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Backward pawn

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Title: Backward pawn  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Chess strategy, Pawn structure, Chess, French Defence, Pawn (chess)
Collection: Chess Strategy, Chess Terminology
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Backward pawn

a b c d e f g h
c6 black pawn
d5 black pawn
d4 white pawn
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h

In chess, a backward pawn is a pawn that is behind all pawns of the same color on the adjacent files and cannot be safely advanced.[1] In the diagram, the black pawn on the c6-square is backward.


  • Inherently weak 1
  • In practice 2

Inherently weak

Backward pawns are usually a positional disadvantage since they are difficult to defend. Also, the opponent can place a piece, usually a knight, on the hole in front of the pawn without any risk of a pawn driving it away. The backward pawn also prevents its owner's rooks and queen on the same file from attacking the piece placed on the hole.

If the backward pawn is on a half-open file, as in this case, the disadvantage is even greater, as the pawn can be attacked more easily by an opponent's rook or queen on the c-file. Pieces can become weak when they are devoted to protecting a backward pawn, since their obligation to defend the pawn keeps them from being deployed for other uses.

In practice

a b c d e f g h
a8 black rook
c8 black bishop
d8 black queen
e8 black king
f8 black bishop
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
c6 black knight
d6 black pawn
f6 black knight
b5 white knight
e5 black pawn
e4 white pawn
c3 white knight
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
c2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
c1 white bishop
d1 white queen
e1 white king
f1 white bishop
h1 white rook
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Sveshnikov Variation after Black's 6...d6

Modern opening theory features several openings in which one of the players deliberately incurs a backward pawn in exchange for some other advantage such as the initiative or better development. An excellent example is the Sveshnikov Variation of the Sicilian Defence.

After the moves 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 (or 4...e5!? 5.Nb5 d6 – the Kalashnikov Variation) 5. Nc3 e5!? 6. Ndb5 d6 (see diagram), Black has a backward pawn on d6, but White now has to endure a displacement of his knights and an undermining of his center after 7. Bg5 a6 8. Na3 b5 9. Bxf6 gxf6! 10. Nd5 (dodging the threatened pawn-fork of the knights) 10... f5! (or 10...Bg7 11.c3 [facilitating the knight on a3

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