The Biggest Secret Of Positional Chess

The Biggest Secret Of Positional Chess

| 70 | Strategy

I am not going to reveal a big secret if I say that the vast majority of chess players love tactical play and hate slow maneuvering. Indeed, tactics are beautiful and exciting and positional chess is weird and boring.

That is, if you don't understand positional chess.

I remember when I was a kid, I loved combinations and became a pretty skillful tactician after solving thousands of tactical exercises from a dozen textbooks. But positional play was something that really annoyed me.  I couldn't understand why some people were raving about the games of Rubinstein or Petrosian. All they did was move pieces back and forth till their opponent made a mistake.

I knew there was some big secret hidden from me, so I decided to read the bible of positional chess, the famous book by Aron Nimzowitsch, "My System." It was a huge mistake!

Either I was too young to read such a book (I was about 11 years old), or just a weak chess player, but after reading this book I got even more confused.  

As I was getting older and stronger in chess, I slowly grasped the concept of positional chess. Since my goal in any game was creating an attack against my opponent's king, I needed some active pieces to start such an attack.

I soon learned that the ultimate purpose of the positional chess was to make sure that your pieces are well-placed and ready to participate in the fight. I cannot credit any particular book or game that revealed to me that simple idea, but once I realized it, I found thousands of confirmations that I was right.

So, the concept is very simple: find a piece in your camp that can be improved and move it to a better location! It is especially beneficial if you improve the position of your worst piece.

This simple rule is called after many chess players, because many of them mentioned it in their books and articles.

I think the great Adolf Anderssen was first: "Move that one of your pieces, which is in the worst plight, unless you can satisfy yourself that you can derive immediate advantage by an attack."

Anderssen via Wikipedia.

GM Adrian Mikhalchishin calls it Makogonov's rule and quotes the famous Soviet player and coach: "In positions where no other important matters need to be considered, one should identify one's worst-placed piece and bring it to a more active square."

Botvinnik called it "Fischer's rule." Even though 11th world champion never explicitly stated this rule, if you play through his games you'll see that he never tolerated bad pieces in his position.

The famous Soviet coach Mark Dvoretsky called it "the principle of the worst piece."

In his book "How Life Imitates Chess," Kasparov calls it "Tarrasch's dictum," and gives an example from the business world! The legendary General Electric CEO Jack Welch made a list of all the company's divisions, and the directors of the worst ones were told to improve their operations or their divisions would be sold or shut down.

In my opinion, it is the biggest secret of the positional chess. It eliminates all the mystery and makes it easy to understand how grandmasters play.  Here is a very basic example:

Here is how GM Bareev explains why he played 11.Rc1!: " On a1 the rook has nothing to do, but on c1 it can prove useful when the opportunity arises. This is a sufficient basis for making a decision!"  

Isn't grandmaster play simple? Laughing

Now let me show you a recently played game where GM Kovalenko used this concept twice. And both times the way he implemented this rule was not very obvious. Try to find the solution on your own; I am sure you'll enjoy it!

It was very impressive how in just three moves White turned an ugly knight on c2, which was doing nothing except blocking White's own c-file, into a real monster.

Here is the position from the same game a couple of moves later:

And again some three-move magic turns White's worst piece into one of the best pieces he has!

Now, when all white pieces are on their ideal squares, the final attack is swift and deadly:

I hope the lesson is very simple: improve your pieces one at a time!

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