Positional Chess Handbook: 495 Instructive Positions from Grandmaster Games

Positional Chess Handbook: 495 Instructive Positions from Grandmaster Games

by Israel Gelfer
     
 

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A dramatic sacrifice might seem like the best way to achieve a dazzling, come-from-behind victory, however, the outcome of most chess matches, depends on the participants' positional skills. The first player to establish a positional advantage gains the best chance of a successful direct attack.
This complete guide, written by an Israeli grandmaster, offers

Overview

A dramatic sacrifice might seem like the best way to achieve a dazzling, come-from-behind victory, however, the outcome of most chess matches, depends on the participants' positional skills. The first player to establish a positional advantage gains the best chance of a successful direct attack.
This complete guide, written by an Israeli grandmaster, offers valuable insights in developing a more powerful strategic game. It spans a century and a half of international chess, from the era of the legendary Paul Morphy in the 1850s to that of the modern powerhouse Gary Kasparov. The author focuses on common situations arising from practical over-the-board play. Examples — on such themes as key squares, bad bishops, and pawn structures — appear in ascending difficulty, with ample cross-reference.
Derived from the author's own coaching manuals, these instructive examples successfully assisted in training Israel's top juniors and the champions of the Israeli women's national team. Chess players at every level will benefit from this opportunity to develop an intuitive grasp of each concept and strengthen their positional play.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780486419497
Publisher:
Dover Publications
Publication date:
10/24/2001
Series:
Dover Chess Series
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
387,453
Product dimensions:
5.72(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.45(d)

Read an Excerpt

Positional Chess Handbook

495 Instructive Positions from Grandmaster Games


By Israel Gelfer, Raaphy Persitz

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1991 Israel Gelfer
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-31679-6



CHAPTER 1

Introduction

The evaluation of a given position fails under two headings: quantitative and qualitative. The former involves the simple counting of pieces and pawns and, as such, is fairly straightforward and objective. The latter is concerned with more abstract concepts like mobility, control of space, colour complexes, key squares, open lines, co-ordination and the like. It involves the judgement and weighting of several elements.

What are weaknesses? How are they provoked? How are they avoided? What is an ideal square for a piece in a given situation? How does one go about capturing, or controlling, squares, diagonals, files? In what positions is it desirable to seek exchanges? In what positions is it best to eschew them? How can you ensure the proper co-ordination between pieces? All these, and others, are the sort of positional questions that will occupy us in this book.

Before acquainting ourselves with those themes that recur over and again, let us look, by way of a general introduction, at a few random positions where general positional considerations manifest themselves clearly.


Nudelman-Justo

Women's Olymiad, Malta, 1980

Barring a pair of knights, no pieces have yet been exchanged; neither side appears to have glaring weaknesses; and it looks as though a long fight lies ahead. Black's last move, 21 ... d5, seizing the initiative in the centre and opening the way to either ... e4 or ... d4, seems natural enough. It turns out to be a decisive positional mistake.

The game continued: 22 fxe5 [??] xe5 23 [??] xe5 [??] xe5 24 d4! fixing the pawn on d5 and curtailing the scope of the black bishop. 24 ... [??] c7 25 cxb5 axb5 26 dxc5 clearing d4 for the knight. 26 ... [??] xc5. We have reached the next diagram.

The material equilibrium has been preserved but, in the course of the last four moves, White has acquired a winning positional advantage: her knight will occupy the central square d4, her bishop is more active than its counterpart and the c-file will be controlled by her rooks. This is what positional chess is about.

27 [??] d4 b4 28 [??] bc1 [??] a5 29 [??] c2 [??] c8 30 [??] fc1 [??] xc2 31 [??] xc2 a8 32 [??] f4 [??] b6 33 [??] e5 [??] a7 34 h3 [??] f7 35 [??] h2 [??] g8 36 h4 [??] f7 37 [??] f3 and Black's position soon collapsed.


Fuster–Fischer

Portoroz, 1958

Bobby Fischer, just under 16 at the time, found himself in this unpromising situation, playing with the black pieces, in his first Interzonal tournament.

Instead of the simple 26 [??] c3! [??] xc5 27 [??] d1, taking control of the d-file, not to mention the square d5, Fuster, against his better judgement, fell for 26 [??] xa7?, forfeiting all his advantage. An additional error on White's part a few moves later enabled Fischer to trap the stray knight and win the game. A lucky escape.


Nimzowitsch–Capablanca

St. Petersburg, 1914

In the diagram, White is a pawn up and his passed pawn is a force to be reckoned with. One or two inaccuracies on his part, and Black's pieces assume dominating posts. Soon White is compelled to make material concessions.

15 [??] d3? 15 c4! prevents Black's next move and conserves White's advantage.

15 ... [??] e6! 16 f3 [??] d7! 17 [??] d2 [??] e5 18 [??] e2 [??] c4 19 [??] ab1 [??] a8 Black's pieces occupy ideal squares. He threatens ... [??] eb8. 20 a4 [??] xd2! The hallmark of a great player: he knows when to exchange an active piece for a passive one (see also Fischer–Petrosian, diagrams 280 and 281). 21 [??] xd2 [??] c4 22 [??] fd1 [??] eb8 23 [??] e3 [??] b4 24 [??] g5 [??] d4+ 25 [??] h1 [??] ab8

Here, in order to stave off immediate disaster, Nimzowitsch tried 26 [??] xd4, but after 26 ... [??] xd4 Capablanca won without much difficulty.


Keres

White, a queen up, faces the unpleasant ... b2+. The only way to bring home his advantage is: 1 [??] a2+ ! bxa2 2 [??] c6! and Black is helpless against the threat 3 [??] d4–b3(c2) mate.


Kremer

White mates in five moves. This composition, and the next one, illustrate how one piece can overcome numerically superior—but misplaced—adverse forces.

1c8 [??] xc8 2 [??] c2! [??] xc2+ If 2 ... [??] f8 3 [??] c5 [??] g8 4 [??] c8 and mates. 3 [??] e2!! [??] xe2+ 4 [??] h1 and mates next move.


Vikovich

White takes advantage of the unfavourable disposition of the black pieces and wins after 1 [??] f7+ [??] h8 2 [??] h6! [??] g8 3 [??] xg7+!! [??] xg7 4 [??] e8+ taking all Black's pieces with a check!


Gusev–Awerbakh

USSR, 1946

The awkward placing of Black's king's rook and king invites the spectacular queen- sacrifice: 24 [??] xe5! fxe5 25 [??] f1! after which, despite his enormous material advantage, Black is completely tied up.

25 ... [??] c8 25 ... [??] xe6 26 [??] c4 leads to mate. 26 [??] d1 [??] c4 27 [??] b3 b5 28 xc4 [??] bxc4 29 b3 Creating a passed pawn, against which Black is helpless, his queen being paralysed by the threat of mate. 29 ... a5 30 bxc4 [??] e7 31 [??] g2 [??]a3 32 [??] f2 [??] e7 33 [??] f1 g5 34 [??] f5 g4 35 c5 and wins.


Kupferstisch–Andreasen

Denmark, 1953

In the diagram, arrived at after 20 moves, White has a piece for three pawns. The natural continuation 21 [??] g1 [??] c6 22 [??] xh7 [??] d7 enables Black to put up stiff resistance. White's next move, sacrificing a rook, exploits the precarious state of Black's king and ties a noose around his neck.

21 [??] xc7!! [??] xh1 22 [??] xf7 After 22 e7+ Black's king may escape. 22 ... [??] d5 23 [??] xd6+ [??] f8 24 [??] g5 24 [??] e7+ [??] g7 25 [??] g5+ etc. is quicker. 24 ... [??] h8 [??] 25 [??] h6+ [??] g8 26 [??] g7+ [??] f8 27 [??] c7+ [??] g8 28 [??] c8 [??] f3 29 [??] g7+ [??] f8 30 [??] xb7+ [??] g8 31 [??] g7+ [??] f8 32 [??] xa7+ [??] g8 33 [??] xa8 [??] xa8 34 [??] d6! 1–0


Hort–Kagan

Siegen, 1970

White, with two bishops and an advantage in space, aims at opening lines, but Black defends with sangfroid: 49 ... [??] xb5 50 cxb5 [??] a5!! Thwarting a4–a5. 51 [??] f3 [??] fh6 52 [??] e2 [??] 8a7 53 [??] c8 f5 54 [??] a6 [??] 5xa6 55 bxa6 fxe4 56 [??] b3 [??] xa6 57 a5 [??] xa5! 58 [??] xa5 bxa5 Black is two exchanges down. However, in the semiclosed position, the two knights are scarcely inferior to the two rooks. Indeed, after 59 [??] xa5? f5 Black is better. White is content to take a draw: 59 fxe5 [??] xe5 60 [??] e3 hg4+ 61 [??] f4 [??] f6 62 [??] b7+ h6 1/2:1/2


Bondarevsky–Smyslov

Moscow, 1946

An instructive position. As the game unfolds, Black's pieces occupy dominating outposts whereas White's are gradually driven back.

12 ... f5 13 e5 13 exf5 [??] xf5 helps Black, but 13 [??] g5 is preferable. The text creates a passed pawn whose prospects are bleak. 13 ... [??] e6 14 [??] d2 g5! 15 [??] e2 c5 16 [??] c3 b5 17 b3 [??] b7 Developing his pieces, Black methodically limits the scope of his opponent's pieces. 18 [??] g3 g4 19 [??] d2 e7 20 [??] h5 [??] f7 21 [??] f1 [??] g6 22 [??] f6 The knight occupies a seemingly strong outpost. In fact, it is out of action. 22 ... [??]ad8 23 [??] ad1 [??] xd1 24 [??] xd1 [??] d8 25 [??] xd8 [??] xd8 26 [??] e3 f4! 27 [??] d1 forced retreat since capturing on g4 costs a piece. 27 ... [??] xf6 28 exf6 [??] e4 29 [??] b2 An attempt to improve the knight's mobility, which Black forthwith nips in the bud. 29... b4! 30 f3 [??] xc2 31 [??] f2 gxf3 32 gxf3 [??] b1 and Black's material advantage assured him victory.


Saidy–Fischer

USA, 1965

At times it is possible to attain positional ends by sharp, tactical means. Thus, in the example above, the continuation chosen by Fischer, 15 ... [??] xe5!, which undermines White's centre and leads to a winning ending for Black, necessitates close examination of several variations. After the best moves for both sides, 16 [??] xd8 [??] xc4+! 17 [??] xe8+ [??] xe8+ 18 [??] d1 [??] xd2 19 [??] xd2 [??] e2+ 20 [??] c1 [??] xf2, Fischer had foreseen that though an exchange up, White's position was hopeless. The game proceeded 21 g3 [??] b7! 22 [??] e1 [??] e4 and Black won fairly easily.


Kushnir–Gaprindashvili

Riga, 1972

When the stronger side's pieces are well-placed and well-coordinated, tactical possibilities abound. At times, such possibilities are not immediately available, but sooner or later they surface.

In the above example, White's pieces and pawns are so dominant that a quick decision cannot be far away. Indeed, 45 b5! is conclusive: 45 ... axb5 (or 45 ... [??] xb5 46 c6! [??] xc6 47 [??] xc6 etc.) 46 c6! bxc6 47 [??] a3 The threat of [??] a7 compels Black to oppose White's rook. 47 ... [??] a8 48 [??] xa8 xa8 49 [??] d8 1–0


Larsen–Torre

Brussels, 1987

This is an excellent example of how the relative value of pieces is determined by the outposts they occupy.

The correct move is 37 b6! a6 (37 ... axb6 invites 38 b1), leaving the black knight without a move. Whether this leads to victory or not is another matter.

Larsen played 37 g6? whereupon Torre could have brought about a drawn ending by means of a timely exchange-.sacrifice 37 ... [??] xf5! 38 exf5 [??] f6 sealing the position. Instead, he played 37 ... [??] d7? relieving the knight from protecting d6 but leaving its mighty counterpart unmolested on f5.

38 [??] f1 [??] g8 39 a4 h5 Idea: to post the knight on g4. 40 [??] f2 [??] f6 41 [??] e3 [??] f8 42 a5 d8 43 [??] d3 [??] d7 44 a6 b6 45 [??] g1! Threatening [??] g5 and [??] g3, capturing h5. 45 ... [??] g4 46 [??] xg4!! A pure positional exchange-sacrifice. While White's knight ties up Black's rook, his king mops up on the right wing. To use Larsen's words: 'In this [closed] position, a knight is not inferior to a rook.'

