Good or Bad Square? Part II

Apr 2, 2014
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Last month, I ended with examining the third element of good positional play: good and bad squares. This week I would like to show how to effectively make the most of good squares for one's pieces, in the context of all three elements we have examined thus far. In addition, here are two True or False questions I would like you to consider:

T/F?: "Having a piece on a stronger/better square always means a superior/better position."

T/F?: "To obtain a good position, one should never give up control of weak squares to an enemy piece."

I will reveal the answers to these questions through another positional game from the recent European Individual Championship. As you go through the game, also pay attention to which squares both sides direct their pieces towards, particularly the knights and rooks.

Korobov, Anton - Alekseenko, Kirill 0-1

15th ch-EUR Indiv 2014 2014.03.03

1.c4 e5 2.Nc3 d6 3.Nf3 f5 4.d4 e4 5.Ng5 Be7 6.Nh3 Nf6 7.Nf4 O-O 8.e3 c5 9.d5 Na6 10.Be2 Nc7

a closed, yet complex middlegame position has arisen from the English Opening.


BD_10663_104_0.pngDiagram #1

White secures the f4 square as an outpost for his knight, where it eyes a potential strong square on e6.

11... Nd7! 

BD_10663_104_1.pngDiagram #2

Black's knight relocating to a central square.


BD_10663_104_2.pngDiagram #3

Taking out one of the defenders of the e6 square

12... Ne5 not 12... Nxb5? due to the intermediate move 13.Ne6! 13... Qe8 (13... Qa5+ 14.Bd2) 14.Nxf8 winning material.

13.Nxc7 Qxc7 after some forcing play, both sides continue with development and improving their pieces.

14.Bd2 Qd8 eyeing h4


15.g3?! is inaccurate and less desirable

BD_10663_104_3.pngDiagram #4

because it only creates weak squares (or strong squares for Black) around the kingside especially f3, once the light-squared bishops get exchanged.

15... Bf6 16.Bc3 Qe7 17.Qb3 trying to make it difficult for Black to complete development with Bc8-d7

17... Rb8 but Black will eventually make it happen

18.a4 preventing any future queenside break with b7-b5

18... Bd7 19.g3?!

BD_10663_104_4.pngDiagram #5

It was better to refrain any kingside weakening with castling or 19.Kf1 Nf7 20.Bxf6 Qxf6 21.Rh3!? 21... Ne5 22.Kg1 = keeping a solid position. Here, White only has one potential weak square to take care of and his h3-rook will act as a defender to any kingside play Black will make in the future.

19... b6 20.Kf1 Nf7!? planning to make his e5-knight "eternal" on the good e5-square, and gaining more room for his pieces on the kingside.


21.Bxf6 leads to equal play Qxf6 22.Kg2 Ne5 23.Qc3 a5 preventing b4 and achieving an almost deadlock position. Both sides cannot make much progress but who knows, Black may be able to make something work on the kingside later...

21... Be5 22.Qc2 Qf6 the position is still equal, but in the following moves White provokes Black to change the nature of the game

23.a5 b5! a somewhat difficult decision to make during the game because Black will be forced to give up his light-squared B which will cause e6 to become a "weak square." While it will also give White weak squares on f3 and d3, White's knight is more ready to jump on e6. But as we will see later on it's not necessarily always bad to give our opponent control of our "weak" squares...

24.cxb5 Bxb5 25.Ra3?! this is actually a bad move, because it leaves the rook passively placed soon as the position opens up--a3 is a bad square for the rook!

25...Bxe2 26.Qxe2 Bxc3 27.bxc3 after the exchanges, the situation clarifies and Black's next move will set the tone for the rest of the game

27... Rb7!

BD_10663_104_5.pngDiagram #6

Taking over the initiative because White cannot stop Black's plan to conquer the b-file and invade via his 7th or 8th rank. "Double the rooks, double the power!"


BD_10663_104_6.pngDiagram #7

White's knight has a strong on e6, but he doesn't have a clear way to use it to his advantage.

If 28.Qc2 Rfb8 29.Ra2 Rb3

BD_10663_104_7.pngDiagram #8

Black is better because it's easy for him to pressure targets on White's position and White actually has to retreat with 30.Ne2 to avoid losing material, but after Ne5 -/+ Black's pieces are much better placed.

28... Rfb8 29.Qa6 creating some counterplay and keeping Black's rook tied down to a7-pawn

29... Qe7 30.Raa1 Qd7?! giving White time to improve a piece and increase his defensive chances

More energetic and accurate was to immediately play 30... Rb2! 31.Rh4 Ne5 -/+

BD_10663_104_8.pngDiagram #9

Heading to the strong squares g4, f3 or d3, and create mating threats with the rooks! This line underlines the disparity between the effectiveness of the Black and White knight. Even though White's knight is deeper in the the enemy camp, Black is better because he can use his central knight and his strong squares to attack White's king.

31.Rh4 Rb2 32.Rf4

BD_10663_104_9.pngDiagram #10

White now has not only defended his weak f2 pawn but also created pressure on Black's f5 pawn. Unfortunately, it's still somewhat difficult to play White not only due to his more weak squares, but also a weak king and uncoordinated pieces.

32... Nh6 33.Re1 anticipating the fork tactic after Nh6-g4

If 33.Qf1? Ng4 (33... Qf7 34.Qh1 Ng4) 34.Rxf5 Nxe3+ -+ wins.

33... Ra2

BD_10663_104_10.pngDiagram #11

Planning to double up horizontally.

It was actually better to improve the placement of the queen, to prevent any counter-ideas from White: 33... Qe7 34.Kg1 Rc2

34.Qc6?! White could've escaped from Black's bind with the unexpected resource 34.g4! 34... Nxg4 (34... fxg4 35.Rb1! 35... Rxb1? 36.Rf8#) 35.Rxf5 not only has White relieved pressure, he also gained good counterplay on the kingside!

34... Qe7 35.a6?

This shows how tough it can be to play White's position in a pactical game. White to use a radical approach to his position, and achieve drawing chances with the tactical shot 35.Rb1!! 35... Rxb1 36.Qc8+ Kf7 37.Nd8+ Kf8 ( Kf6? 38.Nc6 Qb7 39.Qf8+ Nf7 40.g4!! with the idea of mate Rxf5 next move e.g.40... g6 41.hxg6 hxg6 42.Ne7! another resource made possible by g4!42... Qxe7 43.g5+ Kxg5 44.Qxe7+ +- ) 38.Ne6+ Kf7 39.Nd8+ Kf8 =.

35... Rab2! kicking out White's active and annoying queen, that gives White some counterplay.


BD_10663_104_11.pngDiagram #12

36... R2b6 37.Qa4 Qf7 Now Black starts to gradually improve his pieces and subjects White to passive defending of his weaknesses

38.Kg2 Rb2! placing it back to its active b2-square and instantly threatening Ng4, now that f7 is defended

38... Qxh5? only gives White unnecessary counterplay or more defensive possibilities 39.Rh1 Qg6 ( Qf7 40.Rfh4) 40.Rhh4! 40... Ng4? 41.Rhxg4 fxg4 42.Qd7 and White is even winning because Black cannot stop White's mating threats! 42... h5 (42... Rxa6 43.Qe7 h5 44.Rf8+ Rxf8 45.Qxf8+ Kh7 46.Qc8 +- ) 43.Qxa7 Rb2 44.Qe7 +-.

39.Qd1 Ng4

BD_10663_104_12.pngDiagram #13

Finally, the Black's knight takes hold of a strong square, and to great effect because it works well with the rest of Black's pieces.

40.h6 Qh5! the threats just keeps coming, thanks to Black's playmaker: g4-knight!

BD_10663_104_13.pngDiagram #14

White is forced to give up material to avoid mate

41.Rxg4 ( 41.Rh1 Nxe3+ -+ )

41... Qxg4 42.Qxg4 fxg4 -+ the rest was easy because Black can mop up White's weak pawn with his rooks

43.Rh1 Rd2 44.Ng5 Rxd5 45.Nxe4 Re8 46.f3 Rxe4

White resigned here, because Black will transpose into a winning king ending e.g. 47.fxe4 Rd2+ 48.Kg1 Rd1+ 49.Kg2 Rxh1 50.Kxh1 gxh6 -+.

Therefore, the answer to both questions is False! So be warned, having a piece on a strong square does not equate to a better position! It follows that one can obtain a better position while allowing an enemy piece to take hold of a weak square, so long as the enemy does not obtain anything more than a well-placed piece.

To obtain the advantage with a piece on a "good square," one has to use it with the rest of the army to execute a plan, say attacking the enemy king, putting pressure on a weak pawn, etc. Essentially, obtaining a "good" square for one's piece is not an end in itself, but a means to an end.

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