Chess and Pawns

In chess play, Pawns are greatly undervalued at the beginner and intermediate level. If a player understands the value of Pawns early in their chess-playing career, they will win many more matches.

All chess pieces have a mathematical value. The value of a Pawn is one. The Knight and Bishop are generally valued as three; the Rook as five and the powerful Queen a ten. The difference between the Knight and Bishop at three versus the Rook as a five is the ability of a Rook-King combination to checkmate your opponent. A King-Bishop combination or a King-Knight combination cannot checkmate.

This is the basic philosophy of Pawn play: to protect the major chess pieces, drive across the board to gain position advantage, and to serve as the first line of defense in the castled position.

The Pawns are positioned on rows two and seven of the chess board. The Pawn on its first move can either one or two squares. After the first move the Pawn can only move one square at a time. The Pawn can capture by moving diagonally one square forward, either to the left or right diagonal. The Pawn can never move or capture backward. Every other piece can move forward or backward.

The En Passant Pawn capture may be the least known capture in chess rules. An example of En Passant: the black opponent has a Pawn in position at C4 and white decides to move his Pawn sitting on B2. If white attempts to move to B4 the black player can declare En Passant, capture the white Pawn and take up a new position on B3. He can capture the white Pawn on the normal square he would capture on a one-square move. The En Passant can only be invoked by the sitting pawn; not the moving pawn.

The most unique power of the Pawn is to move across the entire chess board and reside on the opponent’s King row. Once on the opponent’s King row, the player exchanges the pawn for either a Queen, Knight, Rook or Bishop, meaning a player can have multiple Queens on the board during one game.

A thought on chess strategy – As any match progresses players should count the mathematical value of the remaining pieces on the board. If you find yourself ahead a pawn or two look for opportunities to swap pieces, remembering all along you can trade the Pawn advantage for a major piece once you move your Pawn to the opponent’s King row. This opportunity will appear more often than one might imagine because beginning players usually undervalue the potential of Pawns.

Just as a good commander takes care of his soldiers and uses them thoughtfully in battle, so should the chess player place great value on his Pawns, not sacrificing them thoughtlessly. Just like a live soldier, a Pawn’s “power of one” can be multiplied by careful deployment, becoming part of the chess player’s successful end-game strategy. By Larry Stallings.

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