46 ... hxg4 47 [??] e3 [??] d8 48 [??] f2 [??] g8 49 [??] g3 [??] d7 50 [??] xg4 [??] f8 51 [??] g5 [??] g8 52 h5 [??] h8 53 h6 gxh6+ 54 [??] xh6 g7 55 f5+ f8 56 [??] f6 1–0

Thus, by not sacrificing his rook for White's knight, Black missed an opportunity to draw; whereas White, by a well-timed sacrifice of his rook for Black's knight, forced a neat victory.


Strong and Weak Pieces

Introduction to Chapters 2–9

A bishop or a knight, we are taught, are worth three pawns (units) each; a rook, five pawns; a queen, nine to ten pawns; and so on. Beyond such rough approximations, the value of a piece corresponds above all to the influence it exerts in a particular position. Clearly, a pawn on the seventh rank, about to queen, may be worth more than a minor piece or rook. Likewise, in some positions a bishop may be superior to a knight while in others the reverse is true. Needless to say, in a given position, a white rook and a black rook need not be equal to each other merely by virtue of both being rooks. In some circumstances, a well-posted knight or bishop may outweigh a rook or even a queen.

This is where positional understanding comes into play and where the ability to assess the pros and cons of a position dispassionately can come to our aid in determining the choice of a plan.

CHAPTER 2

A Good Bishop versus a Bad Knight


Grigoriev

1926

Black has no apparent weakness, bus his knight lacks space and White's bishop is all- powerful.

1 [??] d2 [??] d8 2 [??] d3 b6 3 f5 c5 An attempt to gain more space for the knight with 3 ... [??] b7 4 b4 a5 is answered by 5 a3. 4 [??] c8 a5 Now the square b5 is available to the white king. 5 g4 [??] f7 6 [??] f5 [??] e7 7 [??] c3 [??] b7 8 [??] c8 [??] d8 9 [??] b3 [??] f7 10 [??] e6 [??] h8 11 f5 Of course, this move would be out of place with the black knight on f7. 11 ... [??] d8 12 [??] a4 [??] c7 13 [??] b5 [??] b7 14 a4 and Black is without a move.


Grigoriev

1931

In the above ending, White is able to exploit the superior mobility of his bishop over the black knight by attacking Black's kingside pawns from the rear.

1 [??] f3 a6 2 a4 [??] c7 3 [??] g4 [??] f8 4 a5 inducing an additional weakness. 4 ... [??] c6 5 [??] axb6 xb6 6 [??] d1 [??] d7 7 [??] a4 [??] b8 8 [??] e8 [??] c6 9 [??] f7 [??] d8 10 [??] g8 [??] c6 11 [??] xe6 and wins.


Spassky–Fischer

Santa Monica, 1966

Another case underlining the superiority of the bishop over the knight in an open position, despite the dearth of material.

35 h4 [??] c4 36 [??] e2 [??] e5 37 [??] e3 [??] f6 38 [??] f4 [??] f7 39 [??] e3 39 [??] d5 is better. 39 ... g5 40 h5 Black has rid himself of the weakness at g6 but his knight is restricted to watching the passed h-pawn. 40 ... [??] h6 41 [??] d3 [??] e5 42 [??] a8 [??] d6 43 [??] c4 g4 44 a4 [??] g8 45 a5 [??] h6 46 [??] e4 g3 47 [??] b5 [??] g8 48 [??] b1 [??] h6 49 [??] a6 [??] c6 50 [??] a2 1–0


Stoltz–Kashdan

The Hague, 1928

A celebrated ending where the existence of pawns on both wings on an open board emphasizes the bishop's superiority over the knight.

1 ... [??] f8 2 [??] f1 [??] e7 3 [??] e2 [??] d6 4 [??] d3 [??] d5 5 h4 [??] c8 Black's bishop helps push the white king backwards, enhancing the scope of his own king.

6 [??] f3 [??] a6+ 7 [??] c3 h6 8 [??] d4 g6 9 [??] c2 [??] e4 10 [??] e3 f5 11 [??] d2 f4 12 [??] g4 h5 13 [??] f6+ [??] f5 14 [??] d7 [??] c8 15 [??] f8 g5 16 g3 gxh4 17 gxh4 [??] g4 18 [??] g6 [??] f5 19 [??] e7 [??] e6 20 [??] b4 xh4 and the passed h-pawn carried the day.


Chekhover–Lasker

Moscow, 1935

Here too, in an open position with pawns on both wings, the knight is no match for the bishop.

20 ... [??] c7 21 [??] f1 b5! A prelude to his next move. 22 [??] e1 [??] b2 23 a4 bxa4 24 bxa4 [??] c6! Precise: 24 ... [??] b6–a5 allows the white king to reach b3, via d1 and c2. 25 [??] d2 [??] c5 26 [??] c3 [??] b4 27 [??] b5 a5 28 [??] d6 [??] xa4 29 [??] c2 [??] e5 30 [??] xf7 [??] xh2 31 [??] d8 e5 32 [??] c6 g1 33 f3 [??] c5 34 [??] b8 b5 35 g4 [??] e7 36 g5 Despair in a hopeless position. 36 ... fxg5 [??] 37 [??] d7 d6 38 [??] f6 [??] c4 0–1 39 [??] xh7 [??] e7 traps the knight.


Uhlmann–Fischer

Leipzig, 1960

Here again the presence of pawns on both wings in an open position gives Black a pronounced advantage.

26 ... b6 27 a4?! In general, such committal pawn moves are best avoided. Preferable is 27 a3. 27 ... [??] e6 28 c5 bxc5 29 bxc5 e7 30 [??] g3 The only way to seek counterplay. 30 ... d7 31 h4 c6 32 g5 e4 33 g4 White wishes to eliminate as many pawns as possible. 33 ... fxg4 34 [??] xe4 a5! Fixing the a-pawn. 35 [??] f4 [??] b3 36 [??] e3 [??] xa4 37 [??] d2 h6 38 [??] f6 [??] xc5 39 [??] xg4 h5 40 [??] e3 [??] d4 The centralised king, together with the powerful bishop, ensure Black a comfortable victory, notwithstanding the paucity of pawns. 41 [??] f1 [??] e5 42 [??] e3 b3 0–1


Reti–Rubinstein

Gothenburg, 1920

The need to defend White's pawn on c2 compels the retreat of his knight, which facilitates the infiltration of Black's king into White's camp.

29 [??] e1 [??] e7 30 [??] e3 [??] e6 31 g4 to prevent ... [??] f5 and ... h5–h4. 31 ... d6 32 h3 [??] g6 33 [??] d2 [??] d7 The bishop is to shine on another front.

34 [??] f3 [??] e7 Preparing ... h5 without having to worry about the retort g5 or [??] h4. 35 [??] e3 h5! 36 [??] h2 [??] d6 37 [??] e2 d4! Depriving the white king of the square e3 and fixing White's pawns on the queen's flank. The accumulation of small advantages is typical of positional play. 38 cxd4 cxd4 39 [??] d2 hxg4 40 hxg4 [??] c6! Halting 41 c3 because of 41 ... dxc3+ 42 [??] xc3 [??] g2! and White is in zugzwang. 41 [??] e2 [??] d5 42 a3 b5 43 [??] f1 a5 44 [??] d2 a4! The threat ... b4 looms. 45 [??] e4+ If 45 [??] d1 g5! penetrating. 45 ... [??] xe4 46 dxe4 b4 47 d2 bxa3 48 [??] c1 g5 0–1 Vintage Rubinstein.


Smyslov–Tal

Moscow, 1964

In the following fragment, Tal, who is renowned for attacking ability and tactical wizardry, displays his mastery in a purely technical ending.

38 ... [??] f6 39 [??] b3 [??] g6 40 [??] a3 [??] h5 41 h3 To prevent ... [??] g4, but on h3 the pawn is none too safe. 41... [??] g6 42 [??] b3 [??] g7 43 [??] a3 [??] f6 44 [??] b3 [??] e8 45 [??] g2 If 45 [??] f3 [??] h5 46 [??] e5 [??] d1+ 47 [??] a3 [??] e6 48 [??] c6 [??] c2 49 [??] e5 h6 places White in zugzwang (50 g4 [??] d1). 45 ... [??] h5 46 [??] c2 e2 47 [??] e1 [??] f1 48 [??] f3 48 h4 is defeated by the king's entry to g4, preceded by the transfer of the bishop to the long diagonal.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Positional Chess Handbook by Israel Gelfer, Raaphy Persitz. Copyright © 1991 Israel Gelfer. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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