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 isolated pawns 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

Botvinnik-Sorokin, USSR 1931

Former World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik (playing White) was the first great master of the scientific aspects of chess. This problem shows why he was considered to be such a great strategist.
23 Challenges
Tarrasch-Schlechter, Leipzig 1894

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.
21 Challenges
A variation from Tarrasch-Schlechter, Leipzig 1894

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 could have done.
5 Challenges
Silman-Minev, Portland 1984

Silman-Minev, Portland 1984

There's a standard formula to beating an isolated pawn.
8 Challenges
Fischer-Gadia, Mar del Plata 1960

Fischer-Gadia, Mar del Plata 1960

Former World Champion Robert Fischer (playing White) used to play this system against the Sicilian all the time.
12 Challenges
Petrosian-Najdorf, Bled 1961

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.
9 Challenges
Sample of minor piece battle

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

Botvinnik-Kan, Leningrad 1939

White has a bad Bishop on d5 that is superior to its counterpart on c8.
15 Challenges
Cvetkov-Smyslov, Moscow 1947

Cvetkov-Smyslov, Moscow 1947

The position appears to be nothing more than a boring draw, but World Champion Vassily Smyslov (playing Black) does his utmost to test the defensive skills of his opponent.
34 Challenges
Norwegian Amateurs-Nimzovich, Oslo 1921

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.
7 Challenges
Variation from move three of Norwegian Amateurs- Nimzovich, Oslo 1921

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

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!
18 Challenges
Botvinnik-Flohr, Moscow 1936

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.
10 Challenges
O'Kelly-Najdorf, Dubrovnik 1950

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.
12 Challenges
Position from Nimzo-Indian, Huebner Variation

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.
10 Challenges
Smyslov-Botvinnik, Moscow 1948

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!
11 Challenges
Longren-Silman, Santa Barbara 1989

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!
17 Challenges
Ogaard-Flesch, Oslo 1974

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.
13 Challenges
Frankle-Silman, San Francisco 1982

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.
11 Challenges
Capablanca-Milner Barry, Margate 1936

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.
6 Challenges
Silman-Wolski, Los Angeles 1989

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.
9 Challenges
A Study in Simplicity

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.
8 Challenges
Kupchik-Capablanca, Lake Hopatcong 1926

Kupchik-Capablanca, Lake Hopatcong 1926

Capablanca (playing Black) was famous for his defensive skills; few players were ever able to successfully attack him.
10 Challenges
Silman-Barkan, U.S. Open 1981

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

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.
9 Challenges
Scheichel-Adorjan, Hungary 1981

Scheichel-Adorjan, Hungary 1981

White has a gigantic pawn center and hopes to turn this into a stable space advantage or a rabid kingside attack.
8 Challenges
Botvinnik-Yudovich, USSR Championship 1933

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 there are downsides.
7 Challenges
A boring but typical position

A boring but typical position

This position is constantly reached in junior events when both sides mindlessly pursue development. Don't get me wrong; nobody has made an error, but a little imagination is needed if one wants to win a chess game.
2 Challenges
Janowsky-Nimzovich, St. Petersburg 1914

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.
6 Challenges
Botvinnik-Reshevsky, World Championship 1948

Botvinnik-Reshevsky, World Championship 1948

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.
6 Challenges
Fischer-Spassky, Return Match 1992

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.
4 Challenges
Exploiting an Open File

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.
3 Challenges
Silman-Filguth, San Francisco 1977

Silman-Filguth, San Francisco 1977

Black has active pieces, but is also stuck with an isolated d-pawn.
6 Challenges
Vesely-Pachman, Prague 1951

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.
8 Challenges
Gligoric-Szabo, Helsinki 1952

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?
7 Challenges
Spassky-Petrosian, Moscow (World Championship) 1969

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 for it.
8 Challenges
Unzicker-Donner, Goteborg 1955

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.
8 Challenges
Nimzovich-Rosselli, Baden Baden 1925

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.
7 Challenges
Karpov-Browne, San Antonio 1972

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.
6 Challenges
Mitchel-Nimzovich, Bern 1931

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.
7 Challenges
Silman-Shapiro, Philadelphia 1990

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.
6 Challenges
Concept based on Eddy-Silman, Anchorage 1993

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

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.
7 Challenges
Pupols-Silman, Portland 1985

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.
5 Challenges
Sipaila-Silman, Reno 1993

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

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

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.
12 Challenges
Abramson-Computer, California 1991

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-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.
5 Challenges
Fischer-Gheorghiu, Buenos Aires 1970

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.
7 Challenges
Alekhine-Nimzovich, San Remo 1930

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.
6 Challenges
Silman-MacFarland, Reno 1991

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

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