Part of the beauty of weaknesses in chess are how they relate to each other. More often than not, if your opponent has a weak square that you’re able to control, the squares that you use to access that square become equally strong and nearly as important, and then from those squares your grip will grow and grow as your opponent weakens more and more squares in his effort to dislodge you. This concept of complexes of weak squares was shown heavily in a game I played a few months ago against a player on the Chess Live server. I was rated about 2075, and my opponent was rated about 1790, so I was the heavy favorite, but nevertheless my opponent is dangerous.
When I start into the game, I want you to be thinking about what the weak squares in each side’s position is and how each side handles those squares. I had the white pieces:
1. e4 e5, 2. Nf3 d6, 3. d4 exd4, 4. Bxc4 Be7, 5. Nxd4 c5,
Immediately you see that this move kicks out my knight from the center, but you also see that this comes at the cost of weakening the d5 square quite a bit. To counter-balance this a bit, black does gain more control of the d4 square, but there is a key difference between my control of d5 and his control of d4. You’ll soon see what that difference is.
6. Ne2 Nc6,
It seems more natural for me to come back to f3 with the knight, but this move allows me manuevers to go Ne2-f4-d5 to really lock down on that square, or even Ne2-g3-f5 if I want. Black plays logically, locking down on my weak dark squares in the center.
7. Be3 Nf6, 8. Nc3 0-0, 9. Nf4 Ng4, 10. Ncd5 Nce5,
The relationship between the knights is sort of funny-looking here, but the fact that they’re stepping all over each others toes is important to note. His knight out on g4 looks really out of place.
11. Be2 Bf6, 12. h3 Nxe3, 13. Nxe3 Nc6, 14. c3! …,
The point! I can prevent him from occupying d4 by playing this pawn move, but he has no pawn moves to keep me out of d5. This is the point of the game that I really want to look at.
So what do you think? White seems to have more control of the center, but black can come into e5 with his knight. White’s pieces are really flowing on black’s weak light squares, especially d5, although c4 and f5 are also possible outposts. We said earlier that d5 was white’s key strong point and black’s key weakness, but if you look at how my pieces move to and from that square, you’ll see that the weakness of f5 and c4 are also directly linked to my control of d5.
If you’ve read Nimzovich’s My System, then you’ll start to see how this relates to his idea of restraint. Black’s d6-point has the potential to become very weak. It’s on an open file, it can never advance to d5 and trade itself off, and white could pile up on it if he wanted to. As a result of holding this pawn back, white totally controls d5. Also, because this pawn is weak, white’s entire game will revolve around it, and he will have a lot of options about how to attack. White could put a knight on c4 and attack d6, he could put a knight on f5 and attack the d6 point and the black kingside at the same time, or he could even pile up on the d-file with rooks then put a knight on c4 and a knight on f5. This would be a very brutal attack, and if you take a moment and notice, there’s nothing black can really do about it.
What you need to see in this position is that black having an extremely weak d5 leads to having a fairly weak c4 and f5, which leads to white having a huge advantage and a very easy game from here on out. The d5 square acts as a catalyst for c4 and f5 to become weak, creating a weak complex of squares for black in the middle of the board.
Most beginners with even a minimal amount of experience can point out a weak square in their opponent’s position and can try to occupy it and take advantage of it. A more advanced way of thinking to see what squares are related to that weakness, and try to exploit them as well. Understanding this concept can vastly improve both your positional understanding and your attacking strength, and is heavily linked to most middlegame concepts.