A Library of Positional Pictures

| 19 | Middlegame

                Two years ago I spent the summer in Ukraine, a chess Mecca, took chess lessons, played a couple of tournaments. In theory I know many methods that are designed to improve your chess, but in practice I hardly ever put any of them to use consistently. Usually, I am fascinated with one for two weeks and then get bored and try something else. That summer I started one method, which proved to last longer than anything that I have tried before and I can say it is a very efficient method. The method is to create a library of so-called “positional pictures”. I did not came up with it; in fact I have no idea who was the first one to come up with it. My Ukrainian coach advised me to do it, and I had read about it before in Dvoretsky’s books. In fact when I took some lessons from him, four years ago he told me to use it too. I just want to share with you what worked for me.

                Specifically, I created four general libraries and named them: piece play, pawn play, critical positions, initiative. I also created a few libraries of topics that I had problems with at that time: exchanges, converting material advantage, prophylaxis. Whenever, I looked over games from books I studied or magazines, I kept in mind to write down positions where one of the players did some unusual exchange or where prophylaxis happened for example. Also, I entered into those libraries a lot of examples from my own games. I would put a position of interest, give verbal explanations of what is so special about it, and few variations to support it. It is necessary not only to gather them but also to go over them from time to time. Like if the library has 20 examples one has to set about two hours at some day to go over them and do it periodically. It is also important to use annotations of the person who was playing the game, as he has a better feeling of what was going on during the game.

I would like to share with you some examples from my personal library. The first two examples are taken from a general library “piece play”. Try to find the solutions yourself before looking at how the game proceeded.

Why did I choose this position? What is so special about Bh2? It features a Queen and Bishop battery and typically we have a bishop retreating to b8 to make way for a queen. In this example, the bishop is going forward clearing a way for the queen which is very unusual. Secondly, I usually like brute force when it comes to open kings, thus the e5 move I would make semi-automatically and then think. This example can be used in the “prophylaxis” library as well, since one has to think ahead what white will do and prevent it.


For this example, I didn’t use any explanation, the moves by themselves making such an impression that I felt no words were needed. This position happens from a theoretical line where white sacrifices a pawn but gets open files against the black king. So, white will have Ra1 and another Rb1, push a pawn to destroy the pawn structure. Ba3 blocks the a-file rook, it needs to be relocated to attack the king. And Be7 achieves this with a tempo. White transfers the bishop to g3, where it will cut black's king from moving from the c8-square; and since black has no dark-squared bishop to cover the diagonal, he is in trouble.

The next two examples are from my pawn play library.


I used Vachier-Lagrave's comments for this example. This example is just very unusual to me in the sense that black so easily took over the center. Sometimes, one has to be courageous to just push central pawns ahead. In the initial position white threatens e5 to open the Bd3. By playing f5 black offers to open that same Bd3, but on the condition that his Nf5 and Rf8 will be allowed to work.  This operation is possible because white is underdeveloped and their attack shouldn’t work. D5 was another strong move to make white decide what to do with the e4 pawn.


I specifically like Aronian’s games for my libraries, since he explains his games very well and concentrates on critical moments and takes his time explaining plans. Like for this example, I used his comments and they were great to explain what he was doing. In the positions where there are not many things to do one has to improve his position as much as possible. Aronian did it by bringing his king up and pushing the h-pawn to limit black’s kingside movements.

The next two examples I take from my critical positions library.


This example I took because I don’t really know how to keep positions under pressure. Like this a3 move, keeping the pressure in the centre, is the type of waiting move that is hard for me to make, since I favor forced lines. Thus, this example shows that waiting moves sometimes are the right moves, especially in positions where your opponent does not have a clear plan to proceed with.


In the short span of the game white had a chance to get a good advantage two times but missed it.

I hope that you will not only read about the method of saving positions into libraries, but also apply it to your chess. I truly believe that it will help you to become a better chess player.

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