Dark and Light Square Weaknesses

  • WGM Natalia_Pogonina
  • | Feb 14, 2012

Maybe you have heard of light and dark-square strategy. It is associated with exploiting weak squares of a certain color in the opponent’s camp.

The main reason why squares can become weak is lack of control over them by pawns. If, additionally, the opponent’s pawns control them, the squares are even weaker. Your own bishop of the required color can be useful in terms of protecting the squares, while the opponent’s bishop of that color is dangerous since it can easily sneak into your fortress.

How does one take advantage of the weak squares? Here is a plan. The order of the first three points depends on the situation.

1.      Transfer your pieces to the weakened squares.

2.      Fix the opponent’s pawns to make sure the weaknesses don’t disappear. For example, play h5 for White while Black’s pawns are on h6-g7-f6.

3.      Trade pieces that act as guardians of the weak squares. Especially the bishop. Try to keep your own pieces that can burst into the opponent’s camp via the cracks.

4.      Once your opponent’s position becomes constrained, it’s time for the final assault. For example, a breakthrough on one of the flanks. Or an attack aimed at the king.

How does one create a weakness in the opponent’s position?

Make him move his pawns in an unbeneficial way. Weak players often forget that pawns can’t move backwards, and tend to push them every time there is a chance to attack the opponent’s piece. Therefore, it is not difficult to provoke them. Then take control of the squares using your own pawns. The latter is not a must, but is often a good idea. Remember: to exploit weaknesses, you need pieces that can take advantage of them.

A typical example of creating dark-square weaknesses is losing the g7-bishop in the Dragon. Black usually tries to avoid it at all costs, and prefers to sacrifice an exchange instead.


Vlastimil Hort, at one point ranked #6 in the world, has a great chess experience. For example, against Boris Spassky alone he has played at least 42 offical games!

Photo by Martin Chrz

In my game against Czech legend Vlastimil Hort both sides had weak squares. In White’s case it was the dark squares that became weak after 13.c4. The intrusion squares were d4-c3-b4. One of the plans was to play Bc5 and Nd4, potentially targeting a2. Meanwhile, some of Black’s light squares became weak. White could have forced Black to stick to the h6-g7-f6-e5 setup, and exploit the light squares by Nh4-Qh5-Be4. However, my opponent didn’t find that plan and ended up in a passive position. It was hard for him to cover his own weaknesses, so he should have concentrated on creating counter-play in Black’s camp via the light squares.


White didn’t do well in the opening; Black got a comfortable position. After e4 the weakness of White’s queenside pawns became obvious. However, by making a few careless moves, I failed to win a very promising endgame. The mini-match was a tie: two draws.

If you are interested in color complexes, here is a very full treatment of them: http://www.chess.com/chessmentor/view_course.html?id=339


  • 3 years ago

    WGM Natalia_Pogonina

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  • 4 years ago


    This was a great article, thanks for writing/posting it!

  • 4 years ago


    Thanks for the explaination.

  • 5 years ago


    Thumbs up!! Thanks

  • 5 years ago


    "Prophylactics" you go girl ; I will have to look that up!

  • 5 years ago


    I think I get it.  Then poof !  It's gone.  Then I get it again and.....    Anyway, there was enough presented in the article to make me aware of light and dark squares and factor this into my position analysis

  • 5 years ago


    It is a learning experience. The clear example, where the black creates some weaknesses on white territory, then the recovery on the whites part leaves no doubt on the importance of your teaching point about weak squares.

    Thanks for your input,

    Juan Zurcher

  • 5 years ago


    Very nice! in particular the game with best comments those very useful for learning, especially for me.Thanks Natalia. Cool

  • 5 years ago


    Once again, thank you.

  • 5 years ago


    Yes for humans its draw but not for computers!

  • 5 years ago


    I don't understand the importance of having an opponent who has all their pawns on light squares, and why that having a situation where you have a dark square bishop in this situation is desired?  If it gets to the point where you each have one minor piece, and your minor piece is a bishop that can't attack any of your opponents pawns, and your opponent's minor piece is a knight that can attack your pawns on any color or a light square bishop that is active and can attack pawns that you have on light squares, then the dark square bishop that can travel across the board becomes silly and useless, and I would rather have my opponent's minor piece!

  • 5 years ago


    Well done Natalia.

  • 5 years ago



  • 5 years ago


    nice game, I will try and apply lesson in my on games

  • 5 years ago


    nice game

  • 5 years ago


    There are loads of Kingscrusher video's on the subject. I remember Natalia's Sicilian Najdorf game with the light square weakness last year.

  • 5 years ago


    Hi Natalia, very interesting article, thanks.

    I noticed that you are putting quite a few comments before the first move of various variations.  I just wanted to point out to you that most people won't be able to see them, it would be better if you put these after the first move of the variation.  ie before 12.g4 you write "this is risky:", but we can't see it in the article here.

    Thanks for the great work.

  • 5 years ago


  • 5 years ago


    I loved that game. Bravo! Learning so much from you :)

  • 5 years ago


    good result. I always think of knights as interchangable, i.e. 1 knight can take the place of another, while bishops cannot. 

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