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Isolated Pawn Endgames: 4 Things to Keep in Mind E-mail
Written by WGM Raluca Sgîrcea, IM Renier Castellanos   
Monday, 12 December 2016 00:19

isolated pawnIt is probably one of the most common and studied pawn formations; however, it’s not always easy to handle structures with an isolated pawn, no matter if you’re playing with or against it. As we have previously stated, the isolated pawn can be either a weakness or an advantage, depending on the position. You can find more details and ideas on how to play with both sides in our previous articles on this topic.

Just as a quick reminder, it can be an advantage in the middlegame, when it can help the side who has it gain space and build an attack behind it. It can provide great outposts for the knights and there are always tactical ideas that one needs to pay attention to, generated by the thematic advance of the pawn.

In conclusion, when playing with an isolated pawn we should focus on attacks against the rival king and avoid exchanging pieces.

The side playing against the isolated pawn usually tries to stop it from advancing and seeks piece trades. It is common knowledge that the pawn becomes a target in the endgames when its weakness is greatly felt by the side that has it. However, that sounds easier in theory than in practice and sometimes, even if you had reached an endgame where your opponent has an isolated pawn and you know you have a slight advantage, you just cannot find the winning plan.

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Before moving on to the example and seeing how Grandmasters turn this slight advantage into a full point, here are a few ideas that you should keep in mind in such positions:

  • When playing against the isolated pawn and liquidating into the endgame, try to keep a knight and leave your opponent with a bad bishop. Keep in mind that these endgames are easier to win, as your advantage will increase.
  • In order to win this endgame, attacking the pawn is most of the times insufficient. The principle of the two weaknesses comes to our attention yet again, so what you will have to do is create another target in your opponent’s camp. It will be easier for you to attack both weaknesses than for your opponent to defend them.
  • Rook endgames are often difficult to win, but not impossible. Try to activate your rook and create a second weakness in order to try to convert this slight positional advantage.
  • Don’t desperate! Put as much pressure as you can on your opponent. It might be a long term work and it might take a lot of patience, but remember that it will be easier for you to find new plans to improve your position than for your opponent to constantly foresee and try to stop them.

First of all, let’s take a look at a knight versus bishop endgame where white employs the previously mentioned plans in order to win the game. He first brings his king and knight to ideal squares and then moves on to creating a second target of attack.

Winning a rook endgame where your opponent has an isolated pawn is not easy if your opponent finds the best moves. In the following game black could have held the draw with correct play. However, he cracked up under the pressure and eventually lost the game.

The following game transitioned into a four rook endgame where white had more activity and, thanks to the control over the c-file, he easily won the game.

Finally, we chose a recent game between top Grandmasters Anish Giri and Leinier Dominguez where white elegantly won a heavy pieces endgame against the isolated pawn. The principle he applied was basically the same: create new weaknesses and combine attacks on all of them.

If you want to improve your chess level, you need to have a clear study plan. If you aim for a dramatic improvement at chess you need to work on all of the elements of the game in a systematic way:

  • tactics
  • positional play
  • attacking skills
  • endgame technique
  • classical games analysis
  • psychological preparation
  • and much more

That seems to be like a lot of things, and that is. But no worries, we have made it easy for you. Our comprehensive training course covers it all and much more. Sign up for 21 Day Training right now!

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Last Updated on Monday, 12 December 2016 11:49

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