Double Trouble – The Principle of Two Weaknesses – IM Kostya Kavutskiy

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Chess middlegame strategies are essential knowledge for every improving chess player.

Forcing a weakness or making use of one your opponent creates in their position will bring you closer to winning the game.

However, one weakness will often prove not enough to ensure victory. This is why you must never forget the principle of two weaknesses.

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Different Types of Weaknesses

In chess, there are two types of weaknesses – static and dynamic. 

Static weakness is one your opponent can’t get rid of without your help. Pawn weaknesses are an excellent example of static weaknesses.

Weak colored squares are another example of a static weakness. If you exchange the fianchettoed bishop on g7, black will be left with weak dark squares on f6 and h7. 

You can use these squares to infiltrate and attack his king if he has castled kingside. 

Dynamic weaknesses are usually short-term and can be fixed by your opponent.

A weak back rank is a dynamic weakness. Still, your opponent can eliminate the checkmate threat by advancing a pawn in front of his king.

When you are behind in development, your opponent has a dynamic advantage. Unless he acts quickly, you will be able to catch up on your development. 

Don’t allow your opponent the time he needs to correct a dynamic weakness. Always look to play forcing moves and keep him busy reacting to your new threats.

One Weakness Isn’t Enough

A good chess player will usually find a way to defend a position with one weakness. 

The only way to succeed against one weakness is to have a material advantage and attack with an extra piece.

When you are focused on attacking one weakness, you can end up with poorly placed pieces. There is also the danger you will overlook your opponent’s counterplay.

This is why you must remember to make use of the principle of two weaknesses. 

The Principle of Two Weaknesses

One of the most powerful of chess middlegame strategies is the principle of two weaknesses. This will do more than make it easier for you to win chess games. 

The principle of two weaknesses will make you a stronger all-around chess player.

To create two weaknesses in your opponent’s position, you will need to play on both sides of the board. The further apart these weaknesses are, the more difficult it is to defend them both.

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Remember, the two weaknesses don’t need to both be static. You can take advantage of a static weakness and a dynamic weakness.

Although the principle of two weaknesses is a positional strategy, do not neglect tactics. Make use of the overloaded piece trying to defend a weak pawn and keep you from giving a back rank checkmate to win material. 

Creating threats on the opposite side of the board can divert your opponent’s pieces from crucial defensive tasks. Threatening checkmate is an excellent way to force your opponent to give up material.

Chess Middlegame Strategies in Other Phases

The principle of two weaknesses is very effective in the middlegame. Still, it often plays a crucial role in the endgame too. Especially if you combine it with Zugzwang. 

Although it is easy to overlook it, any advantage you have means a weakness for your opponent. 

Spotting a weak pawn formation or poorly placed pieces is more straightforward than seeing our passed pawn as a weakness for our opponent.

In the endgame, your opponent needs to defend against you advancing your passed pawns. Quite often, he will be unable to protect his weak pawns and stop your passed pawn at the same time.

You can use a passed pawn to distract an enemy piece from a defensive task or force it onto a bad square. 

Sometimes it takes a few moves to create a second weakness. There might even be a defense against your threat.

That doesn’t mean your opponent will find the correct defense. Unlike chess engines, humans can mistakes when put under pressure.

Sometimes our opponent will find the proper defense and play well. Still, it’s much nicer to know you are playing for a win or a draw, and he is only hoping to draw the game.

Here is a game played between two players rated 2700. After thirty-five moves, white had a slight plus.

Take a look at how expanding on the kingside with 36. g4, helped Kramnik create a second weakness and win the game.

Kramnik, Vladimir (2785) – Shirov, Alexei (2739), 2007, 1-0

In Conclusion

Along with prophylaxis, the principle of two weaknesses is one of the chess middlegame strategies you want to keep in mind throughout the game.

The more weaknesses you can inflict upon your opponent, the better. The sooner you impose two weaknesses, the bigger your advantage will be heading into the endgame.

Your knowledge of the principle of two weaknesses will help you become a better chess player and bring you more victories at the chessboard.

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