GW-KW, Point Count Chess Raw Discussion, File #5:
Part of the Advanced Beginner's Chess Guide (Section 2)

GW-KW, Point Count Chess,
Raw Discussion, May 29th 2011,
What I Just Didn't Get,
[-] "Weak-square Complex"

(GW) What I just didn't get about the "Weak-square Complex" ...

May 29th 2011, additions to that discussion ...

(GW, May 29th) Yes, this needs more going-over. Here's the PGN for the example given, in PCC, on pages 133-134, NOs. 93A to 93C. I want to return to this situation to discuss a few points about recognising the opportunity that White spots in creating a Weak Square Complex with Black's army:

PGN: Q-side Mobile Pawn Wing Demo (Start to No Longer Exists)

[Event "Weak Square Complex Example"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Horowitz"]
[Black "Mott-Smith"]
[Result "*"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "3r1rk1/ppp2ppp/2n1b2q/8/Q7/5NN1/PPP2PPP/3RR1K1 w - - 0 0"]
[PlyCount "25"]

1. Nd4 Nxd4 2. Rxd4 Rxd4 3. Qxd4 b6 4. Qe5 c5 5. f4 Bc8 6. f5 Bb7 7. Qe7 Qc6 8. Re2 f6 9. Ne4 Qd5 10. Nd6 Bc6 11. h3 c4 12. c3 h6 13. Kh2

I understand that Holes are created when Pawns advance in such a way that they leave certain squares without Pawn protection. In a "Weak Square Complex" situation, lots of Holes exist in a concentrated area of the board, at once, and the weakness is irreversible.

Ken's Comments ...

The only way a hole could be reversible is if a rear pawn advances, like the Black e pawn in the formation d5-e6-f5, eliminating the hole on e5. Then it would form a Phalanx, and has its own strengths and weaknesses, based on the situation.

(GW, May 29th) The crucial element in a Weak Square Complex - the thing that separates it from merely leaving Holes - is that, when the Pawns are advanced onto the same colored squares, thus leaving Holes on the opposite color squares, the remaining friendly Bishop will be on that opposite color, so be incapable of protecting the Pawns, once advanced into position.

Ken's Comments ...

This would be a Bad Bishop. If it is a Good Bishop, the Weak Square Complex would still exist, but would be mitigated somewhat by the Bishop. A Weak Square Complex helps to define the roles of the Bishop, Knight, and Queen (and even the pawns) on each side of the board.

(GW, May 29th) From what I've seen in examples, due to the heavy protection surrounding the Pawns in front of a Castled King (be it Kingside or Queenside), the Pawns to target are on the opposite side of the board to where the King and his Pawn guards are sitting.

Ken's Comments ...

Not necessarily an offside attack. For example, in a Stonewall formation for Black, he will normally castle Kingside, yet the hole is normally on e5, the Kingside. A White Knight in the hole at e5 would drive terror in the heart of Black, even when White also has castled Kingside. That is why Black's pieces take up the defense of this square, to prevent the utilization of the hole by White.

(GW, May 29th) The following set of images all relate to the Weak Square Complex example found in Point Count Chess, on pages 133-134. I've highlights the three Queenside Pawns that White will coral into the generating the Weak Square Complex:

May 29th 2011 - Weak Square Complex - Ex.1a

So, in Ex.1a (above) the three Queenside Pawns are the targets for White to coral into a Weak Square Complex situation.

Knowing that the Bishop of the opposite-, or wrong- color, is critical in forming a Weak Square Complex (in your opponent's army), we can see that Black only has his light-square Bishop remaining on the board. Therefore, White must cause Black's three Queenside Pawns to ALL step onto dark-squares.

Ken's Comments ...

This is a very instructive position in many ways.

  1. The only Bishop on the Board is the Black e5-Bishop on a light square. White wants the Queenside Pawns to be on the opposite color, so that Black will not be able to use the Bishop to defend these pawns. If a Bishop is attacking, it's best to have your pawns on opposite color. If a Bishop is defending, the pawns should be on the same color.

