Mastery: Strategy

Silman's Lessons in Strategy (1)

Silman's Lessons in Strategy (1)

Challenge your strategic knowledge with IM Jeremy Silman!

Are you looking for strategic lessons from one of the best instructors ever? Then this course is for you! This module contains instructive positional challenges put together by IM Jeremy Silman. Some are very long, and experts and masters (USCF or Elo ratings above 2000) will not find many of these to be easy. A novice or intermediate level player (USCF or Elo ratings below 1800) will find these challenges quite difficult, but they will learn a bit more with each attempt, all the way until they reach master or higher!

Here is what you will learn:

  • Thematic strategical elements using historical master game examples.
  • How to best use elements like space, development, big pawn centers, and IQPs to your advantage.
  • How to inject imagination into your play.

"Very good lessons, I really enjoyed playing through those games and I've learned a lot". - Chess.com Member poppydove

"Silman's lessons are always of the best quality." - Chess.com member TensorNetwork

  • Botvinnik-Sorokin, USSR 1931

    Former World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik (playing White) was the first great master of the scientific aspects of chess. Preparing his openings in great depth, he studied the types of endgames that could come from them. Botvinnik also spent a considerable...

    • 23 challenges
  • Tarrasch-Schlechter, Leipzig 1894

    The German Grandmaster Siegbert Tarrasch (playing White) was a master of the positional vise. He loved to grab so much territory that his opponents often choked to death in the folds of their own position. White has a clear advantage in territory and...

    • 21 challenges
  • A variation from Tarrasch-Schlechter, Leipzig 1894

    German Grandmaster Siegbert Tarrasch (White) was playing a perfect game, but it only takes one little mistake to turn gold into mud. In this game Tarrasch made his one big error but Black did not notice his opportunity! Here we will look at what Schlechter...

    • 5 challenges
  • Silman-Minev, Portland 1984

    An isolated d-pawn usually gives its owner open files for Rooks and active minor pieces. The formula to beat such a pawn is to: 1) Take control of the square directly in front of the pawn - 2) Trade all the minor pieces - 3) Keep a Queen and one Rook...

    • 8 challenges
  • Fischer-Gadia, Mar del Plata 1960

    Former World Champion Robert Fischer (playing White) used to play this system against the Sicilian all the time: he would bring his light-squared Bishop out to c4 and then to the safety of b3; next he would advance his f-pawn to f5 and force Black to...

    • 12 challenges
  • Petrosian-Najdorf, Bled 1961

    The late Armenian Grandmaster (and former World Champion) Tigran Petrosian (playing White) had a safety-first style that led to very few losses. Hard of hearing, he wore a hearing aid that often proved very useful to him: if noise erupted during a game...

    • 9 challenges
  • Sample of minor piece battle

    It may not look like it, but this is a highly critical position! Whose minor piece will prove superior: the Black Knight or the White Bishop?

    • 4 challenges
  • Botvinnik-Kan, Leningrad 1939

    White has a bad Bishop on d5 that is superior to its counterpart on c8. Why is that? Why is a bad Bishop (a Bishop that is blocked by its own center pawns) superior to a so-called good Bishop (a Bishop whose center pawns don't block it)? The confusion...

    • 15 challenges
  • Cvetkov-Smyslov, Moscow 1947

    The position appears to be nothing more than a boring draw, but former World Champion (at the time of this game he had not yet won the title) Vassily Smyslov (playing Black) does his utmost to test the defensive skills of his opponent.

    • 34 challenges
  • Norwegian Amateurs-Nimzovich, Oslo 1921

    White has a majority of pawns on the kingside, Black has a pawn majority on the queenside. The struggle will center around activating these majorities and finding a good home for each players respective Knight. Aaron Nimzovich (playing Black) was a...

    • 7 challenges
  • Variation from move three of Norwegian Amateurs- Nimzovich, Oslo 1921

    Both sides are engaged in a major battle over the f5-square. To succeed in this battle requires keen judgment and a lot of willpower. The first side to flinch will hand the advantage to the opponent.

    • 2 challenges
  • Smyslov-Rudakovsky, Moscow 1945

    Born in March of 1921, former World Champion (and amateur opera singer) Vassily Smyslov competed in the World Championship cycle into his 60s! In the present example, Smyslov enjoys a spatial plus on the kingside and chances to play against Black's weakened...

    • 18 challenges
  • Botvinnik-Flohr, Moscow 1936

    Czechoslovakian Grandmaster Salo Flohr (playing Black) was one of the best players in the world during his peak in the 1930's. Here he runs into Mikhail Botvinnik, a man who held the World Championship, but for the briefest of interruptions, from 1948...

    • 10 challenges
  • O'Kelly-Najdorf, Dubrovnik 1950

    Grandmaster Miguel Najdorf (playing Black) has a famous line in the Sicilian named after him and was one of a handful of players responsible for enhancing the theory of the King's Indian Defense in its infancy. A true chess fanatic, Najdorf loves talking...

    • 12 challenges
  • Position from Nimzo-Indian, Huebner Variation

    Our position comes about after 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 c5 5.Bd3 Nc6 6.Nf3 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 d6 8.0-0 e5 9.Nd2. This system for Black (starting with 6...Bxc3+) was invented by the German Grandmaster Robert Huebner but it only became popular when Robert...

