My Favorite Classic Games, Part 7

My Favorite Classic Games, Part 7

| 20 | 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 three examples of the strategic “knight relocation.”

Since knights aren’t long-range pieces, and since they usually need advanced support points to show their full potential, you should always be on the lookout for ways to maximize your equine friends.

Our first game burned the knight-relocation maneuver into my brain. It changed the way I thought about chess, and I think it might very well change your perceptions of chess too!

White didn’t get anything in the opening and Black’s pressure against d4 should allow him to retain the status quo. However White wanted to win, and he realized that his knight wasn’t earning its keep. Clearly, if he could get his knight to d6, EVERYTHING would change! The goal is clear, but what is the path?

Botvinnik via Wikipedia

I never forgot this game, and several years later, while following the Karpov–Spassky candidates match, my eyes went wide when I saw the same basic theme.

White has played brilliantly and he has a big advantage thanks to his superior pawn structure (a5 and c6 are potential targets) and his pressure against f7. However, by themselves these things aren’t enough to win. And, when you take into account Black’s threat of ...Rxd2 followed by ...Nxc2, you would have every right to ask if White’s advantage is really as large as I indicated.

A long look will make you realize that White’s weak link is his knight, which isn’t doing anything on c3 since the b5- and d5-squares are covered by the pawn on c6.

Indeed, Black’s knight is, at the moment, far more active. So, the solution is obvious: improve the White knight and kick the enemy king away!

All that’s left is finding the answer to the question: “How?”

A true masterpiece! But the key to victory was the brilliant knight relocation maneuver, 24.Nb1!!

Both these games stayed with me forever, and in 1985 I was finally able to copy Mr. Botvinnik’s and Mr. Karpov’s knight-relocation maneuver.

I saw that c5 (after busting that pawn’s protection by an eventual a4-a5) and e5 are potential targets. With that in mind, my queen’s ideal square was c3, hitting both points at the same time.

I also understood that my knight wasn’t taking part in this plan, and indeed blocked my queen’s access to c3. In fact, wouldn’t it be grand if I could just push the horse one square forward to c4?

Yes, how sweet that would be! But, since it’s illegal, I had to do it the old-fashioned way.

Thus, it was time to unleash the hounds! Errr... I mean, unleash the knight-relocation maneuver!


  • Look at lots of games and you’ll see lots of patterns. Many of them will stay with you for life, and will allow you to make use of those patterns again and again. The simple truth is, the more patterns you learn, the stronger you’ll become.
  • Moving a piece to “any old square” isn’t good enough. You need to find the perfect home for all your pieces!
  • Knights aren’t long-range pieces, so you have to make an effort to gently but firmly herd them to the promised land.
  • Seeing the knight-relocation maneuver in action not only teaches you a new pattern, but it also teaches you to give the same kind of love and care to all your pieces.


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