In this Hanging Pawns video, Mr. Tomic around 1:40, makes a statement, “White actually wasted three tempi to play e4, d4 and e5 so this takes away a tempo for White in exchange for a sacrificed pawn…” I don’t understand. Why are the tempi wasted? Like, White has good control over d6 and more space even though the centre is damaged. In general, I had thought that a series of moves like Bf5 and then Bc8 was what losing a tempo meant. Can someone help me here?

2 Answers 2


Why are the tempi wasted?

They were not strictly speaking wasted, they were spent and when White played dc they were exchanged. It is tempting to suggest that Tomic's mother tongue is not English and that he misspoke. However I think he is making a subtle point.

White has spent 3 tempi (e4, d4, e5) on building an impressive center. When Black plays c5 White has a choice. Play something like c3 and preserve the center or take the free pawn when the previously impressive center crumbles away to almost nothing.

This is the sense in which Tomic is saying the moves were "wasted". The impressive center those moves built has gone. However in return White has an extra pawn. They weren't so much wasted as the strong center was exchanged for an extra pawn.


Normally we say a player is losing a tempo in the opening when he's doing a move doesn't help development. Most players wouldn't call those moves "wasted" tempi, since they do indeed help with development. They're not development moves themselves so that's probably where the author is coming from, but they open up options for the bishops.

The only move which could perhaps be considered a wasted tempo is e5, but it still helps White get more space. Note that Black's moves weren't developping moves either

Anyway I wouldn't overthink it too much. How the position was reached or what the current "tempo count" doesn't really matter (specially with this kind of locked central structure). We should focus instead on the resulting position and the plans available for each side. The effectiveness of those plans and the actions the opponent can take against them is what will determine the evaluation of the position.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.