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Doubled Pawns

Doubled pawns are where two pawns of the same color are lined up on the same file. This will only ever happen if a pawn captures a piece that is on a file that has a pawn of the same color on it. As a very quick example:

1. e4 d5; 2. exd5 The white pawn is now on d5, and there is also a white pawn on d2 as well. Therefor, there is a set of doubled white pawns on the d file.

Some basic disadvantages: Doubled pawns can create some serious problems. Most notably is the inevidible "weak" pawn it creates. In the example above, note that there is a file...the e file...that has no white pawn on it. In many cases you will find this to be the case, that doubled pawns are accompanied by at least one open file next to them. In order to close this file, the pawn on c2 would eventually have to capture a piece on the e file.

This means that if there is at least one open file next to the doubled pawns that there will be at least one of the doubled pawns will be weak. To be "weak" means that there is a pawn that cannont defend another pawn. For instance, let's say that black does not capture the white pawn on e5, and develops by 2. ... Nf6. White could defend this d5 pawn further by playing 3. c4. What this does is it defends the pawn on d5, but the pawn on d2 is now a weak pawn. There is no pawn that is capable of defending that pawn if it chooses to advance at this point. The c pawn is defending the d5 pawn, and there is no pawn on the e file. Therefore, black would likely make this weak pawn a target.

This also applies if white chose to play 3. d4. The c pawn is still back to defend the pawn which has advanced to d4...all it needs to do to defend d4 is move to c3. So let's say white's next move (after black chooses not to capture again) is 4. c3. The d4 pawn is defended by the c3 pawn, but the d5 pawn is not defended by any pawn. It's not technically weak, because a c4 advance would protect it. However, that would turn the d4 pawn into a weak pawn. If the pawn on d5 were actually on d6, and the c pawn were on c3, the d6 pawn would be weak for at least one turn because there would be no way a pawn could advance to defend it on that turn.

Some basic advantages: Doubled pawns do two things. They allow different specific squares to be defended from attack, and they also open files for the rooks to use. I'll touch on both of these.
Defending different squares - 1. e3 d4; 2. c3 d5; 3.exd5 Note what's happened in this theoretical opening (which no one would likely ever play). The c3 pawn defends the pawn on d4. Ordinarily a pawn on d4 ... if there would not be a doubled pawn ... would create somewhat of a weakness on the e4 and c4 squares. These weak squares mean that no pawn is capable of defending those squares either by standing still or advancing to them. They aren't truly weak squares, because the f pawn could advance to guard e4, and the b pawn could advance to guard c4. But they are weakened because there would be one less pawn to defend them.

However, the d pawn is still in place on d2. So the d pawn could advance to d3 to guard the important c4 and e4 squares. At the same time, the pawn on d4 defends the equally important c5 and e5 squares. This allows a good deal of flexibility in creating advantageous posts for your knights as well as blocking opponents from creating advantageous posts for their knights.

Creating files for your rooks - An open file is one in which your rook can travel into enemy territory without having to circumvent one of its own pawns. The e file is now open to the white rook. Placing the white rook on the e file puts pressure down the e file for black. Black will have to choose to either defend this file (and/or the pieces on it) in some fashion, or allow white to take control of it and focus elsewhere.

NOTE: It is not always important for black to defend this file!!! This should be taken on a case by case / game by game basis. Sometimes an open file will mean nothing to the opponent. If there is no reason for an opponent to care about an open file because opposing penetration will not do any damage, then they should not put any effort into defending the file.

Okay, that was the basics of doubled pawns. I'd like to get discussion going on whether or not people like to use doubled pawns, why they try to avoid them like the plague if they do, when it's most advantageous to use them, etc etc etc. Feel free to bring specific games into the mix to illustrate your points better!

If you would like to start with a "virtual board" game which is already in play, my suggestion is to just lay out the pieces where they are on the board. Like so:
White: pawns - a2, b3, c5, d4, f3, f2, h2; Ra1, Bf4, Qd1, Kg1, Rf1
etc etc etc. That lays the pieces where they should be so that we can set up a board to examine what we're discussing.

So on to it! :-)

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