Chess Structures: A Grandmaster Guide

Chess Structures: A Grandmaster Guide

Aug 28, 2015, 7:43 AM |

I was recommended "Chess Structures: A GrandMaster Guide" by Mauricio Flore Rios and after a scan of the book I immediately purchased it.


Some books you read the first page and you instantly feel enthusiatic to work through it. This is one such book. I find it logically presented, interesting, straight to the point and concise in themes.


It somewhat reminds me of "The Middlegame: Book 1" by Euwe and Kramer. I went through that book in 1998 and it made a deep impression on me with the empahsis on central formation. This book is like a modern update, including Sicilian structures that Euwe's book lacked.


Take this excerpt from the foreward by GM Bachman


"Chess Structures - A Grandmaster Guide" is an excellent selection of model games. By studying the 140 games and fragments in this book, the reader will learn many of the most important plans, patterns and ideas in chess. The organization of this book is particularly helpful in this regard. The pawn structure is the most important factor to determine the nature of a game; therefore, studying model games classified by structure allows the reader to acquire reliable strategic knowledge much more easily. - GM Bachman


and from earlier ...


"In my career I have seen close to 100,000 chess games, including most of the grandmaster-level games played ofer the past decade. The cumulative experience from spending a minute or two on each of these games has allowed me to gain an excellent positional understanding. Staring at a position for a few seconds is often enough for me to see who is better, which plans will work, which pieces should be traded, etc" - GM Bachman

Book Structure


GM Rios covers six families

Family One: d4 and ... d5

Family Two: Open Sicilian

Family Three: Benoni

Family Four: King's Indian

Family Five: French

Family Six: Miscellaneous


22 Chapters are provided each covering a pawn structure. He introduces each chapter with White's plans and Black's plans. It is then supported with a number of model game to illustrate a Learning objective. Final Remarks are given to reinforce his theme.


I plan to work through this entire book and document my lessons via this blog. I will do this by highlighting themes, providing training questions and posting my own view points.


I wholeheartedly recommend this book and look forward to working through it. For now, I provide the pawn structures he covers in the 22 chapters.


 Chapter 1: The Isolani

"White has better middlegame prospects, while Black has better prospects in an endgame. Therefore, White's main aim will be to build an attack, while Black's hope will be to neutralise such an attack and simplify the position, obtaining a superior endgame".


Personally I have experience in playing these types of positions more from the White side of the Caro-Kann Panov Botvinnik.


 Chapter 2: Hanging Pawns

"White has better middlegame prospects due to his control of central squares and his spatial edge. Black, on the other hand, should aim for an endgame or a simplified position in which these pawns are likely to become a liability. In particular, if these pawns become blocked by Black's pieces, then they will become a crucial weakness accounting for an essentially lost position"


I personally have little experience playing these type of positions, though am familiar with the famous Fischer-Spassky, Revjavik 1972 as a model game on the theme of hanging pawns.


 Chapter 3: Caro-Kann Formation 

""This structure gives better chances to White in most cases, as Black's pieces are constrained. For this reason, Black's main task is to dispute White's central control by modifying the structure"


I very much look forward to this chapter as I often play the Black side of this formation.


 Chapter 4: Slav Formation 

"White has better control of the centre. White has more space by virtue of a pawn on the fourth rank. White has a comfortable advantage in this structure, and Black should hope to break free with a central break"


Personally I have little experience in this formation.


 Chapter 5: The Carlsbad Formation

"A very well known and thoroughly studied pawn structure"


I have experience in this type of structure from employing a minority attack.

 Chapter 6: Stonewall

The author spends some time to debate the "bad reputation" of the Stonewall

"White wins in the Stonewall are often visually pleasing and positionally convincing"

"Black's wins are often based on tactical resources of some sort"


I personally have little experience in this structure.

 Chapter 7: Grunfeld Centre

"White will get pretty good middlegame opportunities since he dominates the centre and has a little more space. This advantage disappears rather easily, as the position is open and Black has multiple opportunities to trade off pieces heading into a good endgame. One major factor in this position is the control of the c-file"


I have little experience in this formation.

