Silman's Lessons in Strategy (2)

Silman's Lessons in Strategy (2)

Challenge your strategic knowledge with IM Jeremy Silman!

Did you work through Silman’s Lessons on strategy and you’re looking for more challenges? Then this is the perfect follow up course for you! In this module, IM Jeremy Silman continues with strategic positional challenges. Some are long, and experts and masters will not find many of these to be easy. The course also provides a look into some of the top players and chess tales of the 1990s. Improve your strategic abilities today!

Here is what you will learn:

  • The importance of keeping an open mind.
  • How to take advantage of holes in an opponent's position.
  • Various ways to break down a powerful pawn center.
  • How to turn advantages in space and development into something more tangible.


"I learned more chess from Mr. Silman than anybody else. The amount of effort he has put into teaching chess and making it fun and accessible to everyone is incalculable. I started from 1200 several years ago in an advanced age with a goal to play 1800 OTB chess one day. I quickly discovered Mr. Silmans works. Made it to 1970 FIDE, beat a couple of 2200s, in large part because of Mr. Silman’s books and very chess strategy lessons. Done all of them (!) on chess.com and have read nearly every article with great pleasure. Thank you Mr. Silman." - Chess.com member Gus2105

Pia Cramling-Haik, France 1989

Pia Cramling-Haik, France 1989

Swedish Grandmaster Pia Cramling (playing White), one of the strongest female chess players in the world (here seen beating up an innocent male), has more central space, enjoys a lead in development and is applying pressure down the open d-file. How can she turn these advantages into something tangible?
14 Challenges
Lev Alburt-D. Gurevich, Long Beach 1989

Lev Alburt-D. Gurevich, Long Beach 1989

This problem shows the student the importance of keeping an open mind. So often we get obsessed with a defensive or attacking idea and, as a result, also get blinded to every other possibility on the board. Here White steps beyond such mental traps by forcing his own ideas on the opponent while refusing to be dictated to by the enemy. For those that are interested, the opening moves were 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 c5 4.d5 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.Nc3 g6 7.Nf3 Bg7 8.Bg2 0-0 9.0-0 Na6 10.h3 Bd7 11.e4 Qc8.
5 Challenges
Klaman-Smyslov, USSR Championship 1947

Klaman-Smyslov, USSR Championship 1947

Weakening a complex of squares is always a dangerous thing to do. Here we see how White punishes Black for his holes on g7, f6, e7, b7 and c6.
5 Challenges
Variation from Klaman-Smyslov, USSR Championship 1947

Variation from Klaman-Smyslov, USSR Championship 1947

Weakening a complex of squares is always a dangerous thing to do. Here we see how White punishes Black for his dark-square hole on f6; yes, the Black Knight is sitting on that square, but the fact that no Black pawn is or can support it creates certain problems for the second player.
5 Challenges
Reti-Yates, New York 1924

Reti-Yates, New York 1924

White's pieces form a striking picture-everything is aiming at Black's seemingly powerful center. Can White break this center down or is the central space going to eventually push the White forces back? Richard Reti was the leading exponent of the so-called hypermodern school of chess thought. He loved to allow the opponent to build up an imposing center so that he could chip away at it from afar with his pieces and show that it was more of a weakness than a strength.
15 Challenges
Izmailov-Kasparyan, USSR Championship 1931

Izmailov-Kasparyan, USSR Championship 1931

A glance at this position may tell us that White stands well, however the truth is often different than immediate impressions may lead us to believe. What can Black do to show that he is the one with the upper hand?
8 Challenges
Piatsetski-Silman, San Francisco 1995

Piatsetski-Silman, San Francisco 1995

White has just played his Knight to e5. Should Black capture this piece and open the d-file for his opponent or is there something better available? Leon Piatsetski is a Canadian International Master who now makes his home in Japan where he teaches English. His previous apartment there was destroyed by the great 1994 earthquake in Kobe.
4 Challenges
Silman-Balinas, San Francisco 1995

Silman-Balinas, San Francisco 1995

White has an obvious advantage in development and space. How can he increase this edge and turn it into something more tangible?
2 Challenges
Cusi-Silman, San Francisco 1995

Cusi-Silman, San Francisco 1995

A glance may tell us that White is better due to his superior pawn structure. However, all is not as it appears to be and many conflicting factors exist in this complicated position. What is Black's best move here?
3 Challenges
Stein-Tal, Leningrad 1971

Stein-Tal, Leningrad 1971

The late Mikhail Tal, playing Black, was World Champion for one year (1960) before M. Botvinnik, a drinking problem and a resultant decline in health conspired to strip the title from him. Leonid Stein, playing White, was one of the strongest Grandmasters in the world. His career was cut short when he died in his prime in 1973. How did Stein create a long-term plus for his own use while leaving Black with vulnerable weaknesses?
11 Challenges
Samisch-Alekhine, Dresden 1926

Samisch-Alekhine, Dresden 1926

Alekhine, playing Black, won the World Championship from Capablanca in 1927. Famous for his attacking and calculating powers, he was also able to handle all types of positions with depth and artistry. The position may appear to be equal or even better for White, but in reality Black has all the winning chances. How was Alekhine able to prove this point of view?
11 Challenges
Donner-Tal, Zurich 1959

Donner-Tal, Zurich 1959

The late, great former World Champion M.Tal (playing Black) was famous for his spectacular sacrifices and his ability to inject life into almost any position. Jan Donner, a Grandmaster from Holland, lost many great battles to the World's elite players. Here is an interesting example. The Black pieces seem to be contained. How can Black break out of the box?
4 Challenges
Capablanca-Alekhine, St. Petersburg 1913

Capablanca-Alekhine, St. Petersburg 1913

This early clash between the two great rivals ends in a win for Capablanca since at that time the great Cuban was clearly superior to Alekhine in playing strength. Alekhine was not to surpass his opponent until 1927.
4 Challenges
E.Lasker-Capablanca, Havana 1921

E.Lasker-Capablanca, Havana 1921

The great Emanual Lasker didn't do very well in his match with Capablanca. Some said it was his age (Lasker was far past his prime while Capa was at his best) while Lasker claimed that the humid Cuban climate made concentration impossible. The truth, I suspect, is that Lasker needed the money and was just playing to collect a paycheck. His plan was to go to Cuba, play a few games before resigning the match and then make good his escape as a richer man. In the present position, Lasker is in a very passive situation and was unable to defend against the Cuban's relentless technique. How did Capablanca snuff out his opponent's resistance?
8 Challenges
Castaldi-Reshevsky, Dubrovnik 1950

Castaldi-Reshevsky, Dubrovnik 1950

A famous child prodigy, the late Samuel Reshevsky (playing Black) was one of the world's top five players during his prime years. Here we see him showing that White's seemingly good position is in fact positionally bankrupt!
3 Challenges
Rubinstein-Salwe, Lodz 1908

Rubinstein-Salwe, Lodz 1908

Akiba Rubinstein (playing White) was one of the top two players in the world (along with E. Lasker) from 1908 to 1911. His brilliant positional skills won him many games which still stand up as models of strategic acumen. In this position (arrived at after 1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 c5 3.c4 e6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.g3 Nc6 7.Bg2 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Qb6 9.Nxc6 dxc6 10.0-0 Be7) White wants to prove that Black's pawns on c6 and d5 are weak while Black wishes to show that they offer certain dynamic advantages.
12 Challenges
Karpov-Spassky, Leningrad 1974

Karpov-Spassky, Leningrad 1974

Former World Champion Boris Spassky (playing Black) had just won the Soviet Championship and came into this Candidates Match as a slight favorite. The young Anatoly Karpov, however, stunned everyone with the enormous strength of his play. After losing the first game he rebounded to crush Spassky and shortly thereafter gained the highest chess crown for himself. In the present position Spassky has blocked the queenside (where White was trying to play) and hopes to activate his Bishops by ...Bc8 and ...Bd8-c7 with eventual play on the kingside or in the center. Karpov shows that Black's plan is doomed to failure.
7 Challenges
Hubner-Gheorghiu, Skopje 1972

Hubner-Gheorghiu, Skopje 1972

Robert Hubner (playing White) has been Germany's top player for many years. Here he crushes Romanian Grandmaster Florin Gheorghiu, one of the few players to have ever beaten Fischer in a tournament game. There is no doubt about White's superiority here, but how can he increase his advantage and turn it into something more tangible?
4 Challenges
Spassky-Korchnoi, Kiev 1968