  2. The battle in the center is for d4, which White controls. White will use this as the basis of his attack.

  3. White is at the starting position already attacking the weak dark square (a7). It is defended by the Black Knight, so White decides to exchange on d4, to remove the defender, a typical tactical theme. White's goal is still to attack a7, but after the exchange, from a different vantage point.

  4. The Black Queen is out of play. White's pieces are more mobile than Black's. It is almost like Black is playing without his Queen.

  5. Black's Bishop is given the task of defending f5 from White's Knight, who could either attack the misplaced Queen, or move on to e7, with check. Black doesn't like either idea, so his Bishop is forced to defend the c8-h3 diagonal.

  6. Once White initiates exchanges, the White Queen will be on d4 (a dark square) and attacking a7, the d file and the Kingside.

(GW, May 29th) H&M-S highlight that Black's Queen isn't in a position to help deal with the threat to the Black Queenside units. So, it seems we can't charge into provoking the Weak Square Complex until our opponent is in some sort of positional disadvantage, when it's our turn to move.

The next of the criteria seems to be that we must have material equality. That is, in addition to equal amounts of Pawns, we must have the same amounts of Major and Minor Pieces. Notice, in Ex.1b that there's:

  • 6 White Pawns, for 6 Black Pawns;
  • 1 White Knight, for 1 Black Bishop (two Minor Pieces, even though they're different units);
  • 1 White Knight, for 1 Black Knight;
  • 2 White Rooks, for 2 Black Rooks; and ...
  • 1 White Queen, for 1 Black Queen;

Ken's Comments ...

Sorry to say, this is NOT a criteria for taking advantage of a Weak Square Complex. This happens to be the feature of this game and position. I have taken advantage of weak squares throughout a game, and when either materially inferior or superior.
Weak Square Complex - animated - Ex.1b, May 29th 2011 - Weak Square Complex - Ex.1b - Animated
Ex.1b (Material Equality)

When that criterion is met, we need to trade down the like-for-like Pieces. In Ex.1c, below, we reach the position where, for the time-being, no more trades/exchanges take place ...

May 29th 2011 - Weak Square Complex - Ex.1c
Ex.1c (H&M-S's Trades/Exchanges Completed)

Ken's Comments ...

White exchanges to remove defenders, while at the same time concentrating on the passive Black Bishop. He wants to accentuate that weakness.

(GW, May 29th) H&M-S seem content with not seeking any further exchanges of material and the corralling of Black's Queenside Pawns can begin (and indeed does). From that, we can assume, with 3 equal Pieces left on the board, we can proceed to force the target Pawns onto the same-colored squares. ...

Ken's Comments ...

Through proper planning, White has exchanged on a dark square, which forces Black at the end of the exchange to defend the dark Queenside pawns. The color of the only remaining Bishop of your opponent may well, as here, help to determine which square on which to force an exchange. As you don't want the Bishop to help out in the exchange, you choose the opposite color. One goal of Weak Square Complexes is that you want to limit the options of your opponent, while increase your advantages.

(GW, May 29th) This is seen in Ex.1d, below ...

Weak Square Complex - animated - Ex.1d, May 29th 2011 - Weak Square Complex - Ex.1d - Animated
Ex.1d (Pawns Forced onto Same-colored Squares)
  • Step 1: White is seen already attacking the outer-most Pawn, of that totally undefended, 3 Pawn Phalanx.

  • Step 2: This forces Black's b-Pawn to advance, to form the head of a 2-Pawn Chain. Notice how this is getting Black's Pawns to form the Chain, so it starts to swing outwards, from the outside Flank, opening up the center like a gate swinging open.

  • Step 3: White then attacks the inner-most Pawn - the c-Pawn.

