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Pawn Structures

Common pawn structures: themes and plans

Vanished center The placing of the pieces and/or a development advantage will decide if the game has any real meat.
QP center The open e-file and outpost at e5 (e4) may become crucial if pieces are allowed to settle there. The natural break c2-c4 does little to add tension, unless castling is performed on opposite sides; the Q-side is then risky with outpost at c5.
KP center Assuming King's-side castling, the break f2-f4 is much sharper
Symmetrical Four Pawns (KP forward) White can prepare the advance d2-d4 with c2-c3, or go for f2-f4. Black may try to prevent this e.g. h7-h6 and g7-g5, or go for broke on the Queen's-side.
Symmetrical Four pawns (QP forward) The advance e2-e4 is more difficult to achieve than d4 in the KP forward version; the more common plan is c2-c4 and a shift of the struggle to the Queen's-side. If for some reason c2-c4 is impossible or undesirable, then e2-e4 must be sought.
Advanced fixed single pawn (KP forward) White's chances lie in a direct attack on the King, with a B on d3
Advanced fixed single pawn (QP forward) White has a space advantage which must be nurtured carefully.
Partially fixed center (tension form) White will try to maintain d4 with c2-c3 and use extra space and mobility, sometimes for K-side attack with outpost on f5
Partially fixed center (Benoni w/o ...e6) White has a large space advantage and can play for direct attack on the King with f4-f5 or just roll down the middle with e4-e5
Partially fixed center (French w/ White d-pawn backwards) White has a post on d4 for a Knight. The major pieces may come off on the c-file, when White has a post on d4 for a King; without exchanges White can play for attack and break with f4-f5
Partially fixed center (French w/ Black d-pawn backwards) Black has a post on d5, White can play for attack on the K with B on d3
Mobile center (KP) There will be a struggle for e5 e.g. White will sieze it with a N and play for attack. This can be resolved by the advance of either e-pawn, when we have structures considered above.
Mobile center (QP) White has more space and wants to play c4 (else ...d5 will come). Black must pressure White's centre. There will be a struggle for d5, which can be resolved by the advance of either d-pawn, although White can go for a bind with c4-c5.
Absolute center A substantial asset, but not decisive - because of the pressure that can be put on the pawns by the opponent's rooks. If the centre can be kept intact, and perhaps advance, then the advantage will manifest itself.
Hanging center Key square at e5. If White can occupy e5 or at least prevent ...e5 then Black will be worse. Black can pester White to keep in the fight, but often a single tempo will make the difference between a successful blockade and a successful advance.
Classic center One of the strongest formations - if White can keep it intact. In the Giuoco Piano line above Black can disrupt it with ...d5. But if Black retreats with 6...Bb6 the centre will either form the basis of a crushing attack, or simply roll forward.
Neo-classic center Again strong: Black's best hopes are to hit at it with ...e5 (risking d5) or ...c5. Sometimes in the Grunfeld ...f5 may play a part.
Neo-classic center w/ open file Tactically this may still be dodgy for Black, but strategically it is less cramped, the opportunities to hit at the centre (and directly at pieces) are better, and the Queen's-side majority is an endgame plus.
Unbalanced tension form A tense formation: White can exchange on e5 (rival majorities), Black can exchange on d4 (ditto), or White can push d5 (not strategically worrying for Black, but may be troublesome tactically).
Latent central majority (QP in reserve) Often White plays d4, and after ...exd4 has a K-side majority. Black may play ...c5 if White hinted at this, so White must either play more slowly for d4, try f4, or leave things in the centre as they are and try a K-side attack.
Latent central majority (KP in reserve) The e4 advance is favored because (a) the d4-pawn is less vulnerable, and (b) two bishops to fight in the resulting open position. In the QGD the minority attack is most common.
Blocked oblique (QP forward) White can only open a file with f4 or c5. f4 may leave a weak backward pawn on e4 after ...exf4, so c5 is better. Black will counter with ...f5. White can also easily achieve b4, with a strong Q-side initiative, but Black's attack is dangerous.
Blocked oblique (KP forward) Without ...c5 Black is crushed by f2-f4-f5. If Black pushes past with ...c5-c4, White will still attack, but Black can infiltrate b3 and open lines with ...b4. Black can castle Q-side, but this may make ...b5 more difficult.
Created by: parrotz