What is prophylaxis? In simple terms it is prevention. The idea of chess prophylaxis is to look at your opponents plans before proceeding with your own. To paraphrase Nimzovich, "Do not always be thinking of attack! Moves that safeguard your position are often far more prudent." According to the famous trainer IM Mark Dvoretsky ‘’Prophylactic thinking is the habit of constantly asking yourself what your opponent wants to do, where he would go on his move, the ability to find a reply to the question that has been posed and to take it into account in your decision-making process’’.Prophylactic moves are aimed at not just improving one's position, but preventing the opponent from improving their own. Players who play in the prophylactic style prevent the initiation of tactical play by threatening unpleasant consequences.
In the lecture below, I show a brilliant game played by the 12th World Champion Anatoly Karpov who was famous for his prophylactic thinking and technique to notice vulnerabilities in his own position, before they even become weak! I hope you will enjoy and learn from the mastery of one of the greatest masters of all time!