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Study of Classic Chess Games

  • #1

    How does one translate whatever is learned from study of games by the grandmsters to games at the lower level of skill?

    As an example, I study the games and carefully read the comments.  I make all the moves with a real chess board.  Everything is clear and makes sense.  However, I can't find a way to use the ideas observed in the classic game.

    Of course I can try to apply the basic principles: develop pieces, control  the center, etc.  These principles I understand without ever going through a grandmaster game.

    What am I missing in my study of the grandmaster games?  How do those games relate to games I play at the lowest level?

  • #2

    The drill is the thing. It's a good idea to play thru top games at a fast pace, pondering deeply only occasionally on interesting positions.

    After a hundred perused games one gets a feel for right moves pretty fast.

    We are talking lower levels of skill, right? Prescriptions are different at different levels ...


  • #3

    @Izmet Thanks for your reply.

    Yes, currently I refer to low level games at about 1200 or less. I am going through the games very slowly and intensely concentrating.  

    I'll begin to follow your suggestion, as  it seems to be more appropriate to  someone at  my level.  Now I have something to give my study some direction.

  • #4

    That's a good question.  Unfortunately you're right, as long as the opening of the classic game isn't one you use yourself, then the specific lessons of that game will probably not be very useful to you in the short term.  But the general lessons are what's important.  In the beginning, chess games are won and lost by simple mistakes... loosing a rook (or king!) and the game is over that quick.  It's important to play these games against other beginners because you have to learn how to see, execute, and defend these tactics, but the strategic practice is slim to none.

    So when you're starting out, in the master games it's not the specific lessons you're looking for (although they can be useful) it's the general lessons.  He brought all his pieces into the attack, he took time to defend, pawn breaks to open lines, pawn sacs to speed up development etc.  (Last paragraph I give you some specifics to look for though if you want).

    So in your games continue to look for those tactical threats as always, but when there's no tactics you can find, and you're feeling unsure what to do next, think of some of those patterns... where are your pawn breaks, how can you bring more pieces into the attack, will you take time to defend something, are you falling behind in development?  etc. 

    And as you see more and more master games you will eventually get to use specifics too as you recognize them.  Mostly pay attention to the pawn formations out of the opening.  There are only something like 10 different basic structures  in all of chess.  If you want to learn specifics note 3 things.  The structure, the useful pawn breaks, and what area of the board (queenside, center, or kingside) the master sought his play on.  This is the basis of any long range plan, and that's when you can really start crushing lesser players (provided you keep up with tactics, you have to notice those threats first!).

  • #5

    @wafflemaster.  Thanks for the inputs.  

    What are pawn breaks?  Is that a pawn move or a break in pawn structure?

  • #6

    @jempty_method.  Thanks.  You've given me more incentive to play through the games with purpose.  

    I have books with games here, but I will  file your book recommendations.

  • #7

    A pawn break is a pawn move that will force a file to be open (or half open at least).  The term usually refers to advancing a pawn to attack the head of a locked pawn chain (furthest advanced pawn) or the base of a locked pawn chain (least advanced).  Nimzowitsch's famous advice was to attack a pawn chain at its base (with a pawn break).  By the way an open file is a file with no pawns on it.  A half open file is a file with 1 color pawn on it. 

    Anyway, whether your opponent chooses to capture or he lets you, some pawns are coming off the board.  When that happens the friendly pieces that were behind the pawns gain in mobility and/or can infiltrate into the enemy position.  Knights can hop over pawns, but all the other pieces needs open lines (files or diagonals) to be effective. 

    Pawn breaks can be used as part of an attack (usually on the side you have more space due to superior mobility again), or to simply increase the effectiveness of your pieces (e.g. in the center).

    Some examples:

    In the Slav structure shown below (from the opening the slav defense) black must prepare and eventually play either his c5 or e5 break to balance the central space which currently affords white better outposts and maneuvering room in general.  If not he risks being squeezed to death.  The same idea and basic formation is seen in the caro kann opening (the only difference is it's white's e pawn that's missing instead of his c pawn).


    In some Benoni or King's indian defenses you may see a structure resembling the diagram below.  Here white's natural play comes from seeking action on the side of the board where his pawns "point" i.e. where he has more space, the queenside.  Similarly black will cast his lot with the kingside.  More space means better maneuverability (if not more pieces too) and the defender, being less flexible in his cramped state, won't be able to keep up with the different threats the attacker can generate.

    So white's pawn break is on c5 and black's is on f5.


    In the french you get these long pawn chains similar to the one above but white's pawns on the dark squares (extending from e5 down) and in that case white often whips up great kingside attacks while black is often able to demolish white's queenside.

  • #8


    I'll study these formations for when I see them in a game. This is a good way to gain mobility.  

    I'm sure this general method has been used against me, but I did not notice it.

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