Learning from the Best II

  • WIM energia
  • | 14 aug. 2009
  • | 10052 x bekeken
  • | 26 reacties

            World class chess coach Joseph Dorfman in his book “Method in Chess” discusses the importance of exchange in a chess game. He came up with a method that can be applied to evaluate any position. The method is easy to apply and consists of four steps. When looking at any position one has to 1. evaluate the static position of the kings, 2. calculate the material, 3. take away queens from the board and evaluate who is better in the resulting position, 4. identify who has the better pawn structure. While the method is easy to apply and is rather straight forward, it was both praised and criticized (especially by another world class chess coach Mark Dvoretsky). I will not concentrate on the details of Dorfman’s method but rather show what role exchanges play in it. Second step, calculating material involves taking into account possible exchanges. Third step is all about exchanges of queens. So, I will concentrate on those two steps and show some examples from his book.

            Lets evaluate the following position by Dorfman’s method. 1. White’s king is slightly better because the pawns in front of him did not move, while black king’s would be vulnerable especially after an exchange of the bishops. 2. The material is equal. 3. and 4. black is better without queens because of a passed pawn on the queenside, which makes his pawn structure to be better. Thus, black should try to exchange into the endgame because his king is worse and because he has a better pawn structure.


            The next position is from the World Championship match between Botvinnik and Tal. Once again, let's apply Dorfman’s formula. 1. White's king is not castled but black does not threaten anything, thus the king's position is about equal. 2. Equal material. 3. Without queens the position is about equal. 4. the pawn structure is better for white because the pawn on c7 is a weakness that d5 holds. Therefore, white is better, exchanging pieces to put pressure on c7 would favor him. With the last move Ng5 white threatens Nge4 to exchange the knights.



            The following two examples that I want to use are from very recent play and contain sharp positions. One can use Dorfman’s Method not only for clear well-defined positions, but also for unbalanced positions. The challenge here is to identify which positional element matters the most and which one is secondary. For example, one side might have a badly placed king but a better pawn structure, which element is more important? It all depends on the stage of the game, on the attack that the opponent has, etc. The following example shows this type of idea. Let us first evaluate who is better. 1. White has a small advantage in king’s position, but since it is an endgame it shouldn’t matter much. 2. Black stands better with material because he has two bishops 3. We skip, since there are no queens on the board. 4. White has a better pawn structure, due to the isolated c-pawns. So, white is better because he has two advantageous elements vs. black’s one. Does this mean white needs to slowly improve his position and play based on long term advantages? Yes, possibly but there is another solution.



            The following game is hard to follow or to understand what is going on. I chose it because Friedel’s play impressed me and because the game is very sharp and fits my purpose of applying Dorfman’s method to complicated games. Let us evaluate the position: 1. White’s king is just 100% better than Black’s king. 2. Black is up two pawns. 3. Black is winning without queens 4. The pawn structure favors black because of more pawns and because of outside passed pawn on the queenside. So, who is objectively better? It is hard to say, because white has 4 pieces in play to attack the black king, thus all black advantages can go down the drain if white has enough time to checkmate. What black must to is exchange queens or grab the d6-pawn to castle.



            Overall, Dorfman’s method is an interesting avenue to follow when dealing with exchanges. It is easily applied to stable positions, but can be successfully applied to more hectic positions as well. There are two books published in Russian that I know, and there is "Method in Chess" written in English. I hope that by applying this method one can get a better feeling of what to do, what pieces to trade or keep.


  • 7 jaar geleden


    Wonderful method! Thanks for posting.

  • 7 jaar geleden


    Thanks Laughing

  • 7 jaar geleden


    thank you

  • 7 jaar geleden


    Wow, Mr. Vega (last game) surely blew a won a very, very winnable position. Black had the upper hand and what caused the game result was a blunder.

  • 7 jaar geleden


    i don't mean to be a nitpicker, but after reading your review. i was motivated to try to locate a copy for my personal use. after using the search engines, and going the used bookstore route. i know it's an honest mistake. and i don't want to harp upon it, but i believe  that the author's first name is ioseff, not joseph. i can understand why the correct spelling was lost in translation. but who knows? it's not your fault. we are all chess players and blunder from time to time. besides that. i appreciate your review and thank you for bringing this more or less unknown treasure to our attention. thank you. aloha,...ppeets

  • 7 jaar geleden


    Very good article.  This can really help me a lot in my games.  Thanks.

  • 7 jaar geleden

    NM GreenLaser

    This was interesting as an article and a book review. The Shamkovich-Karpov game shows 32...Nf4. This is also given in the Big Database. My Karpov and USSR Ch 1971 databases show 32...Nc3. That is also the move at chesslab.com and chessgames.com. This sort of difference is common. However, in following the game, it doesn't matter since 33.Rd8+ leading to 35...Nxd5 transposes. The 32...Nc3 line shown as an alternative overlooks 34.Bd5. In the Botvinnik-Tal game, 13...Ng6? allowed 14.Ne6 because Ng6 came from e7. As noted 15...Kh8 was played due to the threat of e7. Botvinnik and Flohr each suggested that 13...h6 was necessary. Then White has Nge4, but not Ne6.

  • 7 jaar geleden


    Thank you very much energia. Your article is very illuminating.

    A coincidence, I was reading William Hartston's "Better Chess" on same Botvinnik-Tal game you posted, a few minutes earlier before reading your article. Hartston used the game to illustrate the play-off between time and material. In move 35, he asks "Should we play Bxb7 ?" The great Botvinnik chose time instead of material.

    Thanks again !

  • 7 jaar geleden


    Very interesting article, thank you.  Would you suggest me any Dvoretsky book, too? It will be interesting to compare them. By the way, would you recommend any book on visualisation or how to calculate moves? Thanks again.

  • 7 jaar geleden


    Thanks for the article,it was really interesting about the best i have read on chess.com in a long time.

  • 7 jaar geleden


    Thanks very much! This kind of teaching is just what I need, among other things too! :) And thanks for joshsayshigh for explaining the c7 weakness.

  • 7 jaar geleden


    Can anybody tell me how to find this book? It's not at amazon.com

  • 7 jaar geleden


    c7 is a weakness cause it can't be advanced without incuring a weakness.  Commonly called a backwords pawn, as it can't be defended by a pawnand easly attacked.  Also the file the c7 pawn sits on is open for white, where it can be attacked easily.  Imagine he advances it to c6, what you should commonly do to get ride of a weak pawn.  than the white pawn covering that square can capture it, exposing the light squared bishop on that diagonal, opening the d file for white, and black is completely defense now, with no/little counterplay.  Those are the ideas, work them out, and maybe use a computer program, punch in the position and see what it says/does to punish the mistake. 

  • 7 jaar geleden


    I'm new to chess, having played a total of about 8 games now. Can someone tell me why c7 in the Mikhail vs. Tal game is a weakness? If black moves to c6, the end result is either white moves a center pawn to the outside (from d to c) or black does the opposite, moves from the outside to the inside. Seems like those events favor black not white.

  • 7 jaar geleden


    Nice article. Nice fundamentals. What strikes me was the play of a young Karpov when he was still a calculating giant - simple, elegant, and with ease.  Certainly, his pre-depression rating of 2540 back then would be worth 2700+ today and Shamkovick's un-inflated rating would be close to this as well.

  • 7 jaar geleden


    This is a great article, thanks

  • 7 jaar geleden


    Thanks ill need to check out that book.  Wonderful article. 

  • 7 jaar geleden


    This is an interesting approach, but I think as a mediocre player I would have a difficult time applying it.  For example, I would never have noticed that the c7 pawn in the Botvinnik-Tal game represented a weakness in the pawn structure that could be exploited by white.


  • 7 jaar geleden


                I am going to try this method.  Just curious, what was the criticism of

  • 7 jaar geleden


    Really interesting. Thanks.

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