Mastering Squares, Part 7

Mastering Squares, Part 7

| 22 | Strategy

As I’ve often said, when mastering a new concept it’s important to first study the concept’s basic nuts and bolts, look at all variations of that concept, and finally go over hundreds (even better is thousands) of games featuring that concept.

Last week’s article demonstrated some fairly advanced variations of our weak square motif. And it showed some recent grandmaster games where squares were a major theme.

This article will also make use of recent grandmaster games, but since the battle for squares runs the gauntlet from super complex to insanely simple, this time I’ll lower the complexity a bit.

First, an easy one -– that is, easy if you’re looking for holes in White’s camp. It's not so easy if you aren’t!

In the position below, White’s king is trapped in the center, though at the moment the center is blocked by pawns. White’s rook is threatening g7. Note that White can’t castle queenside since that would allow ...Bxa3.

However, placing the a3-pawn on a safe square by a4 would leave a gaping hole on b4.

Find a move for Black that does two things at once.

Next up, what is and isn’t a hole, and a fancy jig to boot! Note that the d5-square is a hole, while d4 isn’t since c2-c3 will chase anything on d4 away.

Though there aren’t any jigs in the following game, there is some serious square hunting.

In the position below, White has two queenside goals: One is the oldie but goodie minority attack. By playing Qb3, a3-a4 followed by b4-b5, White cracks the enemy structure and leaves attackable pawn and square weakness in its wake.

The other, which is often mixed with the minority attack, is making use of the c5-square as a home for a knight. Though it isn’t a true hole since …b7-b6 can chase the knight away from c5, the advance of the b7-pawn would leave the pawns on a6 and c6 vulnerable (e2-bishop hitting a6 and rook on c1 hitting c6).

So, once again we see the world’s best players embracing squares in game after game. Of course, this doesn’t mean that this particular position is good for White. In fact, Black’s fine here after...

What good is an article without a Nakamura example? Here he shows us that sometimes you have to give something to get something, and White’s first move does just that.

Finally, our main game. The heart of it is a hole, but there is a lot going on for both sides. 


  • Before you make a move, ask yourself what wonderful thing it does for your position. If you don’t have a good answer, then why in the world are you playing that move!?
  • Sometimes you have to give something to get something. Just make sure your something is better than his!
  • Recognizing a hole is just as important for the defender as it is for the attacker. If you notice a hole in your camp, you often can do something about it. But if you’re oblivious to positional niceties, expect those “unimportant” niceties to chew you up!


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