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Positional Theme: Maneuvering Against Weaknesses

Positional Concept: Maneuvering Against Weaknesses

This “maneuvering against weaknesses” study is in 2 parts:

  1. Play against a weak pawn/square
  2. Play Against 2 Weaknesses

First a definition. What is a “weakness?” A weakness is a point in the enemy position that can be attacked. If it cannot be attacked then it is not a true weakness. Just because a pawn is doubled, backward or isolated doesn’t in itself mean its weak, its only weak if it can be attacked.

Part 1 Play against weak pawns/squares

This first example is from the play of a then 13 year old Bobby Fischer it demonstrates in the simplest way the idea of play against a weakness. This game ends in a hard fought draw but the idea is more important than the result.

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. g3 g6 3. Bg2 Bg7 4. O-O O-O 5. d3 d6 6. e4 c5 7. Nbd2 Nc6 8. a4 a6 9. Nc4 Rb8 10. a5 White has fixed the b7 pawn as a potential weakness 10…Be6 11. Nfd2 d5 12. exd5 Bxd5 13. Nb3 Bxg2 14. Kxg2 Nd4 15. Nxd4 cxd4 16. Bf4 Rc8 17. Be5 Qd5+ 18. Qf3 Qxf3+ 19. Kxf3 Nd5 20. Bxg7 Kxg7 21. Rfe1 e6 22. Ra3! Going after the weak b7 pawn 22…Rfd8 23. Rb3 Rc7 24. Ke2! The king is going to protect the c-pawn and liberate his knight 24…Ne7 25. Kd2 Nc6 26. Rb6 Rd5 27. Ra1 Kf8 28. Ra3 Ke7 29. Rab3 Black is passive but he manages to hold the game. 29…Nd8 30. f4 g5 31. fxg5 Rxg5 32. Nd6 Rgc5 33. c4 dxc3+ 34. bxc3 Rxa5 35. Nxb7 Ra2+ 36. Ke3 Rxh2 37. Nxd8 Kxd8 38. Rxa6 Ke7 1/2-1/2 Fischer-Popel, Oklahoma City, Ok 1956

In the next game black leaves himself with a weak pawn which white is able to attack.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bg5 Ne4 5.Bh4 c5 6.cxd5 Nxc3 7.bxc3 Qxd5 8.e3 cxd4?!{ much better is 8…Bg7! 9. Nf3 Nc6 10. Be2 cxd4 11. cxd4 0-0 = } 9.Qxd4! Qxd4 10.cxd4 Nc6 11.Bb5 Bd7 12.Nf3 Bg7 13.O-O e6 a weakening move and unfortunately necessary in order for black to be able to castle 14.Rab1 O-O 15.Nd2! whites threat is Ne4 aiming at c5, d6 and f6 with a strategically won game, in order to prevent this black weakens himself further 15…f5 blacks e-pawn is now a serious weakness 16.Nb3 b6 17.Rfc1 Rac8 18.Ba6 Rce8 19.Bb7 Nd8 20.Rc7 Rf7 21.Ba6 Ba4 22.Rbc1 Bf8 23.R1c4 Rxc7 24.Rxc7 Nc6 25.Bc4 Bg7 26.Rc8 winning the weak pawn by force 26…Rxc8 27.Bxe6+ Kf8 28.Bxc8 the resulting endgame has some technical difficulties 28…Nb4 29.Nc1 Kf7 30.Bg3 Bf8 31.Bb7 Ke6 32.Bb8 Kd7 33.Bf3 Bb5 34.Bd1 a5 35.a4 Bc4 36.g4 b5 37.gxf5 gxf5 38.Be5 Nc6 39.Bh8 Ba3 40.axb5 Bxc1 41.bxc6 Kxc6 42.Ba4+ Kd5 43.Bc2 Ke6 44.Kg2 Ba3 45.Be5 Bf8 46.Bc7 Bd5+ 47.f3 Bb4 48.Kg3 Kf6 49.Be5+ Kg6 50.Kf4 Be6 51.Ba4 Bf8 52.e4 Bh6+ 53.Kg3 fxe4 54.fxe4 Bd2 55.d5 Be1+ 56.Kf3 Bh3 57.Be8+ Kh6 58.Bf6 1-0 Taimanov-Uhlmann, Belgrade 1970

