My Question:

It seems like you'd want to make it across the board faster to take control of the board, so... Why would you not move your pawn TWO spaces (instead of one) during your first moves in chess?

My Assumptions:

I'm a TOTAL rookie at chess (and I suck), but it's my understanding that these are valid reasons for moving your pawn two spaces:

  • to gain/maintain control of as much of the board as possible
  • because the player controlling the middle four spaces typically has the upper hand
  • white may have an advantage because they move first, which indicates advancing space on the board early-on is advantageous
  • 1
    Not a full answer, but a pawn that's moved 2 spaces is now vulnerable to attack; while a pawn that's moved 1 space is protected by the neighboring pawns.
    – GendoIkari
    Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 23:34
  • 1
    Your magic word is 'Nimzowitsch'. His 'overprotection' is by far not the only approach to chess, but learning about his style and his system will help you to understand the other factors that can be at play in a position. Commented Nov 7, 2014 at 23:37
  • 4
    – Sparr
    Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 2:23
  • 1
    A pawn that has moved one square can always move another square later, a pawn that has moved two squares can never move back. Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 20:27
  • 1
    @gbianchi: This question is "on topic" here. It could go to chess SE, but I'd just as soon see chess SE "merged" with BCG. Leaving the question here would be a step in that direction.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 15:32

5 Answers 5


Sometimes, center board control is not immediately the goal of a particular openings's strategy. I'm referring specifically to two types, Larsen's Opening and regular Fianchetto openings.

Here, white is advancing each pawn only one square, 1.b3 or 1.g3.

As wikipedia states:

The fianchetto is a staple of many "hypermodern" openings, whose philosophy is to delay direct occupation of the center with the plan of undermining and destroying the opponent's central outpost.

And regarding tactics:

One of the major benefits of the fianchetto is that it often allows the fianchettoed bishop to become more active. Because the bishop is placed on a long diagonal (either h1-a8 or a1-h8), it controls a lot of squares and can become a powerful offensive weapon.

Regarding "regular" Fianchetto(vs long Fianchetto): Advancing the pawn two squares would deny it the protection from the rook's pawn and bishop's pawn. Fianchetto would be a great search term for finding openings making use of single-square pawn advancement.

  • 3
    Also, did you know there is a Chess.SE?
    – hexparrot
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 21:46

Simple answer: because you have to balance attack and defense. Pawns are very good to hold your position and fend your oponents pieces off. If you are too offensive and run with your pawns at your opponent, he might have problems at first, but once he stops your attack, he will have no difficulty to move his pieces behind your pawn wall. Once this happens, you lost the possibility to expel your opponent easily - your opponent will establish his position there and you will be in a deep trouble.

Furthermore, you are hardly ever able to achieve the "ideal" position with both e and d pawns moved two spaces. Usually you need one pawn to guard the other from behind - that position is much stronger.

  1. e4 has an advantage over 1. e3 in that it does not potentially block the bishop on c1 (one the d-pawn is moved) and also that it attacks f5, thus preventing black developing his bishop there (or the knight via e7), and attacks d5 preventing black putting a knight there (after developing it on f6 or e7). It also hampers black moving a pawn to d5 although it doesn't prevent it. (Black is unlikely to want to move the pawn from f7 to f5 at this point).

1 d4 has similar advantages over 1. d3.

Black however will often counter with a more "defensive" move that involves moving a pawn just one square. This will often "support" another pawn advance. The plan will often be to "fianchetto" the blocked bishop, or simply develop it to d7 or e7 in a more defensive role.

Although White, with the extra tempo, could start with such a move and adopt a defensive strategy, it is more frequent for White to want to use the extra move advantage to adopt a more "attacking" strategy. ("You're supposed to be at home".. as we might say in another sport.. however the principle kind-of applies in chess. White more attacking, Black more defensive).

I have been known to start a game 1. c3. Caro-Kann or Slav with a tempo. At least my opponent is less likely to be prepared for it than they are against 1. d4 or 1. e4. (The only 2 serious tournament games I've played in the last 27 years, I was Black both games so it didn't come up).


The "first" pawn that you move is usually advanced two squares, to fight for the center squares.

It's not a given that you will advance a second pawn two squares. Depending on the situation, you may want to move it only one square to defend the first pawn. E.g., if your first move was e4, you may want to "hold back" your d pawn to d3, to defend e4, in some cases. (Moving your f pawn to f3 weakens your king too much.)

If your opponent is overly timid, you probably will want to advance your pawns two squares at a time to "overrun" him, but if overly aggressive, you may want to take the defensive and let him overextend. Particularly if you are playing Black.


The goal of the opening is to develop all your minor pieces as effective as possible and as fast as possible. This means that you want to move every piece only once, and ideally only make one or two pawn movements. You also want to control the centre so that your opponent can't push back your minor piece. This is why you need to control the centre.

Looking at the theory above, it only makes sense to move your first pawn two blocks, rather than one.

[my rating: 1920]

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