    • 10 challenges
  • Smyslov-Botvinnik, Moscow 1948

    Endless tournament meetings and three long matches for the World Championship have seen Smyslov and Botvinnik playing a lot of chess together! In this game Botvinnik (playing Black) gets his way when Smyslov's planned edge in pawn structure proves to...

    • 11 challenges
  • Longren-Silman, Santa Barbara 1989

    Your author loves to make use of a minor piece battle as much as he loves to write about it! Here I have the two Bishops and enormous pressure along the a8-h1 diagonal. My opponent, National Master William Longren, has his advantages as well. His Knight...

    • 17 challenges
  • Ogaard-Flesch, Oslo 1974

    GM Janos Flesch (playing Black) was one of the finest blindfold players in the world. He died very suddenly when he was hit by a car while crossing a road during a tournament in England in the early 1980's. This position is from a Nimzo-Indian Defense....

    • 13 challenges
  • Frankle-Silman, San Francisco 1982

    National Master Jonathan Frankle (playing White) is an attacking gambit-player who is not at home in quiet, positional battles. Here Black notes that the White Knights don't have any central support points. This tiny fact sets in motion a long-range...

    • 11 challenges
  • Capablanca-Milner Barry, Margate 1936

    The late Jose Capablanca is considered to be one of the great chess geniuses. His instant sight of the board and phenomenal understanding of chess strategy made winning this position an easy task for him. His opponent, Sir Stuart Milner-Barry, was Knighted...

    • 6 challenges
  • Silman-Wolski, Los Angeles 1989

    This position comes about from an old analysis by Smyslov, who assessed it as approximately even. Here I show that this assessment is incorrect. White's Bishop is more active than the Black Knight and this tiny fact enables me to fish for other types...

    • 9 challenges
  • A Study in Simplicity

    White is in a must win tournament situation, but the scarcity of material appears to make a victory for either side seem unlikely. This problem shows that the smallest advantage is often enough to cause the opponent great pain.

    • 8 challenges
  • Kupchik-Capablanca, Lake Hopatcong 1926

    Capablanca (playing Black) was famous for his defensive skills; few players were ever able to successfully attack him. Here Black's advantage on the queenside is not going away but White will try to generate kingside counterplay by Rg1 and g2-g4. Though...

    • 10 challenges
  • Silman-Barkan, U.S. Open 1981

    White would normally extend the spatial queenside plus with b4, a4, and b5. Black hopes to create his own play in the center with ...Bf8 and ...e6-e5.

    • 10 challenges
  • Silman-C. Lakdawala, Los Angeles 1989

    Senior Master Cyrus Lakdawala (playing Black) is a fine positional player who lives in San Diego. Here he gets pushed off the board, though, because he fails to realize that a space advantage is not enough to win by itself; you also have to be able to...

    • 9 challenges
  • Scheichel-Adorjan, Hungary 1981

    A common middlegame scenario has arisen from the Grunfeld Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5). White has a gigantic pawn center and hopes to turn this into a stable space advantage or a rabid kingside attack. Black is hoping to show that White's pawn...

    • 8 challenges
  • Botvinnik-Yudovich, USSR Championship 1933

    White has a lead in development, a big pawn center and more space. Black can capture White's pawn on e4 and gain control of the d5-square, but this will leave him with an isolated pawn on e6 and a vulnerable King (the pawn on g6 is only defended by the...

    • 7 challenges
  • A boring but typical position

    This position is constantly reached in junior events when both sides mindlessly pursue their development. Don't get me wrong; nobody has made an error yet, but a little imagination is needed if one wants to win a chess game.

    • 2 challenges
  • Janowsky-Nimzovich, St. Petersburg 1914

    A casual look at this position will tell us that White should stand better: he has two Bishops, a full, well protected center, more territory, and chances to expand on the kingside with a later f2-f4 advance. Now that we have finished with our first...

    • 6 challenges
  • Botvinnik-Reshevsky, World Championship1948

    Samuel Reshevsky (playing Black) was a true child prodigy, playing at master strength at nine years of age. A superb tactician and in possession of almost flawless technique, he was clearly one of the world's top five players in his prime and he virtually...

    • 6 challenges
  • Fischer-Spassky, Return Match 1992

    The great Robert Fischer (playing White) is no stranger to anyone who calls him or herself a chess player. Having dominated world chess in his prime, Bobby beat Spassky in 1972 for the World Championship. Then he quit chess and disappeared from sight....

    • 4 challenges
  • Exploiting an Open File

    White has complete control of the c-file and his pawn chain (the pawns on g2-f3-e4-d5) points to the queenside, indicating that White should seek play on that side of the board (because that is where White's space advantage lies). This idea of playing...

    • 3 challenges
  • Silman-Filguth, San Francisco 1977

    Black has active pieces, but is also stuck with an isolated d-pawn. White is aware that the way to beat such a pawn is to trade off all the minor pieces and then double or triple on the d- file against the d5-pawn. Thus: Black will strive for active...

