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The Isolated Queen’s Pawn vs The c3/c6 Pawn E-mail
Written by WGM Raluca Sgîrcea, IM Renier Castellanos   
Friday, 03 March 2017 00:00

isolated pawnIsolated queen’s pawn positions are incredibly rich in ideas for both sides. The discussion on how there are several possible ways to play these type of positions for both sides and is never-ending. In this article we will discuss a very important structure that occurs often in such positions; see the following diagram.

isolated queen's pawn

As far as we know this specific structure doesn’t have a particular name, but it often arises when white captures a piece on c6 and black recaptures with the pawn.

Why is knowing this structure relevant to understand IQP positions?

This structure is highly relevant to the correct understanding of how to play with or against the isolated central pawn.  Here are a few points why:

  • When white gives up his knight from e5 for a piece on c6 with the aim of leveling the pawn weaknesses, he is also giving up a potential attacking piece which is to black’s benefit.
  • Very often, black is in a dilemma: to capture on c6 with a pawn or with a piece. Here is your answer: if your opponent’s advance with d4-d5 is well under control you can take the luxury of keeping your pawns healthy on the queenside and recapture on c6 with a piece. If, on the contrary, your opponent could execute d4-d5 then it’s better to take with the pawn and put an end to his hopes of getting rid of his isolated pawn.\
  • The pawn on c6, although a weakness by definition, brings more benefits than harm. For instance, as mentioned earlier, the d4-d5 break is ruled out. The B file is now open and black can operate with moves like Rb8-b4 in order to hit white’s d4 pawn.=
  • The pawn on c6 is not really as weak as the pawn on d4 as white usually can’t attack it.

The classics:

In one of the oldest games we could find we see the great Akiba Rubinstein on the black side of this struggle. Although he lost the game, the play is quite revealing and it gives us a few insights to understand the position better.

isolated queen's pawn

Black plays 16…Bc6!

See the details of this very interesting game here:

Again Rubinstein…

In the following diagram we see Rubinstein on the black side against the legendary Frank Marshall. The pawn structure is the same; however, the piece correlation changes, in this scenario black has the light squared bishop

isolated queen's pawn

Marshall – Rubinstein

In the diagram white has difficulties to defend d4. Black has a nice plan of Ra7-Rad7-Bb7 and c6-c5 which Rubinstein played in the game and proved too strong. See more here:


The endgame genius from Cuba had also experience in this structure and against no other than Emmanuel Lasker. See the following diagram:

isolated queen's pawn

This is another clear example of how white’s position lacks counterplay and he has a difficult task to defend in the future. See the game below:

The masterpiece

Perhaps the most notorious game we can have access to in this particular structure was played by two titans: Korchnoi as white against Anatoly Karpov from the match in Merano 1981.

isolated queen's pawn

The structure with the pawn on c6 never actually happened, as Korchnoi knew it wouldn’t be any good for white in the position. However, white was still unable to play d4-d5 so he remained with a weak central pawn and couldn’t hold the position together.


In a recent tournament I had the chance to play in such way against a young master from Greece.

isolated queen's pawn

During the game I knew such structure had lot of potential and managed to take over the initiative and have an easier game. See the details here:


Aiming for the c6-e6 pawn structure against the IQP seems like a very reliable way of fighting against the isolani. This is often achieved by the maneuver Bd7-c6. We hope you have enjoyed reading this article and learned more about IQP positions.

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Last Updated on Friday, 03 March 2017 12:27


0 #1 Dimitris Ponirakis 2017-03-03 13:34
Very instructive, and another good game with the same pawn structure is Stanec-Beliavsky, 1996, 0-1, analyzed in Marovic's book
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