Game#10 – Struggling for powerful square control

Chess square control during a Lichess blitz game.

Chess is all about square control. This is one in a series of games against my friend Fritz. No, not the computer program. Fritz is an actual person. He’s retired now but he’s been playing tournament chess for decades.

In this game analysis, as in others, you will get a sense of what an attacking player he is. Fritz always finds ways of drumming up counter-play, even when he is in a hopelessly lost position. In this game I get the better of him but I will show you other times when I do not. So, how to beat someone like this? Sound development, piece placement and square control.

Takeaways from square control game:

Overextending pawns. Making too many pawn moves in the opening is traditionally a no-no. The problem in this game is that White pushed his pawns too far forward. An early e5 and c4 were premature giving Black a development advantage.

Black should have controlled d4. Early in the game, I missed a chance to play Ne6. This would have prevented him from playing d4, breaking opening the center and giving White more mobility. Additionally, controlling more squares makes decisions easier later on. Once I control d4 there are less ways for him to attack that square.

Split pawns are weaknesses. Pawns that are not supported by a pawn chain are considered weak. This is particularly true when you have multiple pawn islands. The pawns on b2, b3 and d3 were weak and could not be defended. (See diagram below)

Game#10 - Struggling for powerful square control

Limit the scope of your opponents pieces. I missed playing f5 which would have made an easy win even easier. This would have locked in the Bc1 and allowed me to gain free access to the center files. Opening lines of attack for your pieces also means shutting down counterplay from your opponent.

Look for a better ending. Transitioning from the middlegame to the ending is an important skill for chess players. Often times, players find themselves in an ending being a pawn down and don’t remember how they got there. When my opponent played Qb3, I envisioned what the board would look like after I played Qxb3. The scattered pawns and open lines of attack made it an easy decision.

Additional thoughts regarding square control:

To win against an aggressive player, you have to see what squares he is abandoning to launch his attack. I will show you other videos with crushing light-squared attacks because my opponent plays an early g4. But the point here is to focus on what looks weak in both the short and long term. In this game, the pawn islands were cramping my opponents pieces, preventing him from developing his pieces. More importantly, the pawns were long term liabilities that could not be saved.

Pawns like to be connected via a pawn chain. Once you start breaking that chain, they become ripe targets to be taken. There are instances where doubled or even tripled pawns can help a players position. This is not normally the case though. The pawn on d3 was by far the weakest of the pawns. It had no protection and was the most susceptible to being captured.

Remember that all pawns are not created equal. The d3 pawn in this game is a lot more important than the b3 pawn. Why? Because center pawns create pathways for pieces. For knights, they make excellent outposts. For bishops, the long diagonals run through the center. For rooks, particularly when they are doubled up, make a formidable weapon barrage on isolated pawns.

Do you have any thoughts on square control in one of your own games? If so, please send it to me in PGN format to paul@betterchess.net. If it’s interesting, I will post it along with my own analysis.

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