Positional Chess

Positional chess seems very easy at first sight. No in-depth calculations and no huge branches of variations. But just like tactics, you can become rusty if you do not train in them regularly.Whether you are a positional master or a complete amateur in this field, solving these puzzles will help you understand how the correct move is derived in a given position and this will help you to find the right moves in your tournament games.
This is how you you should work on the positions:
  1. Go to any problem.
  2. Think for five minutes.
  3. On a piece of paper write down your answer and also the reason for the same. If you do not have a paper then you can write down your answer in the comments section. 
  4. Compare your written answer to the explanation given by Sagar. If your answer as well as the reasoning is the same as given - Congratulations! But if it is not then you might have taken the first steps on the path to becoming a positional genius!

All the best!

1. Botvinnik-Konstantinopolsky
White to play.

Solution: If it were Black to move, he would have immediately pushed his pawn f5-f4 and activated his d7 bishop. As it is White's move, it makes sense to limit the scope of the d7 bishop by just playing 1.f4! which is positionally very strong.

2. Petrosian-Simagin
White to play

Solution: In a clean positional manner, Petrosian found the heart of the position. It was the control of the e4 square. He started with 1.exf5 gxf5 (Rxf5 cedes the e4 square anyway) 2.g4! A very important move. And after 2...fxg4 3. Ne4 White was already better and went on to win the game thanks to the strong knight on e4.

3. Petrosian-Bannik
White to play

Solution: White is clearly better here thanks to the passive bishop on e7 which is inhibited by its own pawns on e5, f6 and g5. A very natural continuation is 1.Bxb6 axb6 2.g4. This would secure the knight on e4 and would give White a small edge. But Petrosian goes for 1.Bc5!! Let's see what Petrosian has to say about this, "In deciding on this move, it was imperative to weigh all the "pros" and "cons" thoroughly. The move looks illogical as White is voluntarily exchangin his "good" bishop for his opponent's "bad" one, instead of swapping bishop for knight (18.Bxb6+) and securing his preponderance. However, if you probe into the position a little more deeper, it becomes obvious that after a possibe exchange of rooks on the d-file and the transfer of king to e6, Black would cover his vulnerable points and create an impregnable formation. The role played in this by the "bad" bishop would be of no small importance."
After 1.Bc5!! Rxd1 2.Rxd1 Bxc5 3.Nxc5 White was threatening infiltration on e6 and after 3...Re8 4.Ne4 Re6 5.g4! He was clearly better as the f6 pawn is very weak.

4. Donner - Keene, 1968
White to play

Solution: In such positions where White has a central majority against black's queenside majority it is very important to get your pawns rolling. In this position White can simply do that with the move 1.f3! The advance e3-e4 cannot be stopped and the bishop on b2 does an excellent job of defending d4. It was very important to get in the move f3 before Black could play c5 as now 1...c5 can be easily met with 2.e4! The game continued 1...Qg5 2.e4 Nd5 3.Qf1! Qd2 4.Qf2 Qxf2 5.Kxf2 when White had a clear advantage in the endgame thanks to the central e4 and d4 pawns and the misplaced knight on a5.



  1. 1.f4... condemning the Bishop seems right...! seems like a a game by some soviet guy named konstantinoplesky vs keres..., not sure.. but seems to be that!

  2. Dear Sagar,

    congratulations to your fantastic win in Dresden and thank you for your great chess blog. I happened to play in Dresden A group too, however in contrast to you I had a fairly dismal result. Anyway, it seems we share the sympathy for Silman's methodology of imbalances and your blog actually made me take up the book "reassess your chess" again after reading it 20 years ago. Looking at the imbalances of the position the most obvious seems to be the bishop vs. knight situation and the open d-file. I would play 1.f4 to keep the f5 pawn on a white square and now d4 is a perfect blokading square for the knight with e5 as an alternative outpost. A logical follow-up could be 1... Re7 2.Re1 to neutralize the black pressure on the e-file (the immediate Nb1-d2-f3-e5 may not be bad either) 2... Rfe8 3.Kf2 Bc8 4.Rxe7 Rxe7 5.Re1 Rxe1 6.Kxe1 and now the manoever Nb1-d2-f3(b3)-d4 yields White a big advantage. Looking forward to see your solution.

  3. 1.f4 as pointed out by Priya Darshan and this position occured in the game Botvinnik - Konstantinopolsky. It is very nicely annotated in Max Euwe's "Judgement and Planning in Chess" chapter 4 Knight against Bad Bishop p,43.
    "the object of this move is quite clear. Black's f-pawn is now blocked, and the bishop's mobility permanently crippled in this direction."

  4. My analysis started considering the whole:
    No queens on the board...=, Two Rooks on the board...=,
    Kings are safe...=,
    White two chains of pawns, Black three chains of pawns... +-,
    Knight vs Bishop, end game...-+,

    Is a very interesting game with black trying to dominate column e, and with a thread of bc8-ba6 dominating an important diagonal, taking out the bishop from his pawns chain and supporting an entrance to e2 square for a queen-side attack.
    I think that white must take care of column e, also must activate his knight (probably trying to put him on e5 supported by f4 pawn), and must try to make the king more active probably through f2.

  5. These are interesting articles but I have one major criticism. Please include the 'WHY' in your explanations. In position 2, WHY was the e4 square so important; in position 4, WHY is it important to 'get the central majority rolling'. Without the 'WHY', I'm afraid that, as a 1400 rated player, I get very little out of these excersises.[FYI I got them all wrong anyway]

  6. Fantastic post, thank you for sharing.