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Chess Strategy.Part 1

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(First of all I would like to thank those readers who send in comments. This encourages me to keep on writing. Believe it or not, each post requieres a lot of work… Thank you very much indeed.) Questchess

This post will deal with the matter of Chess strategy. Contrary to what happens with tactics, Chess strategy presents many problems. As ever, different authors have different opinions. Moreover there are problems when one considers the overlapping concepts of  “Chess strategy”  and  “positional Chess”. Chess strategy has to do with  planning and, in fact,  everything that happens on the chessboard. Strategy is related to what is known as positional chess. It cannot be isolated from tactics. Strategy has to do with the plans offered by the actual position that help the player to decide a course of action that has to be confirmed by means of the calculation of variations. In the past, strategy was seen as mainly static. Today, with the new ideas, assessments, etc, it adopts a much more dynamic aspect. It could be stated that while tactics is a very concrete part of Chess, strategy is somewhat the more abstract component of Chess.
A Chess game contains many decisions based upon strategical nuances: even the first move contains a strategical idea : 1.e4 is different from 1. Nf3 or 1. g3 or 1.b4.  As Black, after 1. d4 1…, Nf6 aims at preventing 2…e4 but 1 …b5/ tries to counter 2. c4. But you already know all this.

I will try to avoid too many restricted definitions and hope the reader may have an intuitive idea of the matter.

W.: R. Hübner (1)

B.: B. Spassky (0)

Tilburg 1979

1. Nf3 d5 2. c4 e6 3. g3 Nf6 4. Bg2 Be7 5. 0-0  0-0  6. d4 c6  7. Nc3 Nbd7 8. b3 b6 9. Ne5 Ne5: 10. de5: Nd7 11. Bb2 Ba6 12. cd5:  cd5: 13. Rc1 Rc8 14. Qd4 b5 15. Qa7: Ra8 16. Qe3 Qb8 17. Rfd1 Ra7  18. Nb1 b4 19. Bd4 Ra8 20. Rc2 Bb5 21. f4 Ra6 22. Qc1 Qa8 23. Qb2 Nb8 24. Bf2 Nc6 25. Bf1 Qb7 26. Nd2 Rfa8 27. Nf3 g6 28. Ne1 Bd8 29. Nd3 Bd3: 30. ed3: Bb6 31. d4 Ra5 32. Qc1 Ne7 33. Qd2 Bd1 34. Rdc1 Qa7 35. Ra1 Qb7 36. Kg2 R8a7 37. Be1 Nc6 38. Rac1 Ne7 39. Qb4: Ra2: 40. Qb7: Rc2: 41. Rc2: Rb7: 42. b4 Bb6 43. Bf2 Ra7 44. g4 Kg7 45. Bb5 f5 46. ef6: Kf6: 47. Be8! Kg7 48. Re2 Bc7 49. Re6: Bf4 50. b5 Ng8 51. Ra6 Re7 52. Bc6 Nf6 53. b6 Ne4 54. Be1! Bb8 55. Ra8 , Black resigns.

Everything Starts with the Opening

Basically everybody says the opening is the development of forces (pieces). Yes. The development of forces with a straightforward strategical idea: the control of the centre. I say the control, not the occupation because this is on of the main fields of debate between the defenders of the classical approach (occupation) and the hypermodern chessplayers (control + pressure, delaying the occupation).

In a sense, the opening establishes the first strategical railway of the game, which may change later or continue unchanged. This means that the election of opening in general + a certain opening variation + a certain opening subvariation  etc. is of paramount importance to establish the character of the game. This is why one cannot play say, the English, expecting a hard positional struggle because the real character of the postion will be determined by the variations/subvariations selected. The less attention you pay to this detail, the more surprises you will be in for in your games.

I. Lipnitsky wrote that the value of a plan in the opening dependent on how the  problems of the centre and the initiative were resolved.

Centre and initiative: this is how GMs start to study his/her openings. Determine the possible types of centres that may arise and assess who has the initiative orwho will be better positioned to start creating threats (Chess, at the end of the day, is a game of threats.). We will see how many types of centres can be established.

(Please remember this blog is not for instruction. You will have to do your own research. This is why I will include some bibliography later in this post. Thanks.)

