“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” – Sun Tzu
Without a strategy, you will never reach your goals. In chess, sometimes you target a weak pawn and build your whole strategy around that one weak pawn. Sometimes, your strategy is to attack on the king directly.
You should know which kind of strategy to choose in any situation.
Over the last few years, i have read numerous books on chess strategy and i will share five books that has helped me improve my strategical strength.
1. Elements of positional evaluation
Author: Dan heisman
Before you can create a strategy in any position, you should know how to evaluate a position. Evaluating a position means finding out which side stands better? How much better? and why?
To evaluate any position, you need to know some factors and based on those factors, you can evaluate a position.
All the factors that you need to know to evaluate a position are covered in this book.
First factor is material advantage: If you have one extra knight than your opponent then it means that you stand better than your opponent.
More material usually means more advantage.
Second main factor is position of pieces and pawns: If you have an extra queen but your opponent’s pieces are threatening checkmate and you have no defense then your extra queen is useless.
Most of the time, we create a strategy based on the pawn structure. If a particular pawn is weak then most likely you want to attack on that weakness.
This book covers the topics like material, space, king safety , development and pawn structure. Studying these ideas will improve your strategical game. You will be able to judge who is better and why?
Conclusion: This book covers all the fundamental principles to evaluate a position and it will be a good for building a strong foundation for you if you are a beginner.
2. Mastering Chess Strategy
Author: Johan hellsten
When it comes to chess strategy, this is my favorite book because it covers all the important strategical elements in detail. I learned a lot from this book. This book is divided in 6 chapters.
Chapter 1: Basic concepts of strategy – This chapter gives you the overview of the whole book. It covers all the topics that author is going to cover in the book.
Chapter 2: Improving the pieces – In this chapter, you will learn about bishop, knight, rook, king, queen and bishop pair in detail. How to identify a badly placed piece and how you can improve it.
Chapter 3: Exchanges- There are many reasons why we exchange pieces. some of the common reasons are: to realize a material advantage, to realize a positional advantage, to eliminate key pieces, to facilitate an attack, to facilitate the defense and to reduce the enemy activity.
Chapter 4: Pawn play- Understanding pawn structure and pawn play is one of the fastest way to improve your chess. In this chapter, you will learn about gaining space, creating weakness, passed pawns, pawn majorities and pawn chains.
Chapter 5: Prophylaxis- Prophylaxis means identifying opponent’s dangerous plan and creating our own plan to reduce the IMPACT of opponent’s plan. As you improve your strength, you will realize how important this concept actually is. You will also learn about restricting opponent’s plan and provoking a weak move from your opponent in this chapter.
Chapter 6: Miscellaneous – Topics like weak squares, weak pawns, doubled pawns, blockade and initiative are covered in this topic. You will also get 382 exercises to practice the concepts that you have learned in the book.
Conclusion- This is a must book for intermediate and advanced level players who wants to improve their understanding of chess strategy.
3. Art of planning in chess
Author: Neil Mcdonald
In previous book, you learned about different strategical ideas and now it’s time to see those ideas in action in games played by grandmasters. You will see how strategy is implemented by great players move by move. This book is divided in 6 chapters.
Chapter 1: Ferocious files – Open file is a file where neither you nor your opponent has any pawn. Open file is like a highway that leads you straight in opponent’s territory. The player who can put his rooks and queen on this highway and invade in opponent’s territory usually has the advantage.
Chapter 2: Dangerous diagonals – Bishops are long range pieces and if both bishops of opponent are pointing toward your king in a game then you better be careful because when bishop put on open diagonal can be very dangerous. This chapter teaches you how to make your bishops dangerous.
Chapter 3: Wearing down a weakness: When a pawn cannot be defended by its fellow pawns then it becomes a potential weakness. Weak pawns are the easy target because unlike pieces they can not run away quickly. Most of the time, you don’t attack on the king directly; you find a weak pawn and attack it and hopefully you will turn your extra pawn into a queen and win the game.