  • Step 4: (I assume) as the Chain is the strongest defensive Pawn formation, Black has to advance the c-Pawn two squares, to sit at the head of a 3-Pawn Chain, rather than advance 1 square to form a 2-Pawn Phalanx (b6,c6).

Ken's Comments ...

(Referring to Step 4) ... Correct.

(GW, May 29th) ... Anyway, we now see Black's Queenside Pawns have ALL been forced onto the same dark-colored squares. Black's remaining Bishop can clearly be seen only able to operate along the light-colored squares, so is totally unable to help defend these Pawns and the dark-squares.

With the completion of the position seen in Step 4, H&M-S now declare that "White has achieved his first object: Black's Q3 (d6), K2 (e7) and QB2 (c7) are open to invasion because the heavy pieces are not in the vicinity and his bishop is of the wrong color."

May 29th 2011 - Weak Square Complex - Ex.1e
Ex.1e (c7, d6, e7 "Open to Invasion")
May 29th 2011 - Weak Square Complex - Ex.1f
Ex.1f (Comparison: Pre Dark-Square Pawn Chain)

So, in this H&M-S example (Ex.1e), is it just those three squares (c7,d6,e7), that are the "Weak Square Complex"? Or, is it the undefended light-squares (a6,b5,b7,c6) that define the Weak Square Complex? Or, is it all seven squares that define the Weak Square Complex (a6,b5,b7,c6 & c7,d6,e7)?

Ken's Comments ...

Good questions! Black has 2 Weak Square Complexes. One is c7,d6,e7 that White's Queen will use to penetrate Black's defenses, and a6,b5,b7,c6. Even if the passive Bishop could be activated to defend the latter, it could only defend 3 of the 4 squares at any one time. They are weak squares because they are not, or can not, be defended by Bishop or Queen.

(GW, May 29th) Then again, since H&M-S only refer to those squares on the 2nd & 3rd Ranks (c7,d6,e7, in Black's territory), does that mean Weak Square Complex only affects clusters of Holes on the 2nd & 3rd Ranks?

Ken's Comments ...

No. They affect the fourth rank as well.

(GW, May 29th) That little lot sorted, it then begs the question: How many Holes in any given area does it take to be classed as having a "Weak Square Complex"? Surely it'd be something like 3 or more Holes on adjacent files? Or are 2 Holes on adjacent files enough to be declared a Weak Square Complex?

Ken's Comments ...

Two or more weak squares.

(GW, May 29th) Back on page 133, second paragraph, and as already mentioned, H&M-S say that, after getting the Black Pawns into their dark-square Chain, (4. ... c5), "White has achieved his first object". Is that the Weak Square Complex realized?

Ken's Comments ...


(GW, May 29th) Or, is there more to do? H&M-S don't actually state a "second object(ive)". I note, on page 134, at the end of the second paragraph they say "... At the moment, the Black defense is adequate. The answer comes:" ... and they proceed to show how White starts to bring his King up to KN6 (g6). Is that just the benefiting result, for White, of bringing about the Weak Square Complex in your opponent's army?

Ken's Comments ...

Yes, that is the result. White will want to get his Queen onto c7 (think, Rook on 7th) attacking again the a7 pawn, and further tying down Black's Kingside, or bring his Knight to e5 now that the square is defended by his Queen.

I want to cover Weak Square Complexes in more detail, but the concepts that H&M-S use are older than modern concepts. That is why I would appreciate it if you could read the first two chapters of Dan Heisman's The Elements of Positional Evaluation 2010, that you said you now have:
  • Chapter 1 is good to review much of what H&M-S discuss, and even praises H&M-S as a book to learn basic strategy), up through Control of the Center in chapter 2. Weak Square Complexes and their strategies have to do more with the terms Flexibility and Vulnerability, while Center Control has more to do with Mobility and Vulnerability. Once you are up to speed on those 3 concepts (2 of which are good for your COA program), we can go into more detail on how to apply it to games, maybe as we go through H&M-S.

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