For instance: if some player plays the Ruy Lopez (Spanish) in search of open positions, swift attacks, an so on I would recommend you to study the following game:

W.: Karpov (1)

B.: Andersson (0)

Stockholm 1969

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7. Bb3 0-0 8. c3 d6 9. h3 Na5 10. Bc2c5 11. d4 Qc7 12. Nbd2 Bb7 13. d5  (Karpov’s trademark: a typical Pawn configuration has appeared. At you can find it too in many other openings. So you should know how to deal with it.) … Bc8 14. Nf1 Bd7 15. b3 Nb7 16. c4 Rfb8 17. Ne3 Bf8 18. Nf5 Nd8 19. Nh2 Ne8 20. h4 f6 21. h5 Nf7 22. Re3 Ng5 23. Nh4 Qd8 24. Rg3 Nc7 25. N2f3 h6 26. Ng6 a5 27. a4 bc 28. bc Na6 29. Qe2 Ra7 30. Bd2 Rab7 31. Bc3 Nb4 32. Bd1 Na6 33. Nd2 Nb4 34. Re3 Be8 35. Nf1 Qc8 36. Ng3 Bd7 37. Qd2 Nh7 38. Be2 Kf7 39. Qd1 Be7 40. Nf1 Bd8  41. Nh2 Kg8 42 Bg4 Ng5 43 Bd7: Qd7: 44. Nf1 (So far you could replay the game trying to understand every move: why it was done, what the idea of the move  was, etc.)  44. … , f5 45. ef: Qf5: 46. Ng3 Qf7 47. Qe2 Bf6 48. Rf1 Qd7 49. f4 ef: 50. Rf4: Bc3: 51. Rc3: Re8 52. Re3 Rbb8 53. Qf2 Nh7 54 Nf5 Re3: 55. Qe3: Nf6 56. Nge7 Kh8 57. Nh6: Re8 58. Nf7 Kh7 59. Re4 Re7: 60. Rc7: Black resigned.

(A common mistake is to think that in positional/strategical Chess you do not have to calcuate variations. Quite the contrary: to carry out positional / strategical manoeuvres a lot of variations have to be calculated to prevent the opponent from getting counterplay, to check if one’s ideas contain tactical flairs, to prevent blockade nets to be blown out by the opponent, to see if after carrying out our manoeuvres we reach a passive position or not, and so on. Don’t get misled by appearances : when I was a boy I fell in such mistake when playing OTB Chess, thinking that my superior strategical knowledge could give me points galore and paid it dearly…)

TYPES OF CENTRES (And General Plans)

1.- Pawn Centre : When one side has two or more Pawns in the centre and the opponent does not have any.

(It must be protected forcing the opponent to adopt a defensive position since the threat is to advance the Pawns. The opponent will have to put it under piece attack. A case in point here is that of Nimzowitsch’s “small centre”. As Black you find this type in many Sicilians, for instance, where Black plays e6-d6-a6 and manoeuvres using his/her three back ranks.)

2.- Fixed Centre: With Pawns confronted , fo instance White has a Pawn on d4, Black on d5 and there are no adjacent Pawns. Some people call it “the Botvinnik Centre)

Both sides will try to establish their pieces on squares defended by their Pawns.

3.- Open Pawnless Centre (Fischer liked this type of Centre and played for it in many of his games)

Here piece play is a must .Flank attacks are ruled out.

4.- Closed Centre : Pawn masses blockading files and cutting off diagonals.

The plans involve manoeuvring, flank attacks, attack the centre with f4/f5 or d4/g5 or b4/b5 etc. The case in point is the King’s Indian Defence.

5.- The centre under tension: mobile Pawns in contact. The tension may be resolved at any moment and a new type of centre may appear.

Here the course of action involves some “fencing” strategy manoeuvring for a suitable opportunity to turn the centre into another type.


Kotov’s “Play Like a Grandmaster”;   Pachman’s ” Modern Strategy in Chess”;   Gelfer’s “Positional Chess Handbook”;   Soltis’ “Pawn Structure Chess” ;  Dvoretsky & Yusupov’s “Positional Play”;  Lipnitsky “Cuestiones Sobre Teoría Moderna en Ajedrez”;  Eingorn’s “Decision-Making at the Chessboard”;  Nimzowitsch’s “My System”, “Blockade” and “Chess Praxis”;   Karpov & Matzukievich’s “Stellungsbeurtteilung und Plan”;  Marovic’s   “Dynamic Pawn Play in Chess”;  Suetin’s  “Plan Like a GM” and “Handbook for Advanced Players”;  Abrahams’: “The Chess Mind” ; Watson’s  “Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy” .

Any book dealing with the topic of planning in Chess

Any book on strategy deals with this matter and offer courses of action.

The conclusion is that you should decide what openings you are going to play, study the types of centres/positions they may give birth to and study the plans in accordance to them.

Another piece of advice -especially for CC- is that we should try to avoid playing databases moves automatically without checking possible end-positions: what may be good for Fritz & Friends (other programs) may be bad for your style… (I must confess sometimes I forget this piece of advice myself in my CC games… Shame on me.)

We could be writin about all this for weeks, ut as I have included the above-mentioned bibliography, I think you are ready to study on your own. So in the second part of the post I will write about how to evaluate a position and include several other games.

But to end this one, have a look at the following game  which shows why one should study Nimzowitsch and his booklet “Blockade”:

W.: Burger (0)

B.: Lobron (1)

New York 1983

(Please first play the moves without reading the notes. Then replay the game and read the notes)

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 c5 (You have to know how to handle the type of centre about to appear, be able to stop White advantage of space in the centre preventing the e4-e5 advance,defend d6 and ,in some cases, exploit a Q-side majority. Here we see a different treatment because Black will solve all these matters restoring to impose a  blockade on the whole board . In closed /blockaded positions you have to play with the threat of opening up the position after having manoeuvred to post the pieces in attacking positions behind the Pawn barrier)

4.d5 ed5 5. cd5 d6 6. Nc3 g6 (in Hypermodern openings the centre is ceded to attack it from the flanks, you know)  7. Bf4 a6 8. a4 (prevents …b5) ,Bg7 9. e4 0-0 10. Be2 Bg4 11. 0-0 Bf3: (another very important matter: the exchange BxN must always be accurately assessed . In the ensuing closed position, Black eliminates White’s Knight because Bishops are worse than Knights) 12. Bf3: Qe7 13. Re1 (Both sides fight for and on the centre, though White should have considered 13. e5) …, Nbd7 14. Qc2?!  Ne8 15. Qd2  Nc7 16. Bg5 f6 17. Bh6 Bh6: 18. Qh6: b4 (Black decides to close the Q-side) 19.b3 c4 20. Nd1 f5 (20…. Nd5: /21. e5! This shows how tactics permeates everything and MUST always be taken with the utmost care) 21. Qd2 Ne5 22. Nb2 f4(Playing for blockade to manoeuvre behind the lines to create threats once the Blockade is broken. White ‘s Bishop is deprieved of room to move.) 23. Nd3 h5 24. Be2 Nd3: (The game is taking shape : apart from other pieces, the fight will be one of bad Bishop vs. good Knight) 25. Qd3:  Qe5  26. Qh3 Rf7  27. Rad1 Kg7  28. Bc4 a5  29. Qd3 g5  30. f3 (White can’t help but waiting. But in these positions the player with the initiative must avoid closing all the lines. On the contrary: the idea is to create the threat of opening up the position to impose one’s trumps) 30…, Kf6 (This is it: threatening … rg8 and g4) 31. Kf2 Rg8 32.Qb1 g4  33. Qa1 Rfg7 34. Bf1 Qa1: (Exchanging pieces or Queens does not have to imply diminishing or losing momentum  when the real action depends on other positional factors) 35. Ra1: Ke5  36. Rad1 Ne8  37. Ke2 Nf6  38.Kd3 c4!   39. bc4  Nd7 40. Kc2 Nc5 /  White resigned.

Paraphrasing Abrahams, apart from losing through making mistakes sometimes -among good chessplayers- defeat comes through trying to do too much or doing too little in the successive positions one finds on the board… Chess is a very difficult game.This is why I love it.

To be continued…



Written by QChess

April 5, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Posted in CHESS

Tagged with ,

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