As a beginner I'm not spending much time studying openings (there are so many!) but trying to work on opening principles.

One principle I've read is not to move too many pawns in your opening moves.

So, when an opponent opens with a long sequence of pawn moves, I feel like there should be some weakness that I should be exploiting. Instead I ended up feeling extremely cramped. What should you be thinking about if your opponent is only moving pawns?


[White "Me"]
[FEN ""]

1. d4 f5 2. Nf3 e6 3. Bf4 d6 4. e3 h6 5. Bc4 g5 6. Bg3 c6 7. Nc3 a5
  • 5
    You might find ETD's answer to How to deal with an opposing pawn storm? useful, though it's a somewhat different question.
    – Stephen
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 10:27
  • There is a famous old miniature where the winner (Marshall if I remember right) moved nothing but pawns.
    – bof
    Commented Mar 21, 2015 at 11:41
  • White moved too few pawns.
    – limits
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 20:59
  • Despite what I said below, after a full day of grinding, Stockfish finds no advantage for either side, scoring +.5 for white, a typical early game score.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 1:03

6 Answers 6


The thing is, in this example you opponent didn't play all that badly. h6 and g5 looks too risky to me, but blunting your bishop (with d6) and gaining space on the queenside makes some sense. Right now b5 is a threat and you might want to prevent it by playing a4. This would be the positional treatment of the position.

There are two problems with pushing too many pawns in the opening:

The creation of weaknesses: In your example the diagonal h5-e8 is weakened and you should always consider possibilities of bringing a queen to h5.

Neglect of development: But to punish lack of development you have to open the position. This can be done by pawn levers or by piece sacrifices. Or possibly by a combination of both. Now, if you had a pawn on c4 you could play 8.d5 and answer 8…e5 with 9.Nxe5 de 10.Qh5+ and 11.Bxe5. Unfortunately you don't have a pawn on c4 and you only promising pawn lever e4 would lose the Bg3. So you have to go more slowly. Possibly Nd2,f3,e4 is a plan. Maybe after a4.

So, to sum up:

  • If you develop your bishops early, your opponent might get some pawn play against them. (In your example, against both!)

  • You can stop expansion with your own pawns (a4 or h4) and thereby also protect your pieces from a pawnstorm.

  • If your lead in development gets big, search for a way to open the position. Make sure you have a pawn lever (i.e. put enough pawns in the center), consider piece sacrifices.

  • All answer are helpful, but I marked this as accepted because the bullets points are useful generally applicable points to remember for future games (the specific example game itself is long since lost!)
    – Corvus
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 16:34

Yes, you have a cramped position and your game will be difficult if you don't find a solution.

Advanced pawns are generally harder to hold on to. Your opponent has given you many targets and now he'll have to use his minor pieces to protect them. So, task #1 is to attack those pawns. Due to the situation, I am not seeing too many ways to do it right now.

Also, and this is key, look how exposed his King is. As long as your Queen is on the board, he'll never be safe. Be sure to castle to make your king secure.

He's threatening to evict your white-square bishop with b5, gobbling up more space and further compressing you. So your next move needs to do something about it. a4 fights for the b5 square and is attractive.

Maybe it's me, but I don't care too much for your Bf4 and e3 moves. e3 surrendered space for no reason. And you lost a tempo when you had to retreat with Bg3. Your game is fine if you can play e4 to get more space. However, he has Nf6 which defends e4. if you play d4 now, you lose your Bishop after Black plays f4. Further, you have to watch the pawn fork on d5 a few moves in the future. I think e3 is going to haunt you.

EDIT 8/12/2016 This post came back up. I'd already seen that Stockfish didn't rate the initial position as dire as I expected; in fact, Stockfish gave White a small advantage. On a whim, I let Stockfish play the game out at 5 minutes per move. Perhaps it will be instructive.

[FEN ""]

1. d4 f5 2. Nf3 e6 3. Bf4 d6 4. e3 h6 5. Bc4 g5 6. Bg3 c6 7. Nc3 a5 {and now Stockfish takes over}  8.Nd2 Nf6 9.Bd3 Be7 10.h4 g4 11.Ne2 Nh5 12.Bh2 {Suddenly White's Bishops and Knights don't look so bad given the cramped position.} a4 13.c3 d5 14.Qc2 O-O {Black's King's house sure looks drafty...} 15.Nf4 Nxf4 16.Bxf4 h5 17.Nf1 Nd7 18.Ng3 {The thing about advanced pawns is that they have to be defended. This is one of the tenets of Hypermodern philosophy. } Nf6 19.a3 b6 20.O-O-O {When Kings castle on opposite sides the result is rarely a draw. } Qe8 21.f3 c5 22.Bh6 c4 23.Be2 Bd6 (23... Rf7 24.e4 {White's response to this natural-seeming move is to merely tear the center open. Surprise!} dxe4 25.fxe4 b5 26.Rdf1 Ra7 27.exf5 exf5 28.Bd1 Qc6 29.Nxf5 Ne4 30.Nxe7+ Raxe7 31.Bg5 Rb7 32.Rhg1 Bf5 33.Rxf5 Rxf5 34.Re1 Ng3 35.Re3 Qd6 36.Rxg3 Rxg5 37.hxg5 Qxg3 38.Qg6+ Kf8 {This looks dangerous for White to my eye, but Black's exposed King will guarantee he gets no peace, ever, as long as the White Queen is on the board. In fact I think Stockfish takes the draw here.}) 24.Bxf8 Kxf8 25.Nf1 Qg6 26.Kb1 gxf3 27.Bxf3 Bd7 28.g3 b5 29.Rg1 Re8 30.Re1 Ke7 31.Bd1 Kd8 32.Re2 Qh7 33.Ka2 Rg8 34.Reg2 Be8 35.Qf2 Ne4 36.Qe1 Kc7 37.Nd2 Kb6 38.Nf3 Qc7 39.Bc2 Be7 40.Rh1 Bf7 41.Bxe4 dxe4 42.Ng1 Qd7 43.Rd2 Rd8 44.Ne2 Bf8 45.Qf2 Bh6 46.Rhd1 Rg8 47.d5 e5 48.Rf1 Bg6 49.d6 Rd8 50.Ng1 Qc6 51.Rfd1 Rd7 52.Nh3 Qc8 53.Ng5 Qe8 54.g4 hxg4 55.Rd5 Kc6 56.h5 g3 57.Qxg3 Bxh5 58.Rxe5 Qxe5 59.Qxe5 Bxd1 60.Ne6 Bxe3 61.Kb1 Rxd6 62.Nd4+ Bxd4 63.cxd4 Bb3 64.Qc5+ Kd7 65.Qxf5+ Ke7 66.Qh7+ Kd8 67.Qxe4 c3 68.Qa8+ Kc7 69.Qa7+ Kd8 70.Qb8+ Ke7 71.Qc7+ Ke6 72.Qc8+ Ke7 73.bxc3 Bc4 74.Kc2 Rd5 75.Kd1 Rh5 76.Kd2 Be6 77.Qc7+ Kf6 78.Qd6 Kf7 79.Kd3 Rh3+ 80.Kc2 Rh5 81.Qc7+ Kf6 82.Qc6 Ke7 83.Kd2 Bc4 84.Qf3 Bf7 85.Ke3 Kf8 86.Qf4 Ke7 87.Qc7+ Ke8 88.Qc6+ Kd8 89.Qd6+ Ke8 90.Ke4 Rh4+ 91.Kf3 Rh5 92.Kg4 Rd5 93.Qf6 Rh5 94.Qc6+ Ke7 95.c4 bxc4 96.Qxa4 Rd5 97.Qa7+ Kf6 98.Qb6+ Be6+ 99.Kf3 c3 100.Ke2 Ke7 101.Kd3 Rd6 102.Qb7+ Kd8 103.Kxc3 Bc8 104.Qb8 Rd7 105.Qb6+ Ke7 106.a4 Rd6 107.Qc5 Bb7 108.a5 Kd7 109.Qf5+ Kc7 110.Qf4 Kc6 111.Qf7 Rd7 112.Qe6+ Rd6 113.Qe7 Ba6 114.Qa7 Kd5 115.Kb4 Rf6 116.Qe7 Re6 117.Qd7+ Rd6 118.Qf5+ Kc6 119.Qe4+ Kd7 120.Kc5 Re6 121.Qf5 Bd3 122.Qxd3 Rc6+ 123.Kb5 Re6 124.a6 Re8 125.a7 Ke7 126.Qe4+ Kf7 127.Qxe8+ Kxe8 128.a8=Q+ Kf7 129.d5 Kg7 130.d6 Kf6 131.d7 Kg5 132.d8=Q+ Kf4 133.Qh4+ Ke3 134.Qae4+ Kd2 135.Qhe1# *

Sometimes, the opponent can obtain quite a nice position if you let them push you around with pawns, which is what happened here. h6-g5 is an idea in the Dutch, but usually it happens when the white bishop is on g5 instead of f4, when h6 comes without loss of tempo because the bishop has to retreat immediately. You could have punished Black for this by playing 5. h4, stopping g5, and following up with 6. h5 if anything other than 5... g6. Then if Black later 0-0, your kingside attack will be very fast with ideas like g4-g5. You can also think about disrupting Black's development immediately by 7. Nh4 and 8. Ng6.


The problem with your opponent's multi pawn moves is that he has no piece developed, while you have four. If you next play O-O, that makes five. Then you can bring your Q to e2 on move 9, your a-rook to d1 on move 10, and maybe your castled king rook to e1 on move 11, complete your development, and start the middle game with operations on the king side.

One problem with your opponent's pawn moves is that he has weakened his king side by advancing pawns (without putting pieces behind them). With your advantage in development, you welcome this. Once there are some pawn exchanges that create breaches, your pieces will be able to pour through them, and his won't be in a position to defend.

Another possibility is to play 8.Qe2, followed by castles queenside (O-O-O), then play for a kingside break with h4, which also "develops" your h rook. In fact, 8.Qe2 preserves both castling options.


Again I'm late with my answer, which has already been given by others, for example about the 5.h4 idea to stop 5..., g5. In general too many opening pawns moves waste tempi that could be used for development as well as opening lines for enemy attack into your position, as for example a potential White Qh5 move on the kingside in your example. Also, removing the pawn cover in front of a potential castled King position could be dangerous. In your example castling on either side by your opponent would now be risky for him. As someone else has suggested, even piece sacrifices by you now become something to consider when the time appears propitious to capitalize on your opponent's weaknesses that the excessive pawn moves have created. The following brevity that I played many years ago in which my opponent made only initial pawn moves will illustrate some of these ideas

C.Conero vs. Phil Short, 1959
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 h6 4.Nc3 c6 5.d3 a5 6.Be3 b5 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.d4 Be7 9.dxe5 dxe5 10.Nxe5+ Ke6 11.Qg4+! Kxe5 12.Qf4+ Ke6 13.Qf5+ Kd6 14.Bf4#


Spassky gave the advice that against such place you should develop your pieces and strive for central control. Sorry I can't find the quote but he was playing against Petrosian who adopted an opening similar to your opponent.

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