GM Swapnil Dhopade & FM Ankit Gajwa

GM Swapnil Dhopade & FM Ankit Gajwa

Chess Pathshala

Techniques of Defense Part 2

Fortresses

Fortresses: Controlling a colour complex

Hello dear readers,

In this article, we will go through another common defensive technique that is widely used, namely building a fortress. We will be looking at a specific kind of fortress that usually occurs in the middle game: one where the defending side controls a certain colour complex. 

As a result of this fortress, the opposing side is not able to break through, since he can play only squares of one colour. In general, it’s usually important to have control over squares of both the colours for the side that’s trying for a win (or has an advantage in material, position etc.). Otherwise, the defending side simply uses the squares of colour not in their opponent’s controls, and keeps moving back on forth on these squares. The ultimate goal of the game is to checkmate the opposing king, and if the defending side’s king can find a group of squares where it will never be attacked, then the material advantage of the opponent becomes irrelevant.

This is precisely the reason why fortress is a common defensive theme in a lot of endgames. 

Example 1

  • The concept of fortress is widely used in the middle game for defensive purposes.
  • Let’s have a look at a very interesting game where Black was able to hold the game despite his 2(!) pawns deficit, precisely due to his control over the dark square complex.
  • Initially, Black did not sacrifice these pawns for defensive intentions, but with the idea of sharpening the play.
  • However, even after White consolidated his position, his material advantage was irrelevant since he could not break black’s control over the dark squares.

Example 2

  • A fine game which shows the power of controlling complex of squares.
  • It is a good tool to use in positions where you have a material deficit.
  • A good approach when one lands in a bad position (in terms of material or strategy) is to try and gain complete control of these colour complexes if you can, even if you have to sacrifice more material for it.
  • The move f3! from Black in the previous game was precisely in this spirit.

In the next game, we will see the same concept of fortress (or controlling colour complexes) in action.

  • This time, there was no material deficit that bothered the defending side, but a strategic concern (namely of Black’s mobile central pawns that were ready to advance), that the defending side pre-empts with this operation.

Example 3

I hope this article was helpful for the readers in understanding fortresses as a defensive technique.

Solution for position from the previous article-

1…- Ng4! 2.Rxg4 – Bxg4 3. Nxd4 – Bg5 4. Nf5 – Bf6! (the point) -+ Janowski – Burn 1898 0-1

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