Pawn Storm Attack

A ďpawn stormĒ means sending your pawns up to attack the enemyís King after castling. You can pawn storm against a King castled on either side, but you really donít pawn storm against a King stuck in the center.

Pawn storms are the mainstay of younger playerís attacking style. But pawn storms usually only work against weaker players. Some better strategies often include:

  • Piece Storm (using the pieces in front of the pawns can be faster!)
  • Fianchetto King Position Attacking Method
  • Open Files Against the Enemy King
  • Domination Chess (slower build-up)
  • Swap Defensive Pieces (denude the enemy King of defending pieces)

Types of Pawn Storms

There are two main types of pawn storm:

  • Rook pawn push attack (e.g. against a fianchetto opening. White plays h4 and h5 in the Yugoslav Attack of the Dragon Sicilian)
  • Pawn storm proper with 2 or 3 pawns. Slower, but looks terrifying.

The most basic form of pawn storm is simply to push the Rook pawn with a Rook behind it. Push the rook pawn as far as it can go. This works particularly well against a fianchetto King position (e.g. Dragon, Pirc, Modern Defence, Kingís Indian, Benoni, Benko), but also works against other castled formations. The basic idea is to get that Rook file open, then the Rook can attack the enemy King, such as by supporting the Queen to go up next to the King with checkmate. Thatís the basic plan, but itís rarely that simple.

A more complicated pawn storm is to push 2 or 3 pawns upwards towards an enemy King. It is also slower, as it takes longer to push up more than one pawn. The goal of a pawn storm like this is similar to the one-pawn storm: open lines against the enemy King, which can then be used by the Rooks and Queen to give checkmate.

King Position in Pawn Storms

Pawn storm attacks usually occur in positions where the playerís have castled on the opposite sides. This is the usual style, the players castle opposite, and both storm each otherís King. Itís often a race to see whose attack gets going the fastest.

With same-side castling, pushing pawns in a pawn storm means weakening the pawns in front of your own king, and isnít often done (although it does happen sometimes, so long as the King has pieces to defend itself, such as in the Black side of the Kingís Indian Defence).

Defending a Pawn Storm

There are various techniques to defend against a pawn storm. They are not as deadly as they seem to beginners. Some methods include:

  • Earlier in the game, donít push any pawns in front of your King (e.g. avoid playing h6 or g6 or whatever). These pawns only create ďpawn leversĒ for your opponent to get lines open.
  • Fianchetto Positions are harder to defend. Unfortunately, if you chose a fianchetto opening, then your "gí pawn (on g6 or g3) is a natural lever for the enemyís rook pawn push.
  • Push past enemy pawns. Donít capture the enemy pawns that are storming against you (and donít allow them to capture your pawns either), as it often opens lines for enemy rooks. Instead, you can push past those pawns with your pawns, keeping files closed.
  • Hide your King in front of enemy pawns. For example, say your Black King is on g8, if White gets their rook pawn to h7+, donít capture it (Kxh7), instead play Kh8, to hide the Black King at h8, in front of the White pawn at h7. White cannot capture their own pawn, and the White can cannot move, so itís a great shield.
  • Move pieces away from the front of your kingside pawns: if you are Black, a piece on f6 or g6 or h6 can help the pawn storm, as the enemy gets an extra tempo by biffing the piece on the way.
  • Bring pieces back near your King: You can help defend. For example, if Black, bring a Knight back to f8. A Nf8 is a good defender of pawns on h7 and g6.
  • Put the Rook on f7: As Black, a defensive setup is to have pawns on f6, g6, and h7, with a Rook on f7 (protecting h6). This stops lots of Qh7 mates.
  • Avoid swapping the fianchetto bishop. One good way to defend a fianchetto opening against a rook pawn storm is to prevent the enemy from swapping off your fianchetto bishop. This bishop is very helpful for defence.
  • Bring the Queen back. The Queen is a great defender, especially against mates by the enemy Queen. Just put the defensive Queen right next to your King to defend it. For example, if Black has the King at Kg8 or Kh8, play Qf7 or Qg7 to defend.

Related Chess Tactics

Read more about these related chess strategies: