What are "weak squares"?

  • spassky
  • | Sep 4, 2011

One concept that new players sometimes find difficult to grasp is weak squares. “I understand how a piece can be weak, but a weak square? What does that mean?”


A square is weak when it is controlled by your opponent and you have little or no chance of regaining control due to a lack of pieces which can effectively fight for that square. Typically, pawns that could have controlled the square have moved past it and, of course, cannot move backwards to help guard it. Single weak squares are called “holes”. Holes on the opponents half of the board that can be occupied by one of your supported pieces are called “outposts”.


Sometimes, number of adjacent squares of the same color can become weak. This often happens when a bishop of that color gets captured and the remaining pawns are mostly on squares of the other color. When this situation occurs, the weakened squares are called a “weak square complex”. A typical weak square complex occurs after a fiachettoed bishop (say it was on g7—a black square) gets captured. The remaining pawns are on f7, g6, and h7—all white squares. Now nothing is defending the squares f6, g7, h6 (and perhaps even f8 and h8). Or maybe only the Black king is defending them. That is not a good situation, especially if White still has his black-squared bishop and queen.


Occasionally, as in the two games presented below, all of the squares of one color around the opposing king become weak. This is called a disaster. In both games, the Black king is prevented from castling in either direction by a crossfire from the unopposed White queen and bishop. Once he is stuck in the center, all that remains to be done is to open the center and let the rooks pour down the open files with devastating effect.


Notice in each game how no single move was a blunder. The weak square complex just sort of “appeared” all of a sudden, and then you just look at the position and say “Wow, this looks like trouble”. You have to develop a feel for weak squares. Two thoughts that can help are:


  1. If you have traded off a bishop of one color, be careful about moving pawns to the other color.

  2. If many of your pawns are already on one color, try not to trade off your bishop that guards the other color.

In other words, you have to take care to retain control of squares on your half of the board, especially the squares around your king. The two games presented illustrate Black violating both of these rules and being swiftly punished for doing so. Guard your squares and they will guard you!

Visit the Maryland Chess Association website, http://mdchess.com/ .


  • 3 years ago


    great article man !! Thanks

  • 5 years ago



  • 5 years ago


    To IaminatOr:

    If in game one if 22.. Rxc1 23. Rxc1 Qe7 , then White has 24, Rc8+ and Black has to throw the queen in as the only way to get out of check.  That's why in the note to Black's move 22....Rb8, I say it's an attempt to play 23....Qe7 (so White can't play Rc8).

    Thanks for writing!

  • 5 years ago


    I wonder if black had some kind of last minute exit in game one if 22.. Rxc1 23. Rxc1 Qe7 instead of just shifting the rook on c8 to the side and wasting a tempo.

    Not that it would be a good position!  Probably I've missed something obvious.

    -- like bxc1, opening the file further.

  • 5 years ago



  • 5 years ago


    To Chasdrummond:

    Yes, I give lessons.  Contact me at btill0@comcast.net

  • 5 years ago


    Great! Do you take on students?

  • 5 years ago


    great article!

  • 5 years ago


    Great stuff: when, like me, you have a limited knowledge of openings, general principles like this are gold-dust. And the games couldn't have illustrated your points more clearly. Many thanks.

  • 5 years ago


    To skewer2000:

    Thank you for the compliment.  I try to make each article into a mini lesson about a single item and I keep the annotations light and simple.

    I was over 2000 for a long time.  I think my highest rating was 2085 about 15-20 years ago.  I just don't play a lot anymore (10-15 rated games per year), and I had a couple of bad tournaments many years ago and it's hard to regain the points.  I had a tournament a few years back where I won 5.5 out of six and only gained 22 points!  But in one of my bad tournaments, I lost over 100 points!

    It's OK, though.  I enjoy playing a good game once in a while, like the ones above.  You should see the game where I beat a player rated 2509:


  • 5 years ago


    You are a good writer and teacher.  I can't believe though that you are not yet an expert (2000+ rating) at this point.  With your positional understanding, you can easily breach 2000.  Maybe you enjoy winning the MD amateur championship too much.

  • 5 years ago


    VEry well said. Now I believe chess university is the proper description for chess.com as everything can be learned here about chess.

  • 5 years ago


    Thank you:)

  • 5 years ago


    good games


  • 5 years ago


    For a lot of people, this will be a very interesting article to read, thanks for sharing your games!

  • 5 years ago


    "Weak square is the one that can not be attacked by a pawn". This definition is too broad, since majority of such 'weaknesses' is not important in the game, but one can derive another advice from it:

    3. Be careful when you push your pawns.

  • 5 years ago


    A good, practical article about weak color complex. I find articles such as this one helpful, explaining things every chess player must know in a way that beginners such as me understand it.

  • 5 years ago



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