Sunday, December 07, 2008

Confusion: light-square strategy and light square bishop

Note: post edited with diagram added and some clarification, as I think I was using terminology incorrectly.

In last night's game my plan was to maintain my strong pawn center on the light squares [i.e., keep my spatial advantage while preparing for a queenside attack].

This led to a contradiction in my mind between two principles:
a) To improve control over the light squares [e.g., overprotect my pawns in the center], hold on to my light-squared bishop.
b) Trade my light squared bishop which is weak because my pawns are on light squares. Preferably trade for his light-squared bishop so I can further keep him from molesting those pawns, and because his light-squared bishop is strong.

Which principle should I listen to? I'm sure the answer is it depends on the particulars of the position. Hence, my question is whether there is anything written that might address my confusion? Perhaps those who play the French advance have some insight?

God, I'm actually asking strategy questions now. What has become of me?


Blogger BlunderProne said...

The Light squared strategy form what I have experienced is more related to zones on the board. For instance, if what had the light squared bishop removed on the kingside as well as having the pawn advance to g3 ( fianchetto'd then the bishop exchanged) he has a light square problem.

That is why in hypermodern defenses, you see the opponent attackign and will to trade off the bishop in the triangle of pawns.

A light squared strategy with pawns is a more or less a middle game technique to rope off a light squared bishop. But it's problematic if you possess a light squared bishop BEHIND the pawn fence. In these cases, I typically ask the question " Am I playing a closed game or an open one?" Then that lets me know whether to value my knights over the bishop, and trade the light squared bishop for his active knight hitting on the light squares.

I hoep this helps.

12/07/2008 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger Glenn Wilson said...

1) your opponent has weak squares (or weak pawns) on light squares, and,
2) your opponent does not have a light-square bishop (or it is locked out of the action), and,
3) you have a light square bishop and other pieces that can attack those weak squares/pawns
you may have an exploitable light-square advantage. You might have such an advantage without all three of the conditions listed above but that is the ideal.

'I offer a draw,' said the Argentinian. My reply was, 'I want to play on a bit yet,' although I felt in my bones that I should win from this position. Pilnik then insisted, 'You have no advantage, except perhaps a bit more space. On the other hand my Pawns are safely guarded.' I could not resist asking him, 'Guarded by what?'

'By my Bishop,' he replied, and I could not make my mind up whether he was serious or joking. Just in case I decided not to spoil his illusions, lest he should suddenly find a way of rearranging his Pawns.

White's advantages are:

1. All of the Black Pawns are on the colour of his Bishop, restricting its mobility so much that in effect it can take no part in the game.

2. All White's pieces are mobile, while Black's are huddled together in the last two ranks.

3. Black has two significant weaknesses at a6 and f7, and by combining attacks on them White should be able to force win of material.

Exeter Chess Club: Weak Squares

Without seeing the game I may be wrong (and hey, I might be wrong if I saw the game) but it sounds to me like you may be confusing a weakness for a strength...

12/07/2008 01:37:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

A light squared strategy with pawns is a more or less a middle game technique to rope off a light squared bishop. But it's problematic if you possess a light squared bishop BEHIND the pawn fence.

This is what I'm talking about, which is why I mentioned the French advance (which my position looked like a little bit).

That's an interesting way to put it. I should put up the pawn structure diagram later (I'm at work now). Clearly one detail that is important is whether the bishop is inside or outside the pawn chain.

GW: As BP pointed out, I think I wasn't talking about a light-square 'advantage' (i.e., my opponent didn't have a weak color complex). Rather, I was simply staking out a claim on the white squares to maintain a spatial advantage. I guess I misused the term 'white square strategy' by which I merely meant controlling (and to some degree occupying) white squares for a space advantage.

Clearly, by definition the white bishop in such a position is 'bad', of course whether it is actually a liability is another issue.

That example is great from the Exeter chess site! In my game the white bishop actually had some mobility behind the pawn chain as I had tons of space, so it could play a defensive role. However, it probably would have been better traded with one of his more active pieces (ultimately we traded light square bishops which turned out to be good for me).

