My Favorite Classic Games, Part 4

My Favorite Classic Games, Part 4

| 29 | Strategy

This series is all about the classic games that, as a young teen (15 years of age), affected me in a profound manner. In general, they were positional games since, for a kid that grew up on attacking chess and combinations (12 to 14 years of age), strategic considerations were left behind and, as a result, were alien.

Thus, when I was finished studying games by Anderssen, Morphy, Spielmann, Marshall, Alekhine and Tal, I decided to check out less extreme players and broaden my chess horizons.

The games I will share might or might not be masterpieces; the criterion for this series is that they taught me an extremely important lesson(s) that made me well rounded and much stronger. I’m hoping that these games will teach you the same lessons, thereby improving your positional understanding and helping you become a better player.

This week, we’ll look at a game that I randomly found in some old magazine (in those days the only way you could find games like this was in books or magazines). I didn’t expect much (I would zip through a ton of games as quickly as possible) but after I played through this particular game, I set up my pieces and played through it again, and again... and again.

I had, of course, seen lots of games where one side won due to a superior minor piece (today’s theme), but this game simply blew me away and turned me into a superior minor piece maniac.

Things get interesting after these initial moves:

We have a typical King’s Indian position where White enjoys more space while Black’s position is filled with dynamic potential. For example, ...a5-a4 or ...h5-h4 are both “in the air,” Black’s g7-bishop is very strong, in many cases the c5-square (a dream post for the e6-knight) can easily fall into Black’s hands, and the e4-pawn will (as usual in this line) be pressured by the f6-knight and e8-rook.

It’s always interesting to see how these positions play out, but White’s next move is a mistake.

Once a player fully appreciates the wonders of the superior minor piece, a whole new world will open up for him. However, one can also use that knowledge to defend. As I stated at the beginning of this article, I played over this game many times. And once I realized that compliance with Black’s plans was completely hopeless, I looked to see if White had a way to put up some resistance.

Since White was getting killed on the positional front, White would need to find some dynamic idea if he wanted to have any change for survival. I found White’s “one shot” in the following position:

In the game, White bowed to Mr. Najdorf, played the “forced” 21.Bd4, and lost pathetically. But there is a way to resist, and like it or not, you should swallow your fear and do it!

It’s important to point out that White wouldn’t be able to find this if he isn’t brutally honest about the positional horror that’s hitting him in the face.

I found 21.b4 decades ago, but it was only now when I was looking at this game again that I asked myself, “Okay, since White had a way out via 21.b4, how could Black have improved? And this question brought me back to the position after 19.exd5. This MUST be really, really good for Black. And, sure enough, it is!

So we had a couple of very interesting dynamic possibilities that were hidden behind the scenes. However, to me the actual game continuation is a thing of beauty -– a magnificent and oh-so-pure example of the “superior minor piece” theme. 


  • In the middlegame, place your pawns on the same color as the enemy bishop, since that will, in many cases, block it. In the endgame, place your pawns on the opposite color of the enemy bishop since then those pawns will be untouchable.

  • When you have a long-term win, why hurry? Be patient, tighten things up, and don’t give the opponent any hope at all.

  • If you’re getting killed positionally, you have to accept that you’ve lost that war and search for a dynamic concept that destabilizes the board.

  • Dynamics (the exchange sacrifices I pointed out) and statics (the fate that befell White in the actual game) are two sides of the same coin. You need to understand and master both concepts, since you’ll be embracing both sides of that eternal battle in game after game.


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