Chapter 4: Surging through the center – Center is the most important part of the board because when you put your pieces in the center, they control more squares and their power increases. The player who controls the center usually controls the game. This chapter deals with different kind of center and how you should play in different situations.
Chapter 5: Pawns and goat pegs- Talking about planning and not talking about pawns is illogical because pawns defines your plans. In this chapter, you will learn how you can use your pawn to penetrate in opponent’s area.
Chapter 6: Horrible holes – A weak square is a square in opponent’s position that cannot be covered by any of his pawns. If we put one of our pieces in that weak square then our opponent cannot chase us away. When opponent does not have any big weakness then you have to focus on these small weak squares and try to exploit them by putting your pieces in those squares.
Conclusion: This book gives explanation of games move by move and improves your understanding of chess strategy but choose this book only if you have learned about strategical elements before. This book is not for beginners.
4. Grandmaster preparation: Positional Play
Author: Jacob aagard
If you get stuck in a position and don’t know what to do then what should you do?
I use a simple trick: i ask myself ” which is the worst placed piece? ”
Then i simply improve it.
Positional play is about improving the position of your pieces gradually.
You need to ask yourself three questions:
1. Where is the weakness?
2. which is the worst placed piece?
3. What is your opponent’s idea?
Answer to first question gives you a target to attack so that you can direct your pieces in the direction of weakness.
Answer to second question tells you which piece you should improve. One badly placed piece can make your whole position bad. So, you want to improve your worst placed piece and make sure all of your pieces are optimally placed.
Answer to third question does not let you get lost in your own world. When you are thinking about your plans, it is easier to miss opponent’s idea and make a mistake but when you ask the third question, you include opponent’s idea in your plan.
This whole book is only about asking these three questions. you will get exercises to practice these three magical questions and when you deeply understand these three ideas, you will hit the correct plan in most positions.
Conclusion: Don’t let the simplicity of this book fool you, These three question are very powerful and they will improve the level of your whole game.
5. chess Strategy for club players
Author: Herman grooten
Above mentioned books have covered almost everything related to chess strategy but there were some topics that i want you to learn in more detail which are covered in this book. This book is divided in 25 chapters and let’s see which topics this book covers in detail.
Thought process and line of thinking: It is one thing to know common themes and completely different things to spot and use them in real game. You need to have a thought process to find your plans in the real game. This chapter deals with this problem. You can compare your thought process with master’s thought process and improve your line of thinking.
Weakened king position: If your king is in the center and opponent has developed his pieces then your king is already weak and most likely it will come under attack. In this chapter you will also learn, if the king has castled then by means of sacrifice you remove his shelter of pawns and make him weak.
The pawn islands theory: If one or more of your pawns are disconnected from rest of your pawns then we call it a pawn island. More pawn island you have means more weakness you have. Weak pawns are the easy target so you should learn how to spot them and how to attack them.
Control of a rank: We know open files are like highways that are used to invade in opponent’s territory. Once you are in the opponent’s territory then next step is to control the rank in enemy’s position. If you can get both of your rooks in enemy position then you have strong control of the game.
A piece out of the play: This is very interesting concept. Let’s say your opponent has moved one of his knight to the edge of the board and knight is out of play then how do you take advantage of this ? Simple! You attack on the opposite side of the board because that’s where your opponent has one less piece so your attack is more likely to succeed.
Harmony and coordination: If your pieces are getting in each other’s way then you have poor coordination. Your pieces should be harmoniously placed and they should support each other; not block each other.
lead in development: This is commonly occurring scenario. Many times, when your opponent wastes move in the opening and does not develop his pieces properly then you get lead in development. Your pieces are developed and opponent’s pieces are still sleeping on the initial ranks. So, how do you take advantage of this situation? Ans. You open the position. Opening the position allows your pieces to invade in opponent’s territory and win the game.
Conclusion: If you have not worked in above mentioned areas then this will be a good book for you.