In the section on "Restraint" we saw one game that demonstrated the idea of restraining the advance of a pawn majority and then attacking them by a "minority attack." This next game shows the use of the minority attack to create a pawn weakness in the enemy position which then becomes the object of attack.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Be7 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bg5 c6 7. Qc2 g6 8. e3 Bf5 9. Bd3 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 O-O 11. O-O Re8 12. Bxf6 drawing away the bishop from control of b4 12...Bxf6 13. b4 starting the minority attack 13...Nd7 14. b5 Nb6 15. bxc6 bxc6 the game now revolves around the newly created weakness on c6 16. Rac1 Be7 17. Rc2 Bd6 18. Nb1 Rc8 19. Rfc1 Qf6 [indirectly defending the c6 pawn as 20. Rxc6?? loses to 20...Rxc6 21. Rxc6 Bxh2+ followed by 22...Qxc6] 20. Nbd2 Rc7 21. g3 restricting the scope of black bishop and givng the white king "luft" or air and now 22. Rxc6 is a real threat 21...Rec8 22. Kg2 Qe7 23. e4! gaining space in the center. notice 23...dxe4 simply helps to activate whites knight 23...Bb4 24. h4 Qd8 25. e5 gaining more space 25...c5 26. dxc5 Rxc5 27. Rxc5 Rxc5 28. Rxc5 Bxc5 white now fixes d5 as a target 29. Nb3 Be7 30. Nbd4 Qc8 31. Qb5 Kf8 32. Nc6 Qb7 33. Nfd4 a6 34. Qa5 Ke8 blacks king is now exposed to a decisive attack 35. Nxe7 Kxe7 36. Qc5+ Ke8 37. e6 Nc8 38. exf7+ Kxf7 39. Nc6 Kg7 40. Qd4+ Kh6 41. Qf6 1-0 Averbakh-Donner, Beverwijk 1962

This following game demonstrates when doubled pawns are a weakness and how to maneuver against them.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Nc6 7.Bd3 O-O 8.Ne2 b6 9.e4 Ne8 10.Be3 d6 11.O-O Na5! Black has no weaknesses in his camp and is well positioned to defend his kingside. White however has a pawn weakness at c4 which can be attacked. 12.Ng3 Ba6 13.Qe2 Qd7! A strong move. The Black Queen can now go to a4 to increase pressure on c4 and also allows black to play...f5. 14.f4 f5! Black is no hurry to win the c-pawn. The text suppresses whites threats on the b1-h7 diagonal and helps to ensure the defense of his kingside once this is achieved he can win the c4 pawn and with it the game. 15.Rae1 g6! White has no clear object of attack on the kingside while whites queenside weaknesses are permanent pawn structure defects. 16.Rd1 Qf7 17.e5 Rc8 [if 18. exd6 Nxd6 and the c5 pawn is defended] 18.Rfe1 dxe5! 19.dxe5 Ng7 Blacks kingside is a fortress 20.Nf1 Rfd8 21.Bf2 Nh5! 22.Bg3 [Not 22.g3 as this would lead to defeat along the h1-a8 diagonal after 22...Qe8 23...Qc6 and 24...Bb7] 22...Qe8 23.Ne3 Qa4 Now Black has achieved a strong Q-side atack while stifling his opponent 24.Qa2 Nxg3 25.hxg3 h5 26.Be2 Kf7 27.Kf2 Qb3 28.Qxb3 Nxb3 29.Bd3 Ke7 30.Ke2 Na5 31.Rd2 Rc7 32.g4 Rcd7 33.gxf5 gxf5 34.Red1 h4 35.Ke1 Nb3 36.Nd5+ exd5 37.Bxf5 Nxd2 38.Rxd2 dxc4 39.Bxd7 Rxd7 40.Rf2 Ke6 41.Rf3 Rd3 42.Ke2 0-1 Botvinnik-Reshevsky, The Hague, WC tournament 1948

The creation and control of weak squares is one of the major themes of chess because weak squares affect the strength of your pieces according to GM Yasser Seirawan in “Winning Chess Strategies.” The next game demonstrates this idea of creating and playing against weak squares.

1. c4 c5 2. b3 Nf6 3. Bb2 g6 4. Bxf6! creating a weakness at d5 which he hopes to exploit. 4…exf6 5. Nc3 Bg7 6. g3 Nc6 7. Bg2 f5 8. e3 O-O 9. Nge2 intending to add to is control of d5 by an eventual Nf4 9…a6 10. Rc1 b5 11. d3 Bb7 12. O-O d6 13. Qd2 Qa514. Rfd1 Rab8 15. Nd5 white now occupied the weak square which is a strong outpost for his pieces (see outpost stations) 15…Qxd2 16. Rxd2 b4 17. d4 Rfd8 18. Rcd1 cxd4 19. exd4 Kf8 20. c5 Na7 21. Ne3 avoiding the exchange of his strong knight 21…Bxg2 22. Kxg2 dxc5 23. dxc5 Rxd2 24. Rxd2 Rc8 25. Nd5 Rxc5 26. Nxb4 white has emerged with a q-side majority in the ending 26…a5 27. Nd5 Rc6 28. Ne3 Rc5 29. Nf4 Bh6 30. Rd5 Rxd5 31. Nfxd5 Bxe3 32. Nxe3 Ke7 33. Nc4 Nc6 34. Kf3 Ke6 35. Ke3 Kd5 36. a3 Ke6 37. Kd3 Kd5 38. f3 h6 39. Kc3 h5 40. Kd3 f6 41. f4 g5 42. Ne3+ Ke6 43. h4 gxh4 44. gxh4 Ne7 45. Kc4 whites superior king position guarantees him the win. 45…Ng6 46. Ng2 Kd6 47. Kb5 Kd5 48. Kxa5 Ke4 49. b4 Kf3 50. b5 Kxg2 51. b6 Nf8 52. Kb5 Nd7 53. a4 Nxb6 54. Kxb6 Kf3 55. a5 Kxf4 56. a6 Ke3 57. a7 f4 58. a8=Q f3 59. Qe8+ 1-0 Karpov-Browne, San Antonio 1972

Here is one more example of the creation of a weak square, which is used to create additional targets in the enemy camp.

1. e4 e6 2. d3 c5 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O Nge7 7. c3 O-O 8. d4 d6 9. dxc5 White makes this simple capture to draw blacks d-pawn from d6 which allows white to advance his e-pawn and obtain a grip on d6 and f6 squares 9…dxc5 10. Qe2 b6 11. e5! The point. White now plans Bf4 helping to control d6 or Bg5 (aiming at f6), as well as moves like Nge2, and Rd1 with all his pieces aiming at the strategic weak point at d6. Black must try to prevent this plan or achieve counterplay.11…a5 12. Re1 Ba6 13. Qe4 Ra7 14. Nbd2 Bd3 15. Qh4 Nd5 16. Qxd8 Rxd8 17. a4 Rad7 18. Bf1 Bxf1 19. Kxf1 Nde7 20. Nc4 (controlling d6 and attacking the weakness at b6) 20…Nc8 21. Bg5 N6e7 22. Nfd2 h6 23. Bxe7 Rxe7 24. Ra3 Rc7 25. Rb3 (the b6 pawn is the object of attack) 25…Rc6 26. Ne4 (both knights now hit at d6) 26…Bf8 27. Ke2 Be7 28. f4 Kf8 29. g4 Ke8 30. Rf1 Rd5 31. Rf3 Rd8 32. Rh3 Bf8 33. Nxa5 Rc7 34. Nc4 Ra7 35. Nxb6 Nxb6 36. Rxb6 Rda8 37. Nf6+ Kd8 38. Rc6 Rc7 39. Rd3+ Kc8 40. Rxc7+ Kxc7 41. Rd7+ Kc6 42. Rxf7 c4 43. Nd7 Bc5 44. Nxc5 Kxc5 45. Rc7+ Kd5 46. b4 1-0 Fischer-Durao, Havana 1966.

Play Against 2 Weaknesses

In the last example above we saw Fischer create a weak square (d6) and then use pressure to eventually attack a second enemy weakness (the b6 pawn). This is a good lead in to the subject of Nimzovich’s theory on the “2 theatres of war.”

The idea of play in 2 theatres of war (similarly) is explained thusly by Nimzovich, “we engage one wing, or the obvious weakness in it, and thus draw the other enemy wing out of its reserve, when new weaknesses will be created on the reserve wing, and so the signal is given for systematic maneuvering against those two weaknesses.”

IM Silman states in “Complete Book of Chess Strategy,” “The principle of two weaknesses states that the creation of a second weakness (or advantage) stretches the enemy’s ability to resist to unmanageable proportions.”

