Backward Pawns

Backward pawns in chess positions are pawns that cannot advance without being captured by an enemy pawn, and also cannot be protected by their own pawns. They are backward in the sense that they are behind the rest of their own pawns.

A backward pawn is a very common pawn weakness in chess games. Typically, a backward pawn is attacked down a half-open file, on which sits an enemy rook.

A backward pawn has an empty space in front of it, which square is controlled by an enemy pawn. If the square in front of a pawn contains an enemy pawn, such a pawn is not considered backward, as it is a “blocked pawn” or part of a “pawn chain”. A blocked pawn cannot be attacked down the file because the enemy pawn keeps the file closed.

Strategies related to backward pawns include:

  • Swap off backward pawns: If possible, force the advance of the backward pawn, to swap it off for an enemy pawn.
  • Attack backward pawns down a half-open file: The rooks are great at attacking a backward pawn on a half-open file. They can double up, or triple up with the Queen.
  • Holes: the square in front of a backward pawn is a “hole” by definition. This is a great square to put a piece, especially a Knight, but lots of pieces are strong in a hole such as this.

Related Chess Tactics

Read more about these related chess strategies: