Weak Squares and Outposts

Introduction

Very few players actually make an effort to create some type of weakness that would produce a hole that would be a key square and valuable outpost that they could then put their Knight into.

Not only do they not understand the value of doing so or not know how to go about creating one, they have absolutely no desire to read about why this strategy could be so useful to them and how to go about doing it.

That is why this deadly weapon is going to be so useful to you. It's almost like having some secret weapon to win games with. Unlike a trap that you can only spring once on your opponent, you will be able to use this idea over and over again with out your opponents ever catching on as to why your positions take on such a tough dominance over them.

Your opponents will probably never guess why you always are so hell bent persistent on taking control over some single square in their camp. They will not realize that putting your Knight into that square will drastically change the relative value of that Knight compared to his Knight and to your whole position in his camp.

Understanding Weak Squares

The main feature of a weak square is that it can not be protected by pawns.

If you have a weak square or a weak pawn it is likely to be on your third or fourth rank. Typical pawn weaknesses include isolated pawns, backward pawns, and the isolated pawn pair. Other formations, such as doubled pawns and hanging pawns, though tending to be weak, can, under the right circumstances, possess surprising strength or display other advantages.

Sometimes a weakness results not because the pawns are doubled or isolated but because they all occupy squares of one color. In such instances, the other color squares are weak and subject to enemy occupation. This weakness is accentuated when the enemy has a bishop that is able to travel on the weakened squares undeterred by a bishop of your own.

A weak square may be weak because they may not be guarded by a friendly pawn, In the end game, if they are attacked, sometimes only the king can protect them. Other squares may be weak because a enemy piece may occupy it and no pawn can attack that piece.

Before we begin our studies into weak squares and outposts, we should first look at a Classic Game between two Russian players, GM Smylov Vassily and Rudakovsky Losit. Smyslov can show you just how to go about using a weak square.

Smyslov-Rudakovsky

Here are some examples:

Example 1

How do you exploit a weakness in your opponent's position?

Your main task in this sort of situation is to turn the opponent's weak square into your own strong point or KEY SQUARE by seizing it with one of your pieces. The most important squares are those located on that side of the board where the main action is taking place. Furthermore special attention should always be paid to weak squares in the center of the board and near the king. Knights and bishops are best for seizing these squares, though other pieces can fulfill this task too.

The seizure of a weak square always means a certain positional advantage.

Example 2

The capture of a weak square has to be carefully prepared. Before seizing it, you should always try to control it with more than one piece. If you cannot avoid changing your piece on that square, see to it that after this exchange it can be substituted by another piece or pawn, see example 3.

Example 3

In example 4 we see that pieces can occupy weak squares because backward pawns and isolated pawns have been made.

Example 4

Weak squares may allow your pieces to penetrate into the enemy's rear.

Example 5

If you like to fianchetto your bishop on the flank on the b-file or the g- file and then castle there you need to be aware that the chief problem with a fianchetto is that moving your Knight pawn to the third square on the file weakens the square the pawn was formerly protecting on the rook file and the bishop file. You have now created a hole that needs to be protected by your bishop. You also have a backward pawn that is only protected by your king. Such weaknesses really become significant if the fianchettoed bishop is taken out of that position. There are many ways to undermine a fianchettoed position. One approach is to offer a bishop exchange with the attacker backing up his bishop with his Queen. Or a knight exchange with the Queen on the King's file. After that look out for an all out assault on the king's position.

Example 6

Attacking a Weak Point
Example 7

* Weak Square and Weak Point

Usually in chess literature the two concepts "Square" and "Point" are used as synonyms. However there is a essential difference between them, which becomes especially noticeable when we speak about playing methods. A "Square" is an empty spot on the chessboard which can be occupied by any piece, whereas a "point" is a square on which there already is located a piece or a pawn.

Based upon the above concepts, "The Weak Point" is a spot on which there is a piece or a pawn and which is under attack of the opponent's forces. Thus a point is considered to be weak only if there is a potential opportunity to attack it. For example, many amateurs and even average players are very quickly convinced that the points f2 and f7 (if the king is stuck in the center) and h7 and h2 (after short castling are rather frequently weak, as can be attacked by several enemy pieces.

The main task when fighting a WEAK SQUARE is to seize it by one of your pieces and transform it into a strong point, or KEY SQUARE, the struggle against a weak point looks a bit different. At first you need to attack the point with your pieces as many times as possible before finally capturing the piece which is standing there.

Defence of a Weak Square or a Weak Point

If a weak square or point has arisen in your position, try to do the following:

1. Protect that square or point with your pieces
2. Exchange the opponent's pieces, which can occupy that square or attack that point.
3. Decrease the importance of the weak square or point by initiating a play on the other side of the board.

The Creation of a Weakness

To be successful in an attack you first need to create a weakness. To gain control of a key square you first need to create a weakness. To make plans for your game you either need to find a weakness or create one. The creation of a weakness is the key to creating an imbalance that you can take advantage of and base your plans on.

If you want to become successful, you have to base your plans on specific criteria on the board, not on your mood at any given time. Nothing could be more specific to place your plans on than on a weakness. Making plans is the process by which a player utilizes the advantages and minimizes the drawbacks of his position. In order to be successful, planning is always based on a diagnosis of the existing characteristics of a position. It is most difficult when the position is evenly balanced, and easiest when there is only one plan to satisfy the demands of the position.

To successfully penetrate into your opponents camp you have to be aware of the magic word of chess, Imbalance. And to create one you have to find a weakness or create one.

Most weaknesses are created by pawn moves and you should always remember that it is pawns that are at the root of most weaknesses!

Every time a pawn moves, at least one square is weakened, forever unprotectable by a friendly pawn. Creating weakened squares through pawn moves may give you the imbalance for your plan of creating a outpost or for a new plan of attack, and conversely if you allow weakened squares to be created through pawn moves in your camp so will your position be compromised.

There is a very important principle that before launching a kingside attack it is necessary to first ensure the defense of important queenside objects. This helps to prevent your opponent's rooks from creating open files for attacking your king while your rooks are attacking his.

Making plans to launch a kingside attack may make it necessary to first create some weakness in the opponent's king cover. Often in the opening an opponent will move his flank pawn up one square to prevent a pin to the Knight against the Queen by an attacking Bishop. This has the advantage that it gives the King a fleeing square to run to. However it has the drawback and disadvantage of creating a weakness in his pawnstructure.

Many times you can taunt your opponent to move his king's pawn cover and create such a weakness by either creating a threat to attack one of its pawns, or by placing a piece close by so that it will be chased away by an attacking pawn. Another is to aim a Bishop at the center pawn with your Queen backing it up behind. Instead of defending the pawns with a Knight many amateurs will just quickly move the pawn up to protect it. Most amateur players completely ignore king safety in order to start a quick attack, often with a lone queen, something rarely seen in master play.

If you do several of these alternating threatening moves you may get your opponent to completely lose the cover of his King, bringing it out into the open and very vulnerable to attack. He is now a vagabond King wandering about with out any permanent home to go to. This nomad is now the product of his irresponsible owner who may think that his advancing pawns are going to destroy you. Rarely does this happen in the middlegame because his open backranks are open to attack by your pieces. The vacuum he created in the back will have to be defended.

Creating a Weakness with Pawns

This example shows how a weak square can be created by using your pawns to force control of a desired spot.

Example 8

Creating a Weakness with Deception

This concept of taunting your opponent to attack one of your pieces can be used over and over again to create a weak square. Although Smyslov did not taunt Rudakovsky to attack his Bishop in the Smyslov -Rudakovsky game, he did get what he wanted just the same.

11.Bxd4 e5. "Although this move attacks the white bishop, it creates a weak square on d5"

Go back to this game and take another look at move eleven to see exactly why it created a weak square on d5 11...e5.

Smyslov-Rudakovsky

To get a weak square to use as an outpost, you must get your opponent to move his pawns by either attacking one of his pieces that is protected by a pawn or provoking him, to attack your piece with a pawn or by using your pawns to create one.

There is always a good chance that your opponent will attack your piece with one of his pawns if you give him that opportunity to do it. If he does he probably has no idea that he has done exactly what you wanted him to do, and that is to create a weak square by making a pawn move. And then you can be "laughing all the way to the bank" as they say.

# Outposts and Overprotection

An outpost is a piece located on the other side of the board, in your opponents camp and as a rule on the 5th or 6th rank for White and 4th or 3rd rank for Black. Usually and outpost is created on a WEAK SQUARE and is protected by a pawn or any long-range piece.

A good Outpost is usually created from a Weak Square in your opponent's camp into a Key Square.

1. Creating Outposts

An outpost fulfills the following two important strategical functions.

1. It constrains the opponent's position and provokes weakenings.

The outpost causes the opponent a lot of troubles, like a splinter in the body, it would be desirable to get rid of it. But this is possible only at the cost of new weakening appearing, which may be attackd and conquered by heavy pieces. Let us take a look at the first strategical function.

2. Creating Outposts

2. It can be a base for launching an attack.

One of the most important uses of an outpost is to use it for a base for launching attacks. Much like the military does from conquered key islands near the enemy's lands.

An outpost often plays a very important role in the attack; it coordinates the forces of the attacking side and limits the opponent's maneuverability. And an outpost square can be used for transferring pieces to another part of the board.

3. Creating Outposts

What should you do if your opponent has created an outpost in your camp? To get rid of it you need to push the enemy piece away from this square or exchange it. However it is necessary to take into account the consequences of such an exchange, which piece or pawn will appear instead? For example your opponent may create a strong passed pawn or get a new strong point. The best solution is to not make pawn moves that will create one.
Here is two examples of what can happen.

4. Creating Outposts

In this next example, the exchange on f5 leads to the formation of a brand new stronghold on the square e4 right in Black's king camp. Note that White castled on the opposite side of the board, something few average players like to do.

5. Creating Outposts

! Understanding the concept of Overprotection

The concept overprotection is very important for understanding the play for and against weak strong points, including outposts.
Aron Nimzovich (1886 - 1935 Denmark) was the first to suggest this concept. He described it in detail in his great book My System. He wrote that the strategically important points should be overprotected, that the point should have more defenders than attackers.

He wrote that an energetic and systematic application of PROPHYLACTIC MEASURES should be applied to a valuable position's piece, an outpost's piecet, passed pawn, blocker of an opponents passed pawn, or base of a pawn chain. And that the overprotecting of pieces not only strengthen strategically important points, but at the same time occupy good positions and hence become more valuable as well.

He wrote, "Side by side with the idea of prophylactic, that of collective mobility of a pawn-mass is a main postulate of my teaching on position play. In the last resort positional play is nothing other than a fight between mobility (of the Pawn-mass) on the one side and efforts to restrain this on the other. In this all-embracing struggle the intrinsically very important device of the prophylactic is merely a means to an end."

Weak point should be overprotected only if they help support strong ones, for example the base of a pawn chain.

Here are a few examples of PROPHYLACTIC MEASURES or overprotection:

Overprotection of the Base

Overprotection of the Knight

Overprotection of the passed d-Pawn

Overprotection of the d4-Blocker

                                            HOME