Theory of pawn breaks explained!

Comments: 21

What is a pawn break in chess? 

National Master Dan Heisman defines pawn break as:

A break move is a pawn move that breaks up the opponents fixed pawn chain by attacking the opponent’s pawns with that pawn.

In most cases, a pawn move is only called a pawn break when the moving pawn is on a file adjacent to two enemy pawns facing each other, and the pawn moves forward to the same rank as the player’s other pawn.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, let me explain it with a puzzle.
pawn breakIn this position, White could break Black’s pawns by playing either f5 or c4. So in simple words, pawn break is a method of breaking a pawn structure.

Why is it important?

The pawns are the soul of chess” said, Philidor. Indeed, they are. The pawn structure determines the strategic nature of the position. We usually compose a plan in the middlegame, taking into account the structure of our opponent’s pawn, right?

For instance, in a closed position we aim for a breakthrough (pawn break) or aim to enter into his camp with our knight maneuvers. While in an open position, you try to coordinate your pieces to the maximum effect and attack the target.

Most chess players struggle in this area. They often fail to realize the transition that occurs between the opening and middlegame stage, and end up playing ‘automatic’ moves during this stage. As a result, they get punished for their moves without real purpose.

To help you better understand the theory of pawn breaks, our guest coach IM Asaf Givon has prepared a very instructive video lesson. You can watch it below:

Author information

IM Asaf Givon


Asaf Givon is an International Master from Kfar Saba, Israel. His age is 22 and playing chess since 7. He is also playing for the Kfar Saba team in the first Israeli Chess League. He got the IM title in 2013, and ever since then, he is on the road to achieve the GM title. He currently has 2 norms.


He is teaching chess since he was 16 and he’s always very happy to teach people and to spread his love to the game.




P.S. Did you like this lesson? Was it helpful for you? Please, write your thoughts in the comments below – I’ll be happy to read them. 🙂

how to analyze chess games

Comments: 21

Comments 10

  1. I loved this video. If I may, I saw a better definition of pawn breaks once. I forget who said it. Could have been Silman who likes to quote other famous masters, and may have originated with Hans Kmoch. Anyway here it is: “A pawn break is a move by a pawn attacking at least another pawn, in which forces the change (Hopefully favorable) of the pawn structure.” In this case I believe this definition also fits very well with the lecture.As always I love the material that comes from this source. Thank you!

      1. Hi, Guy!
        Would you , please, give me the player in the last example ‘ double pawn break’
        used on youtube: Chess strategy pawn breaks’?

  2. dear igor sir thanks for this amaizng article i had recived an email from you last night about this article this is great i already had seen dan heisman course on this .he explains very fantastically.try to prepare some new courses and webinars for the future.tahnnks

  3. Hi Igor! In your courses GM Secrets and Calculate till mate you said that when we decide which move should be the best according to strategy principles, we should then calculate concrete variations to prove that the following of base principles is the best. Why should we do that? I mean, if we dont have any certain tactic, and if our opponent cannot execute any dangerous threat/tactic then why shouldn’t we just follow the principles without extra calculation?

    1. Hi Lovro,
      In general, we always need to think both about general principles and specific variations.

      However, as you stated, in positions when there’s no direct ‘contact’ of your and opponent’s pieces – there’s no need for many calculations. In this case you may simply perform the ‘anti-blunder check’.

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