Want to Improve Your Positional Chess? Tal May Help!
What is your daily chess diet?
Perhaps it starts off with a light breakfast of a nutritious chess puzzle from your favorite chess dietitian (Alex Baburin in Chess Today Daily, or perhaps Susan Polgar on her Daily Chess News) to help you lead a healthy chess life style.
Chess puzzles are everywhere, in books, chess periodicals, online. Of course, training your tactical eye is indispensable if you want to grow in chess and become a better player (tactics is also most entertaining, and is a high-protein learning diet for the beginner to develop their chess muscles quick). But how about upgrading your positional expertise? Tactics is vitally important, we can’t stress it enough, but it is (sorry to remind you again) just building blocks of strategy, that subtle, intangible and elusive category.
All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved. — Sun Tsu, cca 500 BC
How to get the edge in chess
So how do Masters get the edge on their opponents? Quintessentially, they look at the board to sense what kind of positional gain they’d like to get, say, three or four moves ahead. Among methods to achieve this end (concentration of force, maneuvering, sometimes just waiting for your opponent to err), they use small tactics to first and foremost gain some strategic pluses, one by one; then, after they have accumulated positional advantage and everything is ready for fireworks, they use game-winning big tactics to blow off the opponent (see more about small/big tactics).
Given the importance of positional understanding, online resources to develop your strategic sense are scarce.
That is why I have decided to include positional puzzles on the site, together with our regular endgame puzzles from actual games and famous chess compositions and studies (whereby you are building your winning endgame techniques and tactical weaponry arsenal all at once!).
Develop your strategic understanding on iPlayooChess – with tactics!
This is the first Test Your Positional Skills puzzle. Curiously enough, we are taking a look at a game of the legendary Misha Tal as a template of how chess Masters create strategic advantage.
Let’s see how it works. In front of you is the position after Black’s 18…Nd5. How should White proceed? Here are Tal’s thoughts, “On 19.Ba3 there could follow 19…Rc8 tying White to the defense of the QB pawn and holding on the light colored squares.”
Now test your strategic sharpness.
Q: What kind of move Tal saw in this position to gain strategic advantage? (Keep in mind that the Supreme Law of Strategy tells us to paralyze the opponent’s strategy first!)
As before, our chess regiment on the site is comprising the Study for the Weekend (Sat) and two OTB endgame tactical shots (Mon, Wed), but now combined with Test Your Positional Skills that will go up on Monday and stay posted for a week (here I would ask for your feedback on this. What are your thoughts about this chess diet plan? Do you think that this diet is healthy? What can be changed to better serve you? What other elements you think we could add? – your thoughts are highly welcome)
The Tal-Podgaets position has been on the site for a week now. So here is the solution with Tal’s own commentary after Black’s 18…Nd5: “On 19.Ba3 there could follow 19…Rc8 tying White to the defense of the QB pawn and holding on the light colored squares. I found an interesting maneuver!”
21.c6! “This little pawn sacrifice opens the b-file for White while killing any counterattacking possibilities Black had along the c-file. White’s attack is now decisive.”
Making use of small tactics for positional gains par excellence!
It’s all about the Supreme strategic principle: limit your opponent’s options, while extending yours! I’m going to open a file for my men to use, while closing the c-file for you, paralyzing your counterplay, all at the same time. We couldn’t find a better example of how small tactics is used for our first Test Your Positional Skills puzzle. The greatest tactician of all time in a different clothing, as a Strategist, still using his beloved tactics to prepare grounds for some big tactics to follow!
(see the game player above for the rest of the game)
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