Elements Of Chess Strategy

Alexei Kosikov

Reviewer: John Donaldson
159 pages

The 2010 Olympiad saw Ukraine once again grab the gold medalist, repeating its triumph from 2004. The nucleus of the 2010 team, Vassily Ivanchuk, Ruslan Ponamariov and Pavel Eljanov, are just the elite of a mighty army of Grandmasters that never seems to end. The latest FIDE rating list has Ukraine with 74 GMs and 193 IMs, well ahead of all nations except Russia. How does this nation of 45 million, with an annual income per citizen of less than $3,000, continue to dominate the world chess scene?

Certainly tradition helps. No country that can boast of such past stars as Geller, Stein and Beliavsky can forget its record of excellence. The proximity to both Western Europe and Russia as well as numerous domestic events provide plenty of opportunities to play and a poor economy makes the life of a chess player a viable profession for many. Still one crucial element has not been mentioned – the importance of skilled and dedicated coaches. Until recently only in the former Soviet Union could you find strong players that dedicated themselves to coaching at an early age. These coaches recognized talent when they saw it and helped the conveyor belt that churned out strong players run smoothly.

How does this help players in the West? One could of course move to the Ukraine to avail themselves of this high-level coaching, but Gambit Publishing has presented another option by publishing the works of some of their top coaches. Several years ago it was PERFECT YOUR CHESS by Andrei Volikitin and Vladimir Grabinsky aimed at players over 2200. Now it is the more Class-A and Expert level friendly, ELEMENTS OF CHESS STRATEGY by Alexei Kosikov.

A coach from the days of the Soviet Union, who was a frequent lecturer at the Yusupov/Dvoretsky chess school for elite players, Kosikov is little known in the West (a peak FIDE rating of 2476 and no IM title means he had few international opportunities) but this book should do much to change this state of affairs. Kosikov’s primer on chess strategy not only covers a wide range of topics it just as importantly offers the reader the opportunity to solve over 70 exercises which come with detailed solutions.

The book breaks down as follows:

1 Devising a Plan in a Game of Chess 9
Elements of Chess Strategy 9
Prophylactic Thinking and Anticipation of Events 13
The Principle of Two Weaknesses 14
Maneuvering 17
The Principle of the ‘Worst’ Piece 20
Answers to Exercises for Chapter 1 22

2 ‘STOPS’ – A System of Self-Discipline in Chess 43
Answer to Exercise for Chapter 2 50

3 The Advantage of the Bishop-Pair 51
Bishop or Knight? 51
Bishop Stronger than Knight 52
Knight Stronger than Bishop 57
Two Bishops in the Middlegame 60
Two Bishops in the Middlegame: Associated Factors 62
The ‘Advantage of the Knight-Pair’ 64
The Problem of Exchanging 68
Two Bishops in the Endgame 71
Two Bishops against Two Knights in the Endgame 76
Methods of Combating the Two Bishops in the Endgame 78
Transformation of the Advantage 81
The Passed Pawn 84
The Bishop-Pair in the Endgame – How Much is it Worth? 85
The ‘Best Odds’ Principle 87
Answers to Exercises for Chapter 3 90

4 Warning – Trap Ahead! 105
Answers to Exercises for Chapter 4 120

5 Opposite Bishops in the Middlegame 126
Bishop Power 126
The Initiative 130
Attacking the King 134
Attacking the King with Minimal Material 136
Open File and Passed Pawn 138
Prophylaxis 140
Piece Coordination 142
Defense 143
The Pawn-Structure 145
Answers to Exercises for Chapter 5 149

Highly recommended