What is ‘square-count’ has been asked often enough to necessitate a fuller explanation than often given in notes and lectures. Basically it was the result of an English HS assignment to write on a topic of one’s choice. Originally it was to create a means of mapping a chess game using bar graphs every 5-10 moves of the ups and downs of the battle in progress. Interest was openings, tactical sacrifices, utilizing imbalances for both strategic and tactical motifs. The most important feature of warfare is terrain and territory symbolically in chess is represented by the 64-square alternating light and dark squares that make up the chessboard. I knew geometrically it could be broken down in a number of smaller squares or rectangles and the midline separated the two armies each having a rectangular equality of 32 squares what I termed the home fields and those in the opposing side was enemy territory. When I learned about graphs, I knew I found the missing link to create an effective mapping of the battle. Only the idea of how to do this and with a consistent and unchangeable method, so the process would not be tainted, needed careful thought.
Squares on the board were the key. Terrain in warfare is important so why not the squares that represent the battlefield in chess? It made no sense to count squares in one’s own territorial camp so I decided that only the squares in the enemy position could be counted to establish at any time the numerical count for each side. I recognized immediately that such a count would determine a spatial influence by forces sometimes deep in enemy territory. By adding up all the squares attacked by units for both sides, I could graph the battle. Was it possible that these great players unknowingly sensed position essentials and caused them to consider every piece or pawn that could move and did so no matter how silly such a move might look on the surface? My own motif is to let no possible move go unobserved for either side in tactics or strategic planning. Square-count defensively could be applied to squares needing protection or overprotection in one’s own camp.
Important to me was keeping it simple and clear. Only units actually attacking squares in the enemy field were counted. Count for double Rooks on a file was limited to the head Rook despite being backed up by it’s partner or maybe the Queen. However, if the head Rook penetrated deep into the enemy camp, the back Rook and or Queen square-count would be added and the same if along ranks. In the case of the Queen, any diagonal influence into the enemy position would also be counted. From a careful study of games by the great masters Morphy, Alekhine, Capablanca and Rubinstein, I wondered at the skill and almost instant recognition of what to do in critical positions–sometimes almost effortlessly with deep insight. Books like My System, The Game of Chess, Chess Fundamentals, Ideas Behind the Chess Openings, and much later, Point Count Chess talked about the elements that included pawn structure, open files, outposts, open and semi-open or closed positions.
Are certain squares more important? Of course!! The idea of square-count does not replace book instruction concerning open files, outposts, pawn structure, relative value of units, the center, Q-side, central, or K-side files, King safety or focal point of an attack. It aids a player to be mindful to examine every piece and pawn and their respective roles in a given position. Position play especially dominates the need to reassess conditions of the battle. Square-count assists in finding a key play or unit to move perhaps not previously considered.
There is no magical formula for its use. The important thing is it helps to bring awareness of the forces at hand for both sides, how to place them so they are more effective in advancing a plan and with some luck discover a key move needed either in attack or defense. In most cases increasing square-count is a step forward (given all things equal) for improving a position or carrying out operations with the object to win or improve prospects when you find yourself wishing you sat in your opponent’s chair.
Generally square-count is ideal for correspondence play. When time controls are 40/2, 50/2, or G/60 using the concept shrinks with the time alloted for a game. Still, with practice one should be able to estimate the count for each side and limit it to space and time factors. Train yourself to look at every practical move taking into account the influence of a move on squares especially in your opponent’s territory or where defense of your own squares are needed.
Historically speaking, whenever I studied a new chess book promising the moon, I found myself losing games trying to apply what I learned. Some books are better than others. Some valuable lessons are learned by pursuit of the unknown or putting a dream to a practical end. Maybe it takes time to digest and place in proper order lessons learned. Chess requires critical thinking, trust in self, perseverance, and stubbornness that aids in finding your level on the rating ladder. There is no shortcut to mastership but it does start with a sense of dedication to achieve one’s best.
A competitive spirit helps make life interesting!