English Chinese (Simplified) German Hindi Romanian Russian Spanish

21 Days to Supercharge Your Chess

Give me 21 Days and I Will Show You How to
Become a Dramatically Better Chess Player

Chess Talk

Chess Players Online:

We have 219 guests online

Middlegame Mastery Lilov

Typical Pawn Structures: e5 pawn – a Strength or a Weakness? E-mail
Written by WGM Raluca Sgîrcea, IM Renier Castellanos   
Wednesday, 17 August 2016 09:17

e5 pawnUnderstanding pawn structures is one of the key aspects in chess. The pawn structure is very revealing, as it not only tells you on which flank you must play, but sometimes (and very often I may add) it reveals the character of play.


typical pawn structure e5

For example, it’s very likely that when you have a damaged pawn structure your play should be aggressive. In this case, creating threats and making active play should be your main priority when selecting your candidate moves. The world of pawn structures is huge and it is very entertaining to study; you can find out how from different openings you can land in the same type of positions and therefore apply the exact same plans.

Ready to start systematic training that actually works?

start chess training

Click here to start your training using the day-by-day program.

In this article we are going to discuss a common pawn structure that arises quite often in games: pawn symmetry, but white (or black) has an advanced pawn on e5 (e4). See the diagram below:

typical pawn structure e5

This common pawn structure can be reached from several openings: Caro Kann, Alapin, Slav, Queen’s Gambit Accepted, French, etc. If we concentrate solely on the pawn structure, we should agree that black is slightly better.  The pawn on e5 turns out to be a weakness rather than a strength in such positions.

However, in the middlegame and with the board full of pieces, the e5 pawn can become the leading soldier of an attack. It restricts the enemy’s pieces and removes the defending knight from f6, which makes the black king weaker and a potential target.

We can conclude that in this pawn structure white’s chances are associated with attacks against the kingside and active play, while black should try to prevent the attacks and aim for the endgame where the e5 pawn will most likely become a liability.

Let’s have a look now at some examples that will give you a better understanding of what’s exposed above.

Weak e5 pawn

typical pawn structure e5

Marshall,F – Maroczy,G Ostend 1905

This is a very instructive game won by Maroczy. The endgame in the diagram above is not easy to defend at all. White is tied up to the defense of the e5 pawn and has no possibility of creating active play since there is no material left and black doesn’t have any weaknesses. It was not only the endgame that was played at a high level by Maroczy; in the middlegame he managed to cool off white’s intentions of an attack, showing exactly what one should do when playing these positions. See the details here:

Outpost around the e5 pawn

typical pawn structure e5

Heberla,B – Vallejo,F Bundesliga 2016

This is a fresh example that shows the difficulties white has when playing this pawn structure with reduced material on the board. Basically, white remains passive while black keeps improving his position step by step and imposing small threats. As you might have noticed by now, one of the drawbacks of a pawn on e5 is that white has no control over the squares d5 and f5, so black can use them for his pieces.

Pressing on with a slight advantage

typical pawn structure e5

Kohlweyer,B – Delchev,A Llucmajor 2014

In this game we see black putting pressure on white from a slightly superior position. The main technical difficulty here is that white’s knight on f3 defends e5 comfortably from a light square that cannot be attacked. Black will need to remove it, eventually.

It is instructive to see how Delchev achieved this by playing g5-h5 and g4. Black’s play can be improved in certain moments, but the plan executed by Delchev is in general correct. See the full game here:

We hope you have enjoyed this article learned how to play these positions. So, the next time your opponent offers you a draw in this type of endgame because it seems equal, refuse confidently and go on to win it! Thank you for reading!

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!

"There Are 3 Main Problems That 95% of All Chess Players Are Facing... "

start winning at chess

You will instantly discover how you can significantly improve your game, adding hundreds of elo points without hiring an expensive chess coach or spending 5 hours a day on chess !

Click Here to Start Your Training

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 August 2016 21:45

Add comment

Please offer your feedback for the article here. Don't worry, your comment will appear shortly after approval. Only SPAM and abusive comments will be deleted.

Security code