Spassky-Korchnoi, Kiev 1968

This was from the candidates match between soon to be World Champion Boris Spassky (playing White) and the great Victor Korchnoi in 1968. Spassky has an obvious advantage but an exact method of cashing in is not so easy to find. What did he finally come up with?
3 Challenges
Smyslov-Reshevsky, Match Tournament1948

Smyslov-Reshevsky, Match Tournament1948

Vasily Smyslov (playing White) took the World Championship from Botvinnik in 1957 but lost it back to Botvinnik a year later. Incredibly, he is now well into his 70's and still going strong. In the present game Smyslov cracks open the Black position in surprising fashion.
4 Challenges
Kotov-Levenfish, Soviet Championship 1949

Kotov-Levenfish, Soviet Championship 1949

The late Alexander Kotov (playing White) was a Soviet Grandmaster who authored several books on chess, the most famous being, Think Like a Grandmaster. An excellent attacker, here he shows that he was also capable of positional, squeezing type of victory. Black's position is poor but given a move or two and he may be able to fix some of his shortcomings and defend. How can White break through and hand Black some pain?
5 Challenges
Marco-Muller, London 1898

Marco-Muller, London 1898

Georg Marco (playing White) made his home in Vienna and was well known as a man who simply hated to lose. He would keep the draw in hand at all costs and, as a result, rarely managed to come in first in strong tournaments. Here Marco is in hog heaven. He has a completely safe position and can start an offensive at his leisure while having virtually no chance of losing if he keeps his wits about him. How did Marco safely yet surely drag his opponent into oblivion?
6 Challenges
Capablanca-Botvinnik, Nottingham 1936

Capablanca-Botvinnik, Nottingham 1936

Any battle between such giants as Capablanca (at the time a former World Champion) and Botvinnik (a future World Champion) is always interesting. Here we see Botvinnik showing why a position thought to be good for White is actually quite comfortable for Black.
6 Challenges
Botvinnik-Zagorovsky, Sverdlovsk 1943

Botvinnik-Zagorovsky, Sverdlovsk 1943

White has an edge due to the isolated d-pawn and White's control of d4. How can Black cure the ills of his position before they become too acute?
7 Challenges
Kmoch-Alekhine, Kecskemet 1927

Kmoch-Alekhine, Kecskemet 1927

Alekhine (playing Black), the only man ever to die with the World Title, was generally thought to be an attacking player. Here, though, we see him piling up pressure against White's d-pawn in a purely positional manner. How did he add to the advantages that he already possessed?
1 Challenge
Schlechter-E.Lasker, 5th Match Game 1910

Schlechter-E.Lasker, 5th Match Game 1910

This short match (just ten games long) for the World Championship has become a great mystery in the hazy history of chess. The first four games had been drawn (Schlechter, playing White, was known as an unbeatable drawing master in those days) but in this fifth game Lasker played brilliantly to get a winning position. Then he made a horrible error which led to a loss and put him down by a point. Afterwards, each game was hard fought but led to a draw. Finally the last game was reached with Lasker apparently having to win to retain his title. Playing with confidence, Schlechter built up a winning position and had a chance to force a draw. He refused to do this, played for the win and ended up losing both the game and his only chance for the World Championship title. In this position Black is eyeing White's b-pawn but his Rook must be defended before any thought can be given to pawn grabbing. How should Black go about improving his position?
3 Challenges
E.Lasker-Burn, St.Petersburg 1909

E.Lasker-Burn, St.Petersburg 1909

White's chances on the kingside clearly give Lasker (playing White) the superior position but Burn (a very defensive player) is hoping to get some counterplay on the queenside. How has he misread the position?
7 Challenges
Lobron-Karpov, Hanover 1983

Lobron-Karpov, Hanover 1983

White (Lobron) has sacrificed a pawn for pressure against the Black position. His immediate threat is Rxe7 followed by Nd5, making use of the pin on the f6-Knight. Also threatened is Rad1, pinning the d4-Knight to the Black Queen. How can Karpov (famed for his brilliant defensive powers) take the wind out of White's sails?
3 Challenges
Miles-L.Portisch, Plovdiv 1983

Miles-L.Portisch, Plovdiv 1983

Tony Miles (playing White) was one of the best players in the world during the late 70's and 80's. His opponent, Lajos Portisch, was one of the world's ten best players through the 60's and 70's. In the present position White has acquired quite a nice position. What should Black do to defend himself?
6 Challenges
Tal-Najdorf, Belgrade 1970

Tal-Najdorf, Belgrade 1970

The late, great Mikhail Tal (playing White) was famous for his attacking skills and here he has built up a very threatening position. His opponent, Najdorf, is a legend himself and finds a way to pull the teeth from the mouth of White's upcoming assault.
3 Challenges
Korzubov-Lerner, Tallinn 1983

Korzubov-Lerner, Tallinn 1983

Black has a poor game because he has no active play while White can open queenside lines of attack at his leisure. Should Black just try to grimly hold on or is there another idea present in the position?
5 Challenges
Denker-Smyslov, USA vs. USSR Match 1946

Denker-Smyslov, USA vs. USSR Match 1946

Arnold Denker (playing White) was once Champion of the United States and was famed for his vicious attacking play. Against players like Smyslov, however, he was simply out of his league. In this game Black slowly improves his position and then calmly responds to White's unfortunate attempts at attack. This shows us that you don't have to run at your opponent in a frenzy if you wish to win, building on a stream of tiny edges is often more than enough to bring even the strongest opposition to his knees.
6 Challenges
Smyslov-Botvinnik, Moscow 1958

Smyslov-Botvinnik, Moscow 1958

This game, played under the emotional strain of a World Championship match, appears to be going White's way -- the Black King is anything but safe. How can Black hold back the storm?
5 Challenges
Gufeld-Taimanov, Moscow 1969

Gufeld-Taimanov, Moscow 1969

Gufeld (playing White) is a solid Grandmaster who has garnered the scalps of many of the world's finest players. His opponent, Taimanov, is a concert pianist who is famous for losing a match to American great Bobby Fischer by the humiliating score of 6-0! In the present game White has all the chances and it looks like the Black King may be in for a rough ride. How can Black demonstrate the safety of his King?
2 Challenges
Vitolinsh-Mukhin, Riga 1972

Vitolinsh-Mukhin, Riga 1972

Black is down an Exchange but his threat of ...Qb6+ is very hard to stop. White lost quickly in the actual game but it turns out that a defense does exist. How can White save himself?
6 Challenges
A.Petrosian-Khazai, Yerevan 1970

A.Petrosian-Khazai, Yerevan 1970

Black, who is in real trouble, finds a defense so shocking that it causes White to make a major error!
5 Challenges
Topalov-Yusupov, Novgorod 1995

Topalov-Yusupov, Novgorod 1995

Veselin Topalov (playing White) is one of the World's finest young Grandmasters (only 19 years old at the time of this game) who is rapidly heading towards a number one ranking. Here he stands better against a world class opponent and must decide how to make his advantage more evident.
7 Challenges
Illescas-Beliavsky, Madrid 1995

Illescas-Beliavsky, Madrid 1995

White has a powerful game but now must figure out how to add to the advantage he has already gained. Illescas (playing White) is Spain's strongest player. His opponent, Big Al Beliavsky, is a feared attacking player who has long been thought of as one of the World's best players.
2 Challenges
Smyslov-Xie Jun, Prague 1995

Smyslov-Xie Jun, Prague 1995

Black thought she was alright but former World Champion Smyslov (playing White) shows the Woman's World Champion that she still has a few things to learn about positional play.
7 Challenges
M. Adams-Shirov, Dos Hermanas 1995

M. Adams-Shirov, Dos Hermanas 1995

Michael Adams (playing White) is a young, aggressive English Grandmaster who has won many top class international events. His young opponent, Alexey Shirov, is a tactical genius who has been amoung the top ten in the world for several years. This position may seem dull but it is actually anything but clear. How did the hyper-aggressive Shirov (playing Black) get his share of the play?
4 Challenges
Piket-Gelfand, Dos Hermanas 1995

Piket-Gelfand, Dos Hermanas 1995

The young Jeron Piket (playing White) is, together with veteran Grandmaster Jan Timman, Holland's best player. Here he defeats Gelfand, a man who prides himself on being one of the top seven players in the world.
4 Challenges
Gulko-Short, Riga 1995

