GW-KW, Point Count Chess Raw Discussion, File #7:
Part of the Advanced Beginner's Chess Guide (Section 2)

Game 2, with KW's additional Comments, Attempting to Help GW Understand Control of the Center
[June 6th 2011]

3. f4

White decides on the Stonewall Attack. The Stonewall can be a powerful attack; however, it creates a Weak Square Complex - White has 5 pawns on dark squares, and 3 of which have advanced in the Center. On e4, White no longer has a pawn that can defend it.

(GW, June 5th) When creating a Pawn Chain, you're deliberately pushing a certain amount of your pawns onto the same colored squares. But, for the most part, Pawn Chains are seen as a relatively strong Pawn Structure; I've not yet heard of a Weak Square Complex being referred to in the same breath as Pawn Chains. So, is there certain ratio or arrangement when Pawns are advanced into a "Weak Square Complex"?

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 6th) Pawn Chains are relative strong, as long as their base is on the 2nd rank for the player. Even then, there is an old saying that "A chain is only as strong as its base." The base of a Pawn Chain is its weak point, but the other pawns in the chain are normally fairly strong.

The reason the 2 Pawn Chains are weak here, creating a Weak Square Complex, is three fold: 1) White now has a Hole on e4, that will be difficult to fill for him; 2) White has created a potentially backward pawn on e3, which could be subject to attack, as no other pawn could defend it; and 3) the Pawn Chain does not extend to the second rank (the easiest to defend because of the initial position of pieces).

As a general rule of thumb, I want to keep track in my analysis on how many pawns of my opponent (and myself, for that matter) are on light and dark squares. When I see an imbalance, I always check the board to see the squares of the opposite color of the majority of pawns (the majority of pawns in this game are on the dark squares (5), while only 3 are on light squares; Therefore I check the opposite of the dark squares, as the light squares will be slightly weaker, regardless of pawn arrangement). I always look to see if I can place pieces or attack weak squares, regardless of whether there are zero, one, or two Bishops of the opponent on the board.

Perhaps think of Squares as equal to Ranks, Files, Diagonals, Pawns, and Pieces. You would look at Ranks, Files, Diagonals, Pawns and Pieces to assess a position. We are adding a Sixth Dimension (I think in physics they talk of eleven dimensions, so we are in good company), Squares, and their relative value.

Just as we look at pieces and say "that is a Bad Bishop because it is locked in by its pawns", or "That is a Bad Queen because she is out of play and is close to being captured", or "that is a Bad Pawn Position because of the Doubled Pawns", or "that is a good open file for White to control", or "that is a Good Diagonal for the Bishop as it has more range than on other diagonals it could be on", or "the Rook on the seventh rank is good", so we say, "the opponent is weaker on his light squares than on his dark squares (as in this game), so we are going to take advantage of it by placing our pawns and pieces to attack or occupy the light squares, so we get stronger where he is already weaker; and if nothing else, we are going to place our pawns and pieces in such a way to limit his Flexibilty on light squares, or make him Vulnerable on those squares should he want to reinforce them".

Wow, that was a long sentence! But what I said about Weak Squares is key to understanding Weak Square Complexes; As soon as you notice a disparity, if you begin to take advantage of it, and your opponent does not or is not able to reverse it, count it as a Weak Square Complex.

(GW, June 5th) Secondly, I thought "Weak Square Complex" only existed when the Pawns have advanced onto the same color square and the Bishop operating on that color of squares had disappeared from the board. Or, as H&M-S put it: "The Weak-Square Complex: A whole series of squares of one color may become holes through the disappearance of the bishop tied to squares of that color."

Ken's Comments ...

(GW, January 2nd 2012) This is where I get a bollocking, pastor-style ...

(KW, June 6th) ***No***. We are looking at the SQUARES! That quote you use is important in many ways. I think it needs to be interpreted like this: "The Weak-Square Complex: A whole series of squares of one color." PERIOD. "may become holes" means a hole is not a hole unless the "Hole Square" is attacked and cannot be defended by a Bishop or Queen (that is, it is Vulnerable to an opposing pawn or piece). By saying "MAY BECOME holes through the DISAPPEARANCE of the bishop tied to squares of that color.", the MAY BECOME shows that the Bishop can still be around. The MAY BECOME is talking about the general weakness of a HOLE (or Holes), not about the Weak Square Complex.

Let's try to define it a different way to elucidate: ANYTIME you move a pawn, you are creating what could be a hole on a different square (if you start a game e4, you have created at least one potential hole on e2). A Hole is a square that cannot be defended by a pawn. Most of the time, when you create a Pawn Chain, it is strong because you have a Bishop or Queen to protect the holes on diagonals (squares) that the pawns in the pawn chain cannot defend.

If the pawns in the Pawn Chain are on dark squares, they cannot attack a pawn or piece that lands next to it on a light square, because a pawn can only attack diagonally on the same color that it is currently on. Because they cannot attack that pawn or piece that is next to them, they need a piece (usually Bishop or Queen, who can move on the diagonals) to defend /attack for them.

But suppose your opponent places pawns or pieces in such a way that a Bishop could not defend the holes (As in Dan Heisman's Elements book, p. 38, what I will call diagram A (I will go with page number followed by A,B,C depending where it came on the page).
Here, both sides have Pawn Chains. Both sides have Bishops. Both sides have holes (White: b2,c3,d4,e5,f6; Black:f7,d7,c6,b5,a4 - these are the holes that can be attacked - a true hole. There are holes at f5 and h5 for White and f6 and h6 for Black, but these wouldn't count a point for a hole, because they cannot be attacked). And both sides have Weak Square Complexes (White: a Weak Dark Square Complex; Black: a Weak Light Square Complex).

Both side's Bishops have good Mobility, but they do not have Flexibilty, because any square they move to, they are Vulnerable. This is truly one of the best diagrams to show all these factors I have ever seen. Go over this diagram and this paragraph until this makes sense, and reread Heisman around this diagram. So, practically, the way to determine Weak Square Complexes is 2 fold:
  1. Count how many pawns on each side are on light squares, and how many are on dark squares (in our game we are discussing and at this position, looking at White, 3 and 5).
If there is an imbalance, that does NOT mean you have a Weak Square Complex. You need to look at step 2:
  1. How many pieces of the opponent are attacking squares and CONTROL squares on the color that are weak? (upon Black's next move, 3...Nf6, Black attacks and COA Controls e4 and g4. Thus there is a Weak Square Complex that Black is controlling White's Weak Squares (light squares e4 and g4). This is an advantage and is countable. Note again that all Bishops are on the board.
Really this is about all there is to Weak Square Complexes. Go through steps 1 and 2. Take advantage of whichever shade (light or dark) your opponent is weaker by placing your pawns and pieces to increase your Mobility on their weak shade, limit your opponent's Flexibility, and increase your opponent's Vulnerabilty to their weak squares.

COA Control does step 2 well (it could do it even better if it reported light and dark squares separately), but ignores step 1. When we discuss Vulnerability, and are able to add it to COA, you will have a powerful analysis program.

(GW, June 5th) I suppose you could argue, the Pawns that advance, creating the series of Holes (e.g. the light squares, as when White - fatjonny - played 1. d4, 2. e3, 3. f4) develop the "Weak Squares" and the potential for the Weak Square Complex, but that only becomes a reality if/when the Bishop of that color (the dark Bishop, in fatjonny's case) gets captured (30. ... Rxb2)?

Ken's Comments ...

(KW, June 6th) No, it becomes a reality when Black can COA CONTROL some of those light square holes.

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