged would be if Black had a pawn on h6 (as is the case in your first diagram).

However, g4 can be useful if control of the h5-square is needed. For example, in some cases Black may consider meeting h4 with ...h5. So in the second diagram, playing both g4 and h4 makes sense. However, in the third diagram Black's control over h5 is weak, so just pushing h4 is best.

In the final diagram, White should just play h4, although perhaps not with the immediate intention of getting h5 in. The pawn could remain on h4 in order to clamp down on the g5-square; or, maybe White could try g4+h5 later on. I would be a bit more hesitant about pushing g4 here, since White's king is on the kingside.


I'd play h4 in positions 3 and 4, without losing the g4 tmepo. As for 1 and 2, I'd follow the same criteria except if Black's ...h5 reaction is strong enough to give me a reason to play g4

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