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The Minority Attack – a Pawn Chess Strategy

This pawn structure occurs frequently in the Queens Gambit Exchange Variation…The Minority Attack is a chess strategy that considers the pawn structure of a particular position. Look at the following diagram.

chess strategy

In the above pawn-structure White has two plans.

First plan: White will play the Minority-Attack and tries to win the resulting weak c-pawn. So he will play at the queenside. See diagramm above.

Second plan: White expands in the center playing f3 followed by e4. In this case he will play just in the center and the kingside.

How to play the Minority-Attack?
At the queenside White has just two pawns against three pawns. The goal is to create a black pawn weakness at the queenside. This weakness will then be attacked in the course of the game. To achieve this White moves his b-pawn to b5 and exchanges it for the c-pawn. Then a weak c-pawn will be the result. This is called a Minority-Attack. That means a minority of TWO pawns is attacking a majority of THREE pawns.

You can see the resulting position below. But here Black has not exchanged off his a-pawn which might also become weak in the endgame as White has usually more forces at the queenside when playing the Minority-Attack and will consequently be stronger there.

chess strategy

Hint: If you play the black pieces try to trade off your a-pawn playing a5. White will play b4 and then you exchange it off by axb. White recaptures with his a-pawn and continues to move to b5 as usual and exchange on c6 to create a weak c-pawn. This is the normal course of play but you got rid of your a-pawn. That’s the difference. (See diagram below)

chess strategy

Why should I get rid of my a-pawn? The reason is, if you don’t get rid of your a-pawn, White will eventually win your weak c-pawn as this is the logical course of play. And if your a-pawn is still alive at this time you will lose this pawn as well because the a-pawn will become weak too, once the white pieces have penetrated into your position at the queenside. But if you have exchanged the a-pawn it will not be there anymore and so you can’t lose it. You save the loss of a pawn, that’s all.

If White is going to play the minority attack at the queenside you should seek counterplay at the kingside to offset the eventual loss of your c-pawn. You might lose the c-pawn, but you might checkmate him at the kingside, because he has tied up too many forces at the queenside. So his king will become weak as the kingside is not properly defended.

These chess strategies are best demonstrated in many games played with the opening of the Queens Gambit Declined / Exchange Variation. Please study the pawn moves of White in those games.

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