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A Pawn Chain is a formation made of a multitude of pawns. They are considered strong structures to defend against major pieces.

a b c d e f g h
8 a8 b8 c8 d8 e8 f8 g8 h8 kd 8
7 a7 b7 c7 d7 e7 f7 g7 h7 nd 7
6 a6 b6 c6 d6 e6 pl f6 g6 h6 6
5 a5 b5 c5 d5 pl e5 f5 g5 h5 5
4 a4 b4 c4 pl d4 e4 f4 g4 h4 4
3 a3 b3 pl c3 kl d3 e3 f3 g3 h3 3
2 a2 b2 c2 d2 e2 f2 g2 h2 2
1 a1 b1 c1 d1 e1 f1 g1 h1 1
a b c d e f g h
Simple pawn chain


A pawn can defend a piece if the protected piece is on the pawn's capture square; one square diagonally forward. A pawn protecting another pawn will form a diagonal segment. Adding more pawns to this line will create a pawn chain. Each pawn (except the base pawn) has a pawn defending it, making the whole chain sturdy.

An aspect of the pawn chain is that it is made of pieces with low value. So no Knights or Rooks will be able to capture a (non-base) pawn without downright losing material. Only opposing pawns can pose as a threat to the chain's upper body. Opposing pawns can offer themselves to the body of a pawn chain. If a pawn capture takes place, then the pawn chain will split into two and its structure will be damaged.

a b c d e f g h
8 a8 b8 c8 bd d8 e8 f8 g8 h8 kd 8
7 a7 b7 c7 d7 e7 f7 g7 nd h7 7
6 a6 pl b6 c6 d6 e6 pl f6 g6 h6 pd 6
5 a5 b5 pl c5 d5 pl e5 f5 pl g5 h5 5
4 a4 b4 bl c4 pl d4 rd e4 f4 g4 pl h4 4
3 a3 b3 c3 d3 e3 f3 g3 h3 pl 3
2 a2 b2 c2 d2 e2 f2 g2 h2 2
1 a1 b1 c1 d1 e1 f1 g1 kl h1 1
a b c d e f g h
In this position, white's bishop can freely move around the complex, while black's bishop is completely trapped. Black should not take the d5 pawn, they just lose a rook. Instead, black's threat is taking on c4, the base of the pawn chains. If black wanted to break the kingside pawn chain, black could play h5, though in this case it is an inaccuracy.

Pawn Chains can also act as a barrier for bishops. Since a pawn chain occupies a singular diagonal, certain bishops can be trapped by the chain. For other bishops which don't share the same diagonal, it can act as a haven to freely move around. This is called a complex.

The back end, or base, of a pawn chain is a weakness because it is the only pawn which is not defended by another pawn. Therefore the opponent will try to target and capture the base so the next pawn becomes undefended, then the next pawn, and the next pawn, etc. Try to defend the end of your pawn chains with other pieces.

A pawn chain that remains idle is not the greatest because it becomes passive. Pawn chains cover less area than a horizontal line of pawns, and therefore they are less offensive. Although they are well-defended, they are often ignored by opposing pieces because they have gaps in their coverage. A transition of the two is best to steadily progress through the position.

This chain of pawns can be as long as you want, though building a big pawn chain takes a lot of time and a lot of pawns. A long pawn chain is generally considered better than several short pawn chains because more pawns are defended. Large pawn chains are most common during a endgame, when many major pieces have been captured and both sides focus on pawn development. In the endgame they are very powerful as not many major pieces are left to stop a few of them from Promotion.