When referring to general chess principles, approaches and structures in my articles I always add a disclaimer warning that a lot depends on the particular situation. A certain method might work in 9 cases out of 9, only to fail in the 10th. A general evaluation of the position is not sufficient for choosing the right plan and move. Chess engines have revolutionized our understanding of the game; many opening lines have been reconsidered. Some positions that were previously considered strategically hopeless are now being saved by precise play. Other variations turned out to be winning. By analyzing at home using engines modern chess players are often opting for strategically risky positions if they know they can back up their play with some concrete lines.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t study the classical strategic principles anymore. We can’t rely on brute force and try to calculate and evaluate all the possible continuations. And even the most uncommon and odd moves are based on some strategic concepts. Strong moves can’t be illogical.
A concrete approach is, first and foremost, not relying on platitudes. Here and there we have people claiming a two bishop advantage, all rook endgames being drawn, a bishop better than a knight in an open position and so on without even carefully assessing what’s happening on the board. Yes, one has to take note of all those factors, but it is also important to check if the calculations and your impression of what the game is going to be like support the principles. Some weaknesses might turn out to be strengths, and vice versa.
The more complicated the position, the more important it is to apply a concrete approach. The simpler it is, the more critical positional understanding is. That is one of the main reasons why young and sharp-eyed players love tactical struggles, while the seasoned veterans prefer grinding out technical endgames that are well-known to them.
The position after 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 d5 5. a3 Bc3+ 6. Qc3 0-0 7. Bg5 or 4… 0-0 5. a3 Bc3+ 6. Qc3 d5 7. Bg5 has been known from the year 1930. Black has tried a lot of moves here, but only in 2009 the novelty 7…с5 was introduced. It is based on a pawn sacrifice in the main line and on severely damaging the pawn structure in one of the variations. The author of this move is Anand’s second Radoslav Wojtaszek, who used it against Alexei Dreev (both players are of 2700+ calibre). Up to this moment over 30 games have been played in this variation, including some of the very top-level ones. Below you can view a recent game of mine featuring this line: