The paper discusses model results and then reviews observational data concerning some aspects of the mechanics of mature seismic gaps in coupled subduction zones. The concern is with space-and time-varying stresses, as signalled by the presence and mechanisms of earthquakes in the outer-rise zones adjacent to main thrust areas of large subduction events, and down-dip from such areas, in the downgoing slab. Observations are shown to be consistent with the expectation that in mature seismic gaps, as a result of interplate boundary locking in presence of sustained gravitational driving forces, at least the deeper portions of the ocean plate in the outer-rise zones are under increased compression, and the downgoing slab is under increased tension. The observational data cover two cases of closed seismic gaps, namely the region of the Chilean Valparaiso earthquake of March 3, 1985, and the earthquake of October 4, 1983. Four other cases concern still to-be-closed gaps in northern Chile and along the coast of Guatemala, and also the Kurile Islands Trench gap and the northern New Hebrides gap. It is concluded that the intermediate-term precursor, consisting of a combination of compressional outer-rise earthquake(s) and tensional intermediate-depth, intra-plate events in the downgoing slab, which mechanically signals the latter part of the earthquake cycle, could be useful in evaluating the maturity, and hence great earthquake potential of a seismic gap.