 Chapter 8: Najdorf Type 1

"This structure provides a natural imbalance and offers interesting chances to both sides"

"A recurring theme in these positions is the fight between White's light squared bishop and Black's dark squared bishop"


Personally I have little experience in this formation, and am very much looking forward to understanding strategically Open Sicilian formations.

 Chapter 9: Najdorf Type 2

"In this structure, all strategic plans are in some way connected to the control of the d5 square"


Again, very little playing experience in this formation for me, though I did cover the Sveshnikov chatper in Kasparov's Revolution in the 1970s (My Great Predecessors series).

 Chapter 10: The Hedgehog

"White generally has spatial advantage and Black's main plan is to break in the centre with ... d5 or ... b5. White typically arranges his pieces to prevent such a plan, while keeping the game tense and flexible"


Again, I have little playing experience in this formation but covered the Hedgehog chapter in Kasparov's Revolution in the 1970s book.

 Chapter 11: The Maroczy

"Here we study positions where Black fianchettoes his Bishop on g7. Most importantly, Black's e-pawn often remains on e7

1. White can place a knight on d5, which can lead to a major structural transformation if Black trades the Knight

2. The central break ... d5 is no longer a main theme here

3. Black can trade pieces without worrying about the d6 pawn becoming vulnerable"


Again, no playing experience in this formation.

 Chapter 12: Assymetric Benoni

"The main theme in this structure is the fight between pawn majorities. The side that manages to push their majority will generally achieve a superior position, and all plans gravitate around this fact"


No playing experience in this formation for me.

 Chapter 13: Symmetric Benoni

"Black can often develop his pieces to obtain what seems like an equal position, but White usually retains a small spatial advantage. This advantage increases if White manages to expand on the Kingside, restricting Black's pieces substantially. A main theme is whether Black manages to trade off some minor pieces to decrease his space problem. The control of e4 is often an important factor to determine if Black can equalise"


No experience in this formation for me.

Chapter 14: KID Type 1

"A) Should Black proceed with a Kingside attack regardless of the open c-file

B) Should he fight for control of this file"


Experience for me is on the Black side of these structures.

 Chapter 15: KID Type 2

"I believe White is slightly better in most of these positions, but resulting games are so flexible and complicated that Black always stands a chance"


Much experience in these formations, though I think it was Gufeld that advised not to play both e5 and c5 together.

Chapter 16: KID Type 3


"This structure typically yields play on opposite flanks in the style of a "chain battle". White will hit near the base of Black's chain (d6) with c4-c5, while Black will attack near the base of the White chain (e4) with ... f5"


No experience in this type of formation.

 Chapter 17: Open KID

"White often enjoys a small advantage because of space and the d6 pawn can be a serious target"


Although playing the KID as Black, I don't opt to play ... exd4.

Chapter 18: KID Complex 

"Complex because it is highly flexible open to many (7) structures"


Little experience playing this formation.

 Chapter 19: French Type 1

"The most important theme is the control of e5. If White is able to gain firm control of this square his position will generally be superiod. For this reason, Black must find counterplay rather quickly to avoid being dominated. Black's counterplay will usually be based on attacking the d4 pawn"


I often play the White side of these structures through the French Tarrasch.

 Chapter 20: French Type 2

"White desires firm control of d4 and to place a Knight on this square"


I don't get this structure, though am familiar with Steinitz-Sellman as a model game in this theme.

Chapter 21: French Type 3

"There will be a fight on opposite flanks based on chain operations. White will want to hit near the base of Black's chain (e6) with f2-f4-f5. Black will try the same with ... c5"


Looking forward to this chapter as I play the White side of the French Tarrasch.

Chapter 22: The 3-3 vs 4-2 Structure 

"Something to note is that both side play on the Queenside. This is quite logical since in the majority of cases the Kings are castled Kingside"


I tend to get these formations from the Caro-Kann.