Here is a good example of Nimzovich “2 theatres of war” from one of his games:

1. e4 Nc6 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 d5 4. exd5 exd5 5. Bg5 Be7 6. Bxe7 Qxe7+ 7. Qe2 Bf5 8. c3 Be4 9. Nbd2 O-O-O 10. O-O-O Nh6 11. Ne5 Nxe5 12. dxe5 Bg6 planning a campaign against the e-pawn using the long light-squared diagonal, especially the point e4 13. Nf3 Rhe8 14. Qe3 Kb8 15. Qf4 Be4 16. Re1 Qc5 17. Nd2 Bg6 18. Nb3 Qb6 19. Qd4 f6 20. f4 fxe5 21. fxe5 [21. Rxe5 Rxe5 22. Qxe5 Re8] 21... Be4 the e-pawn is doomed 22. Nd2 c5 23. Qe3 [23. Qa4 Rxe5 24. Nxe4 dxe4 25. Rxe4 Qe6 26. Rxe5 Qxe5 with a winning attack] 23... Rxe5 24. Qg3 Qc7 25. Bd3 Rde8 26. Bxe4 dxe4 27. Nc4 R5e6 28. Qxc7+ Kxc7 29. Ne3 Nf7 30. Kc2 Nd6 31. c4 Kc6 32. Rhf1 Rh6! 33. h3 Rg6 34. Re2 a6 35. Rf4 b5 [Black plays on both wings] 36. b3 Rg5 37. g4 Rge5 38. Kc3 a5 [Black will open a file on the Queen's-side for his Rooks] 39. Ref2 a4 40. bxa4 bxc4! [a temporary pawn sacrifice] 41. Rf8 [41. Nxc4 Nxc4 42. Kxc4 Ra8 is clearly bad giving up the blockader and losing a pawn to boot] 41... R5e7 [White must not be allowed counterplay, particularly not a Rook on the eighth] 42. Rxe8 Rxe8 43. Nxc4 Nxc4 44. Kxc4 Ra8 The Black Rook now gets in on the Queen's-side, to attack Pawns on the King's-side 45. Rf7 Rxa4+ 46. Kb3 Rb4+ 47. Kc3 Rb7 48. Rf5 Ra7 49. Kc4 Ra4+ 50. Kb3 Rd4 51. Re5 Kd6 52. Re8 Rd3+ 53. Kc4 Rxh3 54. Rxe4 Ra3 White can no longer defend the Two Wings 55. Re2 Ra4+ 56. Kb5 Rxg4 57. a4 Rb4+ 58. Ka5 h5 59. Rd2+ Kc6 60. Re2 Rg4 61. Re6+ Kd5 62. Re8 h4 63. Rd8+ Kc4 64. Kb6 h3 65. Rd1 [65. Rh8 Rg6+ 66. Kb7 Rh6] 65... Kb4 66. Rb1+ Kxa4 67. Kxc5 g5 68. Rh1 Rg3 69. Kd5 g4 70. Ke5 Rg2 71. Kf4 h2 0-1 Holzhausen – Nimzovitch, Hanover 1926.

Here is another example of play against 2 weaknesses.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. d3 d6 6. Bg5 Na5 7. Bb3 Nxb3 8. axb3 Be6 9. Na4 h6 10. Bh4 Bg4 11. Nxc5 dxc5 12.h3 Bxf3 13. Qxf3 Qd6 14. Bxf6 Qxf6 15. Qxf6 gxf6 Black has doubled f-pawns that can be immediately attacked by O-O and f2-f4 16. Ra5! Stronger than the immediate attack against the f-pawns. White Forces a second permanent weakness on a7. Black now has 2 serious weaknesses the doubled f-pawns and a7. [16. O-O Ke7 17. f4 h5 18. Rf2 Rh7 19. Raf1 and Black can defend the one weakness on the f-file.] 16... b6 17. Ra6 Kd7 18. O-O Kc6 19. f4 Kb7 20. Raa1 Rh7 21. fxe5 fxe5 22. Rf6 White now wins a pawn while Black struggles for counterplay. 22... a5 23. Rf5 Re8 24. Raf1 Re7 25. Rh5 Re6 26. Rhf5 Re7 27. g4 Kc6 28. Rf6+ Kb5 29. R1f5 a4 30. bxa4+ Kxa4 31. Rh5 c4 32. dxc4 Kb4 33. Rhxh6 Rxh6 34. Rxh6 Rd7 35. Rf6 Kxc4 36. Kf2 Rd2+ 37. Ke3 Rh2 [37... Rxc2 doesn't help, e.g. 38. Rxf7 c5 39. Rf2 Rxf2 40. Kxf2 Kb3] 38. Rc6+ Kb5 39. Rxc7 Rxh3+ 40. Kf2 Rh2+ 41. Kg3 Re2 42. Kf3 Re1 43. Re7 f6 44. g5 fxg5 45. Rxe5+ Kc4 46. Rxg5 Rf1+ 47. Ke2 Rb1 48. b3+ Kc3 49. Rb5 Rc1 50. Rxb6 Rxc2+ 51. Ke3 1-0 Hug-Barle, Pula 1975

