Train Your Brain! Pushing the Lesson Home!

Train Your Brain! Pushing the Lesson Home!

Silman
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In “Train Your Brain, Target Consciousness” (Part 1, Part 2) we took a look at weak squares and weak pawns. When studying things like this, you first look at the concept (in this case weak squares and/or weak pawns), you try to intellectually grasp that concept, and then you look at tons of examples with that concept until it’s burned into your brain!

In my last article I said I was going to milk weak squares and weak pawns one last time. However, I lied. We’re going to do the time warp again (for you Rocky Horror Picture Show fans. If you haven't seen the movie, rent it and prepare to have your mind deconstructed!), but this time it will be nothing but puzzles so you can see if you fully grasp the concept we’ve been studying.

I’ll be using my own games as illustrations. Looking back at my games, I realized that a large percentage featured some form of weak pawn/weak square situation. The point is that a deep understanding of weak squares and weak pawns is enormously important. You will become much, much stronger if you make the effort to nail this very simple (and easy to learn) concept down.

These puzzles are Q & A. The answers will be listed at the end of the article.

Puzzle One:

In this position Black took on f4. Is that wise? What are the pros and cons?

Puzzle Two:

A normal (and strong) move would be 18.Qc2 giving e4 more support, connecting the rooks, and also giving the c3-knight more support if White decides to play b2-b3. However, does 18.Nf1 makes any sense? 

Puzzle Three: 

White enjoys a significant space advantage. There are several logical moves to choose from, but is 15.c5 one of them? What are the pros and cons of this move? 

Puzzle Four:

Black’s a little better. He has a large choice of reasonable moves but, alas, a player can only choose one! Black chose 31...Bg1, attacking the h2-pawn. Why would Black waste his time attacking a pawn when it can easily move to safety? What’s the point of this move?  

Puzzle Five:

After the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 e6 3.Nd2 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.e3 b6 6.Ngf3 Be7 7.Bd3 0-0 8.0-0 h6 9.Bh4 Bb7 10.a3 cxd4 11.cxd4 Nd5 12.Bxe7 Ncxe7 13.Re1 we get the following position:

Black has many playable moves. Which one best fits our theme?

Puzzle Six:

What is Black’s best move?

Puzzle Seven:

List the weak squares, and also point out which weak squares are of any importance (just because a square is weak doesn’t mean it’s necessarily useful). If you want to test yourself further, try and figure out who stands better and why. 

Puzzle Eight:  

Find the problem with Black’s position. 

Puzzle Nine:

The c2-pawn is obviously under attack. White can either push it or defend it. What are the repercussions of both? 

Puzzle Ten:

White has the better game, but it’s not the end of the world. Is 14...Bxe5 a reasonable move for Black?

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ANSWERS TO THE PUZZLES

Puzzle One:

In this position Black took on f4. Is that wise? What are the pros and cons?

Though opening the center up when one’s king is there is usually a bad idea, 10...exf4 is a good move.

Pros:

  • Creates a weak square on e5 that can be used as a nice home for Black’s pieces (the d7-knight is drooling at the prospect of taking up residence on e5).
  • Leaves White with an isolated e-pawn, which eventually might be an object of attack.

Puzzle Two:

A normal (and strong) move would be 18.Qc2 giving e4 more support, connecting the rooks, and also giving the c3-knight more support if White decides to play b2-b3. However, does 18.Nf1 makes any sense?

The knight on d2 seems well posted since it defends e4 and eyes the critical c4-square, which often becomes a nice home for a White knight. However, if you spotted the hole on f5 then 18.Nf1 will make perfect sense since White will follow up with 19.Ne3 when the knight still hits c4, but also eyes the f5-hole.

Puzzle Three:

White enjoys a significant space advantage. There are several logical moves to choose from, but is 15.c5 one of them? What are the pros and cons of this move?

The con is obvious – 15.c5 creates a huge hole on d5 and leaves the d4-pawn backward! But there are also advantages to 15.c5:

  • Gains even more space.
  • Prevents Black’s thematic ...c6-c5 central break.
  • By stopping ...c6-c5 Black’s bishop remains entombed behind its own pawns.
  • Pushing the c-pawn to c5 lays claim to the d6-square!

Puzzle Four:

Black’s a little better and is the only one who can possibly win. He has a large choice of reasonable moves but, alas, a player can only choose one! Black chose 31...Bg1, attacking the h2-pawn. Why would Black waste his time attacking a pawn when it can easily move to safety? What’s the point of this move?

In a technical position where you have all the chances but no clear win, it’s usually a good idea to create as many potential weaknesses as possible in the enemy camp. They may or may not prove useable, but the more stuff you have to nibble on, the better your chances at success. The point of 31...Bg1 is to force a weakness/hole on g3 which, eventually, Black's king might be able to use to penetrate into the enemy position. Another point is that once White's pawn moves to h3 the g2-pawn won't be able to move anymore, making it a stationary target. Indeed, that hole and the weakness of g2 proved extremely important!

Puzzle Five:

After the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 e6 3.Nd2 c5 4.c3 Nc6 5.e3 b6 6.Ngf3 Be7 7.Bd3 0-0 8.0-0 h6 9.Bh4 Bb7 10.a3 cxd4 11.cxd4 Nd5 12.Bxe7 Ncxe7 13.Re1 we get the board position. Black has many playable moves. What one best fits our theme?


Puzzle Six:

What is Black’s best move?


As is shown in the board above, 14...a4! was best since it affects two squares: b3 and c4.

Puzzle Seven:

List the weak squares, and also point out which weak squares are of any importance (just because a square is weak doesn’t mean it’s necessarily useful). If you want to test yourself further, try and figure out who stands better and why?

There are holes (which are potential support points) on b4, c5, d4, f4 and h4. Though Black has no intention of putting a knight on b4 (it wouldn’t have much influence there) the hole status creates the far more important hole on c5 (if White’s a-pawn was on a3, then b3-b4 would deny Black use of c5). Note that b5, d5, and f5 aren’t true holes since ...c7-c6 could eventually be played, denying White’s pieces access to b5 and d5. As for f5, an eventual ...g7-g6 would chase the knight off of f5 (at the risk of allowing Nh6+).

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The most important weak squares on the board are c5 and f4, both of which will be fine homes for Black’s knights.

Black has a clear advantage since White’s two bishops are inactive due to the closed nature of the position. (The white bishops are hitting Black’s pawn wall and bouncing off.) The light-squared bishop in particular is awful. Thus Black’s knights are superior to White’s bishops.

I think it’s also important to point out that after a sequence like 28...Ne6 (targeting f4) 29.Rf2 Nf4 30.Bf1 (which occurred in the game) 30...Bxf5 31.exf5 Nd7 (heading for the tasty hole on c5) 32.Bd2 Nc5 33.Be3 Qf6 (threatening moves like ...Qh4 and/or ...g6) White can chop off one of the knights but that would leave him with a terrible bishop vs. a powerful enemy knight (the proverbial superior minor piece)

Puzzle Eight:

Find the problem with Black’s position.


The b6-square (a hole) is very weak. White can take immediate advantage by 12.Bb6 when the super ugly 12...Qd7 is forced. Instead Black played 12...Be6 and after 13.Nd5 White won material and the game (13...Bxd5 14.cxd5 Ne5 15.Rac1 Rc8 16.Qa5 is game over). As you can see, creating/noticing, and using weak squares will pay huge dividends to all who make use of this strategy.

Puzzle Nine:

The c2-pawn is obviously under attack. White can either push it or defend it. What are the repercussions of both?


Black has a small edge here thanks to his pressure against c2 and e4, and his ability to make use of the half open b- and c-files. Though c2 isn’t a weak pawn in the normal sense (since White can push it to c4), that advance creates a whole new set of problems (as demonstrated in the board above). 

Puzzle Ten:

White has the better game, but it’s not the end of the world. Is 14...Bxe5 a reasonable move for Black?


No, 14...Bxe5?? loses the game since it hands White a huge hole on d6 (as demonstrated in the board).

Note how White’s huge positional advantage (domination of the d-file and hole on d6) eventually led to a tactical finish. This jump from strategy to tactics is common, with one effortlessly leading to the other.


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