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The following is an article written by the RCA guest coach FM Zaur Tekeyev.
According to Wikipedia, “an outpost is a square on the fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh rank which is protected by a pawn and which cannot be attacked by an opponent’s pawn. Such a square is a hole for the opponent”. I assume most of you already knew it (in theory) but I would like to show you some practical examples. In this article, we will focus on how to use outposts and in the next part, we will see how to create outposts.
In most of the cases, the best piece to be placed on the outpost is a knight. Usually, the second side tries hard to fight for the control of the outposts as well, so it often happens that in order to get access to that key square you need to exchange some pieces. After this, the game usually goes with a “good knight vs. bad bishop” scenario.
Let’s take a look at the next example. White had a very nice square e5 for the knight but it was secured by Black’s knight from d7. So Alekhine decided to trade that knight to vacate that outpost. Later he invaded along the c-file, expanded on the kingside while Black was sitting without any counterplay.
Here’s one of Fischer’s famous games.
Robert James Fischer vs Julio Bolbochan
White to play
In this position after 18…Nb6 Fischer played 19.Bxb6! Qxb6 20.Nd5 taking control over the outpost and entering a “good K vs. bad B. position”. But it wasn’t enough itself. So then he started getting more space, activating his pieces and trying to attack different weak points in Black’s position.
In the third game, White sacrificed a pawn in order to force exchanges of Black’s good pieces and left them with a bad bishop against a good knight. Later White started pushing forward on the kingside so you can see some similarities with the previous game.
In the next example, White sacrificed even an exchange but actually it felt like it Black was some material down.
As you can see in this game White used the power of the passed pawn to make things done. Black’s bishop was too bad to stop it while White’s knight was dominating the position.
Having a strong knight on an outpost against a bad bishop is one of the best things that you can achieve in a chess game. But your opponents wouldn’t resign once such a situation happened. You need to know how to make use of it. And the best advice would probably sound like “Restrict your opponent’s counterplay and find (or create) more weaknesses in their position”. It sounds pretty universal but still true.
About the author
Zaur Tekeyev is a FIDE Master (FM) from Russia with URS rating 2422. He is the winner of the Russian Student Chess League’s Championship (Moscow, 2017), and the Champion of NCFD in rapid chess (2019). He likes more human-like approach in chess rather than computerish, and so he tries hard to find some logic behind the moves.