Gulko-Short, Riga 1995

Boris Gulko (1994 U.S. Champion), playing White, has the two Bishops and the better pawn structure but Black has active pieces and a big threat of ...Nxc3. How should White handle this situation? Nigel Short played a World Championship match against Kasparov in London in 1993. He got slaughtered and the resultant loss of confidence left him playing below strength for awhile. It was only in 1995 that he began to demonstrate his proper powers again.
7 Challenges
Gelfand-Korchnoi, Horgen 1994

Gelfand-Korchnoi, Horgen 1994

Black's Knights are superior to the White Bishops at the moment but if the Knights get chased back then the Bishops may end up ruling. Sharp play is called for and the great Victor Korchnoi (playing Black) has never been afraid of a pitched battle.
6 Challenges
Kasparov-Yusupov, Horgen 1994

Kasparov-Yusupov, Horgen 1994

Garry Kasparov (playing White) has been one of the most dominent World Champions. His amazing opening preparation and his tactical powers make him an almost irresistible opponent. In this strange looking position (the opening moves were 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Bc5 5.Nxc6 Qf6 6.Qd2 dxc6 7.Nc3 Be6 8.Na4 Rd8 9.Bd3 Bd4 10.0-0 a6) Kasparov played a move that instantly forced Black onto the defensive. What was his move?
5 Challenges
Kiril Georgiev-Morozevich, Tilburg 1994

Kiril Georgiev-Morozevich, Tilburg 1994

Kiril Georgiev (playing White) is an experienced Grandmaster from Yugoslavia. His opponent, Morozevich, is a young man who smashes his opposition by vicious attacks and strange opening choices. In this position Black has sacrificed a pawn in the hope of starting an attack against White's uncastled King. How should White defend himself?
5 Challenges
Gligoric-Smyslov, Amsterdam 1994

Gligoric-Smyslov, Amsterdam 1994

Two legends square off in a senior's tournament and wail away at each other. Gligoric (playing White) was Yugoslavia's top player for many years and played in the candidates matches in a bid for the World Championship on several occasions. His opponent, Smyslov, was World Champion in 1957 and still seems to be going strong today. This imbalanced position offers difficult problems for both players. What is the best set-up for the Black army?
6 Challenges
Khuzman-Hodgson, Amsterdam Open 1994

Khuzman-Hodgson, Amsterdam Open 1994

Julian Hodgson (playing Black) is an English player who lives for wild positions and unusual openings. He has had this position in several games but here his Ukranian opponent comes up with a new plan for White.
2 Challenges
M. Adams- V.Anand, Linares 1994

M. Adams- V.Anand, Linares 1994

This game was from the candidates match between these two players, won by Viswanathan Anand (playing Black) by a crushing 5 1/2-1 1/2. In his mid-twenties, Anand has gotten better with each passing year and is now recognized as one of the four best players in the world. Famous for playing at dazzling speed, he is a well rounded player who is making a serious bid for the World Championship. In the present game Vishy shows that Black has a very comfortable game. How does he do this?
3 Challenges
Salov-Ljubojevic, Buenos Aires 1994

Salov-Ljubojevic, Buenos Aires 1994

Black appears to be more aggressively placed and his center pawns give one a feeling of power. The truth is, though, that Black is in a very bad way. How did Salov (playing White) prove this? Ljubomir Ljubojevic is one of those Grandmasters who can come in first in any tournament one day, then last a month later. His results are as mercurial as his emotional state, which is always rising to new heights. Here he gets smashed by the eventual winner of the tournament.
5 Challenges
Seirawan-de Firmian, Key West 1994

Seirawan-de Firmian, Key West 1994

Black has three pawn islands to White's two; it's not exciting but to Seattle's super Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan (playing White) such positions provide the consumate pleasure. How did Yasser knock his opponent out of the box?
6 Challenges
Peter Svidler-Andrey Sokolov, Elista 1994

Peter Svidler-Andrey Sokolov, Elista 1994

Peter Svidler (playing White) is a teenage Russian Grandmaster who may easily turn out to be a world beater. In this game he finds a way to pile up the pressure against d6 while simultaneously keeping Black's counterplay to a minimum. Find the plan he came up with.
7 Challenges

Silman's Lessons in Strategy (2)

Strategy
51 Lessons
No Videos
284 Challenges
Released November 15, 2007
15,203 Students