An Outpost

WIM energia
Jul 17, 2009, 12:00 AM |
8 | Middlegame

This article will deviate a little from the exchange topic. I would like to address the topic of outposts. An outpost is a square, usually on the opponent’s side of the board that is attacked by our pawn but cannot be protected by the opponent’s pawns. When a piece ends up occupying an outpost, the piece becomes very powerful because it is usually a central square and it can stay there until exchanged by an opponent’s piece. Then the pawn or another of our pieces will occupy the outpost. It turns out that sometimes it is unfavorable to exchange the piece that is at the outpost position because it would create a strong passed pawn. In other cases the side that has a strong outpost piece would exchange it purposefully to  place another piece there. When one has an outpost the questions that he has to deal with are: what piece to put there? Would it be favorable to exchange the outpost piece? When one defends against an outposted piece he has to answer the questions: when should he undermine the support of the piece? Should he exchange the piece? Or play around it? Let’s look at some examples that address these questions.

Having an extra pawn and more space gives white an advantage. There is an outpost on d6 for white, and d5 for black, but d5 can be covered by the c3 pawn. Therefore, the d6 outpost is more dangerous than d5. Black’s bishop on c6 is the best piece, while Bg7 is cut out of play by white pawns. It would be favorable for white to trade Bc6, leaving bad Bg7. For black the most dangerous piece in white’s camp is the knight, since it can jump to d6 greatly disturbing the coordination of black's pieces. White follows the normal plan of putting the knight on d6.





            Black opened the diagonal for Ba8 with his last move d:c4 but weakened the support for the knight on e4. Also they created isolated d4 pawn for white, thus future exchanges should benefit black. In return white got a strong outpost e5 for his knight.





            In the following examples the kings are castled on opposite sides but neither side is ready for a direct attack yet. Black has a light-squared bishop, which in the future might be dangerous since it aims at g2. White’s Na3 is out of play so far and there is no clear way of getting it into the game. So far, the direct threat is Nd7, winning an exchange. Black decides to ignore the threat by taking control of light squares and establishing an outpost on d3.





            Black has an advantage of two bishops but is behind in development. The pawn e5 is vulnerable but c4 can be weak too. White has an outpost on d4 but by moving c5 black can defend it at the cost of creating a new outpost for white on d6. So far the threat is Ne6 winning an exchange. Black found an active defense.





            The first example illustrated the power of undermining the support of the piece in an outpost position. It also showed that sometimes it is favorable to exchange strong outpost pieces for the opponent’s piece that does not occupy an outpost but is not weaker. The second example showed the play when two sides have outposts in the center and how pieces maneuvered around these squares and the creation of new outposts. Sometimes one needs to sacrifice material to get an outpost, this is what happened in the third example. Having outposts also gives additional tactical resources, since the pieces are in the proximity of the opponent’s king, this was shown in the last example. Overall, it is a great advantage to have an outpost, one just needs to know how to use it properly. Hopefully this article would be of some help in answering this question.

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