    • 6 challenges
  • Vesely-Pachman, Prague 1951

    This position was once thought to be much better for White. After all, he has the superior pawn structure and a mobile pawn majority on the kingside. The present game overturned this assessment and, once the antidote became known, everybody more or less...

    • 8 challenges
  • Gligoric-Szabo, Helsinki 1952

    The advantages of both sides are rather clearly portrayed: White has two connected passed pawns on the queenside while Black enjoys a majority of pawns in the center. Whose pawns will prove stronger? Is it just a race of pawns or are there other strategies...

    • 7 challenges
  • Spassky-Petrosian, Moscow (World Championship) 1969

    In the present position Spassky enjoys a passed d-pawn. Black hopes that his queenside majority and his threats against White's a-pawn will compensate him while White wants to prove that his unblocked passer is the major force on the board.

    • 8 challenges
  • Unzicker-Donner, Goteborg 1955

    Jan Donner (playing Black) was one of Holland's finest Grandmasters. Though he was successful in several strong tournaments, his many losses are the games that remain in this author's mind. He was particularly brutalized by the world's best players,...

    • 8 challenges
  • Nimzovich-Rosselli, Baden Baden 1925

    White has the two Bishops but Black has a large pawn center. Nimzovich (playing White) was a deep strategist who always looked far beyond the outward appearance of any position. Here he realizes that Black's center will be a weakness if he can double...

    • 7 challenges
  • Karpov-Browne, San Antonio 1972

    A fairly boring English opening has begun (1.c4 c5 2.b3 Nf6 3.Bb2 g6). White has a powerful fianchettoed Bishop while Black enjoys a solid position devoid of weaknesses. What method of development would highlight the power of this fianchettoed Bishop,...

    • 6 challenges
  • Mitchel-Nimzovich, Bern 1931

    The great Aaron Nimzovich (playing Black) shows that you must always strive to make your minor piece superior to the opponent's. Here he attempts to make his Knight stronger than the White Bishop even though the position is wide open. Interestingly,...

    • 7 challenges
  • Silman-Shapiro, Philadelphia 1990

    White has more queenside space while Black enjoys more territory on the kingside. However, the real points of interest in this position rest on d5 and d6. There we have weaknesses that White would love to take advantage of.

    • 6 challenges
  • Concept based on Eddy-Silman, Anchorage 1993

    Black has a tough choice to make: should he trade his bad Bishop for White's good one and enter a King and pawn endgame, or should he retain the Bishops?

    • 16 challenges
  • Remlinger-Silman, San Francisco 1987

    White is two pawns down but his pieces are more active than their Black counterparts and his threats of Bxh6, Qb3, and Nxd4 guarantee that he will recover at least one of the little guys. Further, the opposite colored Bishops add to White's attacking...

    • 7 challenges
  • Pupols-Silman, Portland 1985

    Viktors Pupols (playing White) is a virtual legend in the Pacific Northwest. Possessing a trench-warfare style, Uncle Vic, as he is affectionately called, has an impressive list of victories against some of the finest players in the U.S. In this game,...

    • 5 challenges
  • Sipaila-Silman, Reno 1993

    Black has a clear lead in development and his pieces are far more active than their White counterparts. How can Black increase the pressure and create threats that will keep White on the defensive?

    • 7 challenges
  • Possible Variation from Sipaila-Silman, Reno 1993

    Black has a big lead in development and the White Queen is attacked. If Black doesn't wish to exchange Queens then he must find a good place for his own King's better half.

    • 3 challenges
  • Silman-Petranovic, Long Beach 1989

    Both sides are castled on opposite sides which usually means that both Kings will come under some sort of attack. Indeed, whoever manages to open lines leading to the opponent's King first will probably win the game.

    • 12 challenges
  • Abramson-Computer, California 1991

    The side that is behind in development should rush to catch up. The side that is ahead in development should rush to rip open the position so that the superior army can run screaming into the hostile camp.

    • 5 challenges
  • Karpov-Kasparov, World Championship Match 1990

    Karpov (playing White) and Kasparov have played over 160 tournament and match games against each other. As the years pass these two players seem to despise each other more and more. Karpov, who once possessed a rather sleazy reputation, is now the hero...

    • 5 challenges
  • Fischer-Gheorghiu, Buenos Aires 1970

    Former World Champion Robert Fischer (playing White) had the uncanny ability to beat the world's finest players in a simple, seemingly effortless manner. Here we see Fischer with an advantage in space and more active pieces. However, Black (Romanian...

    • 7 challenges
  • Alekhine-Nimzovich, San Remo 1930

    During the years 1928 to 1932, Alexander Alekhine (who was World Champion at that time and went on to become the only player to die with the title) was just about unbeatable. He thrashed everyone so badly that one Grandmaster remarked, "He treats us...

    • 6 challenges
  • Silman-MacFarland, Reno 1991

    Black has just captured a Knight on e5 with his Bishop. The big decision for White is: how should he recapture on e5?

    • 11 challenges
  • Cramling-Yrjola, Gausdal 1984

    This is a common opening position where White has a slight edge due to her two Bishops. How can Black neutralize this advantage?

    • 4 challenges
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