A very clear example of play against 2 weaknesses can be seen in the following game:

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bg5 Be7 5. e3 O-O 6. Nf3 Nbd7 7. Qc2 c5 8. Rd1 Qa5 9. Bd3 h6 10. Bh4 cxd4 11. exd4 dxc4 12. Bxc4 Nb6 13. Bb3 Bd7 14. O-O Rac8 15. Ne5 Bb5 16. Rfe1 Nbd5 17. Bxd5 Nxd5 18. Bxe7 Nxe7 19. Qb3 Bc6 20. Nxc6 bxc6 21. Re5 Qb6 22. Qc2 Rfd8 there are two isolated pawns: which is weaker? 23. Ne2 Rd5 24. Rxd5 cxd5 now there is only one. It is not exposed on a half-open file, so can White defend? 25. Qd2 Nf5 26. b3 h5 27. h3 h4 a typical preparatory probe 28. Qd3 Rc6 29. Kf1 g6 30. Qb1 Qb4 Black's pressure on the d-pawn cannot be increased. So Black opens up a new point of attack. 31. Kg1 a5 32. Qb2 a4 33. Qd2 Qxd2 34. Rxd2 axb3 35. axb3 Rb6 36. Rd3 Ra6 37. g4 hxg3 38. fxg3 Ra2 39. Nc3 Rc2 40. Nd1 Ne7 41. Nc3 Rc1+ 42. Kf2 Nc6 43. Nd1 Rb1 Black has his two points of attack. 44. Ke2 [44. Ne3 Na5 picks up the b-pawn as well] 44... Rxb3 45. Ke3 Rb4 46. Nc3 Ne7 47. Ne2 Nf5+ 48. Kf2 White still has two points to defend. 48... g5 49. g4 Nd6 50. Ng1 Ne4+ 51. Kf1 Rb1+ 52. Kg2 Rb2+ 53. Kf1 Rf2+ 54. Ke1 Ra2 55. Kf1 Kg7 56. Re3 Kg6 57. Rd3 f6 58. Re3 Kf7 59. Rd3 Ke7 60. Re3 Kd6 61. Rd3 Rf2+ 62. Ke1 Rg2 63. Kf1 Ra2 Both sides are repeating moves: Capablanca because he can, Lasker because he has to! 64. Re3 e5 the final push: Black creates a passed pawn 65. Rd3 exd4 66. Rxd4 Kc5 67. Rd1 d4 68. Rc1+ Kd5 0-1 White is in zugzwang. Lasker- Capablanca, Havana 1921.

Lastly here is one final example showing how play against 2 weaknesses can create further weaknesses.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.Ne5 Nbd7 7.Nxc4 Nb6 8.e3 e6 9.a5 Nxc4 10.Bxc4 a6 11.f3 Bg6 12.O-O Be7 13.e4 O-O 14.Bf4 h6 15.Rf2 Rc8 16.Rd2 Nh5 17.Be3 Bg5 18.Qe1 Bxe3+ 19.Qxe3 Qg5 20.Qxg5 hxg5 21.Kf2 Rfd8 22.Ke3 Nf6 23.Na4 Nd7 24.g3 Kf8 25.b4 Ke7 26.Nc5 Nxc5 27.bxc5 Rd7 28.Rb2 f6 29.Rab1 Rcc7 Shirov comments, “One weakness, the b7 pawn has been securely fixed…but as a child I learned that for victory I need at least one more weakness. And it turns out to be the g7 pawn.” 30.h4 gxh4 31.gxh4 Bf7 32.e5! “The point of my idea. When white begins to attack g7, the b7 pawn will no longer be in need of defense-which means the e6 pawn will be another weakness.” 32…f5 33.Rg1 g6 34.Rbg2 Rc8 35.Rxg6 f4 36.Kd3 Rcd8 37.Rf6 Rxd4+ 38.Kc3 Rd1 39.Rg7 Rc1+ 40.Kb3 Rb1+ 41.Kc2 1-0 Shirov-Kinsman, Paris 1992.