Doubled pawns aren’t uncommon in chess games, and it’s safe to say that every chess player encountered such a position at least once. As a general rule, they are considered a weakness due to their inability to defend each other, and it is usually a good strategy to exchange at least one of them to strengthen the position. On the other hand, if the opponent is unable to effectively attack the doubled pawns, their inherent weakness may be of little or no consequence.
There are many situations that incorporate doubled pawns into their fundamental strategy. For instance, one of the most frequently used openings Ruy López: Morphy Defense, Exchange Variation:
Black has gained the bishop pair, but at the cost of a weakened structure of their own pawns. White usually tends to reach the endgame and exploit the king-side pawn domination, while Black should keep the active game, take advantage of the open d-file (especially after castling to the queen-side) and generally avoid the exchange of pieces. This concept (for White) was greatly demonstrated at the famous game Lasker vs. Capablanca, St. Petersburg 1914, where Capablanca, one of the strongest grandmasters of all time, expected a calm drawish game (especially after the exchange of queens), failed to fight for initiative, and eventually lost the endgame.
Tripled pawns. They can occasionally occur at grandmaster-level games as well.
Quadrupled pawns. Just for a short while, but still quadrupled. And White won! Actually, the game demonstrates the power of doubled pawns at c2 and c3:
- The white rook can control the open b-file.
- The black queen cannot invade the white area through b4 or b3.
- The advance of the black b-pawn is made more difficult.
Quintupled pawns. Okay, this is more like a theoretical problem because nobody would make these moves in a serious game. Anyway, people sometimes ask “how many pawns can appear on the same file, following the standard chess rules?”. The next game is one of the shortest possible ones to achieve this goal, and ends with a checkmate.
Sextupled pawns. We are not done yet, here’s the extreme of extremes – six pawns on the same file, and a checkmate. Black greatly helped achieve this curiosity after sacrificing all pieces except both rooks and four pawns.