12/07/2008 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

I added a diagram and clarified my expression somewhat.

12/07/2008 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

The position has nothing to do with white square weaknesses since there aren't any.

12/07/2008 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

You created a potential dark weak square by pushing d4 too early. Be sure not to trade your darksquare bishop since you need it to secure e5.

5 (five!) pawnmoves in the opening. Now what did I teach you about tempi in the opening?:)

12/07/2008 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger Glenn Wilson said...

The diagram helps a lot. Your "French Advance" reference colored my comments but this is not a French Advance position.

In *this* position...
I first salivate about White playing f4, Nf3, Bc4 and e5 to blow open the game. But Black can put in a quick ...c6 to counter those plans so I shelf that, for now.

I want a rook on c1.

e5 is a hole that a black knight would love to occupy so I still like the idea of an eventual f4 to plug the hole and support an eventual e5. Of course, f4 weakens the white k-side. Still can't justify f4...

White has an advantage in space and in the center. If it is White's move White is ahead in development (the e7 knight will need to move a second time or black will need to play g6 to develop the dark bishop).

Bg5 has an immediate threat of doubling the k-side pawns. Hmmm.. 7. Bg5 Ng6 (natural but ...c6 looks better) 8. Bb5+! Bd7 9. Bxd7 Qxd7 10. Bxf6 and white is better (Black probably castles q-side and the white will be able to attack on the c-file).

Now for your questions:
a) To improve control over the light squares [e.g., overprotect my pawns in the center], hold on to my light-squared bishop.
No. Either those pawns are mobile or can be made mobile (f4, e5, etc) and the Bishop will be strong behind them (when they blow away the center) or they are in the way of your bishop. You wouldn't want to keep the bishop to defend the pawns.

b) Trade my light squared bishop which is weak because my pawns are on light squares. Preferably trade for his light-squared bishop so I can further keep him from molesting those pawns, and because his light-squared bishop is strong.
Yes. The line I give above illustrates that and trading light square bishops is useful here for White. But, I'd try to find concrete variations that lead to advantages and not just try to trade on "general principles."

12/07/2008 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger wang said...

Actually I wouldn't necessarily think that the Light squared bishop is bad. In the diagram you've got up it's not developed so it's hard to determine what it should be doing.

Silman talks more of active vs. inactive bishops. I have had "bad" bishops in endgames that were absolutely holding my entire position together (active).

The first 3 moves that come to mind for me (for whatever that's worth) are Bg5, Nf3, and Bd3.

Bg5 threatens to mash up the K side pawn structure.

Nf3 just develops the N and seeing as your opponent is going to have some problems untangling his pieces in order to castle himself maybe that's a good place to start.

Bd3 seems a little odd, but you protect your pawns (fits into your plans anyway) and you develop the K-side in an effort to get you castled. This is the one I'd probably choose as it fits what I think I see on the board. Your bishop isn't good or bad yet.

That's the way I see it.

12/07/2008 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Tempo: While this position is good for white, clearly I misplayed the opening, but luckily he also did and gave me this nice position. :)

As for white squares: I'm occupying them and want to control c6, and keep my solid pawn center as long as possible while building up an attack (that's the plan anyway, whether it is a good one...). But you are right that the canonical positions in which you want to keep the light bishop is when your opponent has weak light squares, which he does not here.

But my light bishop could be useful here to meet the goal of keeping my pawn center secure. I'm not sure, which is why I asked.

Glenn: Yes, perhaps my French Advance was a bad reference. I figured it was a similar idea (in advance you stake a pawn chain with kingside (not queenside, as in this case) space, and on dark not light squares (so I should ask the same question about the dark squared B in the French Advance).

Your answers to my questions seem quite sound. I didn't even think of f4, but I did consider Bg5 trading for his Knight. I didn't because I wanted that Bishop because it was my "good" Bishop. That led me into my confusion, because I was too wedded to keeping my light B to protect those pawns. In retrospect I think you are right that the Bishop is likely better served playing a more active role in this open position.

Wang: As you mention, part of my problem is that it was unclear what was going to happen in the position so I wasn't sure where the pieces belonged (Nf3 is a clear possibility though as it probably belongs there...unless I want to play f4 but that seems to not work for reasons Glenn pointed out).

Incidentally, I played a stupid move (Bb5+ to try to get him to either trade his light bishop or play c6, which would stop him from castling queenside (??)--which is exactly what I should have WANTED him to do). I was worried he'd castle queenside and start a Kingside pawn storm (obviously I have to castle kingside) that I wouldn't be able to react to in time before attacking his queenside.

In retrospect this was just a bad move. I should have just developed with Nf3 or gone for the K-side weakening Bg5 (though since I was worried about a K-side pawn storm, I didn't do the B maneuver, as then he'd have to castle Qside and would just storm my Kside and I didn't feel developed enough yet to handle that...he'd have a scrappy pawn structure he'd want to just throw at my king, along with an open g file for his rook, both knights over on that side able to get over and attack me quickly).

So my plan worked, but it was the wrong plan. I ended up losing the game, but it was a good fight overall. We ended up in a very complicated position, a great nugget I saved for later Styoko analysis.

12/07/2008 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger Glenn Wilson said...

BDK: I don't think that the immediate Bb5+ is bad, per se, but it leads to a different type of position than Bg5. After 7. Bb5+ c6 (other moves are possible) 8. dxc6 bxc6 White will want to put heavy pieces on the c and d files to attack those pawns. Both sides will castle k-side and play will be "more subtle" than in the opposite castling line I mentioned earlier.

But "more subtle" is not as good as castling on opposite sides and having a clear plan and some advantage. It is easy to go astray with "subtle."

12/07/2008 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger chesstiger said...

Normally one looks at wich color the pawns in the centre stand(s). If the pawns are standing on white like in the diagram one says that the white square bishop is weak and it's a good idea to trade it.

However, like Temposhuckler pointed out, you pushed d4 to early and so created a nice square for black to put his knights on.

12/08/2008 04:00:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

CT: but sometimes you want to hold onto a bad bishop. When? When it is outside the pawn chain? Or sometimes when it is inside the pawn chain, I assume. I bet Watson talks about this stuff.

I'm not convinced the d pawn advance was all that bad: it gave me a space advantage, pushed his Knight back to a cramping square. But yes, it made for some weak dark squares so I traded some good for some bad. Fritz put d5 as the best move, for what that's worth (though I realize Fritz isn't the best positional evaluater, or the best evaluator of practical weaknesses, but Fritz probably is 2500 so what the heck let's listen to what he has to say).

12/08/2008 04:09:00 PM  
Blogger Walter said...

So, I like Glenn's idea, but it's worth carrying the analysis a little further: 1.Bg5 Ng6 (1...c6 looks even worse: 2.Bxf6 gxf6 3.Qd4! followed by dxc6 and 0-0-0 with serious pressure on the d-file) 2.Bb5+! Bd7 3.Bxd7+ Qxd7 4.Bxf6 gxf6 5.Qd4! followed by 0-0-0 looks very good for White, who has better structure, development and space. Note that Black is at least two moves away from castling since both f6 and a7 are attacked.
So in this case the trade of light-squared bishops is motivated not by some general principle, but by tactics (deflecting the queen from defending f6). So the answer does indeed depend on "the particulars of the position", and I would hesitate to assess this position in any general way.
That being said, if you had forced me to give some sort of assessment based on general principles, I'd say that while I don't think White's light-square bishop is any worse than Black's, I might have preferred not to trade since White has more space. But since it turns out that the trade works out well here, I'd play it anyway.
Was your last move d4-d5? If so (and if this analysis holds up) then it was definitely a good move.

12/11/2008 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Walter: thanks for the great analysis. Yes, my move was d5, his knight was on c6.

12/12/2008 12:21:00 AM  

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