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I am not a very strong positional player and I thought I could work on my pawn theory a bit. Are there common exercises or internet resources I could look into for how to play better pawn structures as well as make better pawn breaks?

4 Answers 4

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Pawn Structure Chess by Andrew Soltis is a good book for start.

It teaches you how to play as Black and White in the following positions:

  1. French defense-Advance variation
  2. Caro-Kann pawn structure-including Panov attack
  3. Slav defense
  4. Open Sicilian defense and English opening
  5. Closed Sicilian defense and English opening
  6. King's Indian defense
  7. Dutch "Stonewall"

To this day I was not able to find a better book written for this topic-it is clearly written and covers most of the important pawn structures.

I would highly appreciate if other members can point out some other good books for this topic.

Give it a chance-I am 100% certain that you will not regret it.

Best regards.

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  • Reading this book now. It is very informative.
    – user28823
    Jan 19, 2014 at 7:47
  • @user28823: I told you it is pure gold! I am so glad I have helped! Good luck! Best regards. Jan 19, 2014 at 13:24
  • Updating. per the same Wikipedia page that used Soltis as basis for its presentation, I found that it has change recently, augmenting the opening tree transversal view of which openings get to visit which Pawn structure. A new reference added besides Soltis, is this book: Chess Structures – a Grandmaster Guide. Flores Rios, Mauricio (2015). I would just add for the op, that those PSs are about middlegame plans (and those also tie to endgame plans consequences). They happen early in the game is my point, not endgame pawn battles. I am also working on "my" pawns, but any phase.
    – dbdb
    Oct 20, 2023 at 3:32
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Two other great books include

While these books are fantastic places to read about pawn play, they are hard to read if you're just getting started with pawn structures / strategy (where you usually will get overloaded with a ton of information without the kind of context that experienced players have to make sense of all the wonderful things that are said!)

So you might want to get your feet wet with NM Dan Heisman's famous Novice Nook articles which include some very easy-to-read instructional pieces on pawn breaks / weaknesses and more importantly, how weak players misuse their pawns.

Some key articles in this assortment include:

For added fun, grab a friend and practice Michael Goeller's Pawn Battle mini-game. It teaches you some fairly rudimentary ideas about pawn breaks, breakthrough sacrifices and zugzwang.

Another worthy pay-for resource are chess.com's chess mentor lessons and videos by some excellent GMs/FMs/IMs (especially IM Danny Rensch whose lectures on different pawn structures are very thorough and entertaining)

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  • Pawn battle game looks fun
    – user28823
    Jan 19, 2014 at 7:50
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over 2 years too late to the party, but Axel Smith's 'Pump Up Your Rating' has a wonderful section dedicated to pawn levers. Such a great book!

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Chess Structures – a Grandmaster Guide. Flores Rios, Mauricio (2015)

See my comment in the answer citing Soltis, above by AlwaysLearningNewStuff. I am not sure where is best, as this seems to be same level and purpose as the Soltis book cited, about Pawn structures that matter and can be seen in early phases of the game.

While the other answer is more specifically on endgame problems, and explicitly named endgame positions (e.g Philidor, Lucena) not as abstracted pawn structures, as above. Those are abstracting the rest of the material present on the position they are pointing to, as grouping the associated plans possible for all positions with similar pawn placements over whole board (left to experience, what similar might mean), which includes many placements for the other material types, not specified by the diagrams presented with the name of the structure.

I do think, that once one self assess own difficulty with pawns, that even endgame with pawns, or mini-games with pawns can also serve as possible basis for generalization to positions with similar pawn relative placement as those studies in endgames, but with other material on board as well, as elements of planning to stitch with other plans or differentially evaluate them. In that sense, endgame problems or study is not just about practical endgame winning.

Once one accept the notion of generalization and position abstractions, as objective of learning, I think that it does not matter that much to attach a specific phase. It might just be semantics. But I think that the mindset of calling it "endgame" pawn studies, might limit which endgame problems are worth studying, as they would have to be likely practical endgames, neglecting other problems that would stretch the learning of pawn mechanics that could generalize elsewhere.

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