Pawns, The Reason You’re Not Improving at Chess!

I’m sure by now you’ve heard everywhere online how to avoid making simple blunders. Things like checks, captures and attacks are critical to avoid blundering your pieces.

But to a certain point, that is not enough to win your games. So-called inaccuracies become the defining and deciding factors for a game of chess.

Even minor things like pawn play are critical once you reach a certain point. So this blog post will be covering how to best use the juicer (the term coined by GM Hikaru Nakamura for pawns) to win your game.


Due to their abundance, pawns are very good at being a wall or a shield. This means they are exceptional at controlling space. Space is important for 2 reasons:

  1. Limiting activity - Your pieces have more room to manoeuvre in a position where you have the space advantage
  • Allow for potential promotion - Since your pawns are off their starting square, the promotion also becomes a threat to your opponent.
Chess, Pawn

In this position, even though the pieces are not attacking the king, the sheer activity of whites pieces due to their space advantage make White completely winning

Be aware though, if your pawns are over-extended, your position can fall apart.

Pawn Color Complex

Pawns capture diagonally, therefore, when a lot of them are on the same color, they can defend each other. Even though this means the pawns become a much bigger threat, they can also limit the movement of your other pieces, mainly Bishops.

Wrong-colored bishops - When many pawns are on the same colored squares, they prevent the movement of bishops that color. Also, the bishops control the same squares as the little guys, making them rather useless.

 An example of this is the London system, where the bishop on F4 is sent out first to not become trapped inside the London Pyramid.

Cheaa pawan play

Playing white is way more uncomfortable in this example due to the highly inactive bishop.


Knights and bishops in positions

In open positions, which is when there are very few pawns, knights and bishops are both effective pieces. However, bishops are generally considered to be more powerful in open positions because they can control more squares. 

On the other hand, in closed positions, which are when there are a lot of pawns, bishops are less effective because they can be blocked by pawns. Knights are still powerful in closed positions due to controlling the same number of squares.

Be careful, though, because, within just a few moves, the entire position could change from closed to open (using pawn breaks). Remember to calculate whether a pawn break is available and trade your pieces accordingly. 

Chess, pawn play

In this example, since the position is already open, NxF4 is the only survivable move due to the white’s activity.


This blog was about avoiding advanced inaccuracies regarding pawn play, which is a mistake I find a lot of 1600-level players making, which is causing them to plateau.

PS: I hope you find this message well! If you’d like to get a shirt to commemorate this new knowledge and look stylish while doing so, grab yourself this tee! It’s even 10% OFF if you use code ANDYGREEN

 Juicer Chess t-shirt. Pwan chess t-shirt, personalized chess t-shirt


About the Author

Andy Nguyen (aka Andy Green) is a chess-based copywriter who also enjoys writing chess lessons for others to read. You can reach him on Twitter (@AndyGreenChess).


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