Bruce Pandolfini’s Weapons of Chess is a good primer on chess strategy. He devotes several chapters to the isolated pawn, the topic I am currently studying. Since I want to practise and improve my attacking chess before focusing on strategy (following the logic that you can always make a closed game open but not vice-versa), I am building my opening repertoire around isolated pawn positions. According to Pandolfini, isolated pawn positions also force you not to be lazy — a serious challenge for players such as myself and others, who profess to have a tendency to play impatiently and shun thorough calculation. In Pandolfini’s words:
Naturally, great demands are placed on the player who accepts an isolated d-pawn. You must play with exceptional energy, never allowing your attention to wander. You must see the entire board, not just a specific sector. Pieces may shift into action across the center, from one side of the board to the other, at a move’s notice. Calculation of possible variations is a necessity. Your analysis must be precise and penetrating. In short, if you want to improve your game, try to play openings that generate isolated d-pawns. Be willing to take either side; to play with the isolated d-pawn and to play against it. All aspects of your play will improve.
Goodness me. Well, I don’t doubt that calculation is paramount, but I still believe that ideas are half the battle. And so I’ll be presenting some of the ideas mentioned in Weapons of Chess to illustrate how you can use the isolani to your advantage. The first idea in this series is “knight invasion at c6”. If you manage to use the squares protected by your isolated pawn as outposts, your knights may become very powerful. A knight on e5, for instance, can challenge your opponent at c6:
Here’s the same idea combined with another one, the “removing of the defender” of the c6 square: