What are the best works trying to systematically summarize all middlegame themes and strategies: e.g. space advantage, pawn structures, exposed king, minority attack, isolated pawn, hanging pawns, etc. etc. I know of Euwe and Kramer two volumes work about the middlegame, but are there others, too? (PS no, I am not talking about Bronstein's Zurich 1953. Although it's a great book, I am speaking of a different kind of work.)

5 Answers 5


The two books by John Watson about strategy. These themes are considered from a historical viewpoint usually in contrast to the way they are presented in textbooks. Even if you find a favorite textbook then later you should verify everything against John Watson's books because he always gives counterarguments and counterexamples to what is established as the usual course material.

  • 1
    +1, I was going to recommend 'Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy' too.
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Jun 11, 2016 at 10:20

These books are what I have studied about middle game strategy:

My System--by Aron Nimzowitch this newer version is better than the original. A solid introduction to several of your topics.
Chess Fundamentals (Algebraic)--Jose Capablanca A simple and clear book to read.
Art of Attack in Chess--Ladimir Vukovic Clear and concise book to work through more of your "etc" topics.
Yasser Seirawan's series of books from Winning Chess - Everyman Chess; there are some good ideas in them.
The Art of Planning in Chess: Move by Move-- Grandmaster Neil McDonald has some good insights from the opening.

  • I have read the books by Nimzowitsch. They are not good textbooks. They contain a lot of ill-justified claims but are very inspiring anyway. Definitely for someone already mature and looking for inspiration and a historical perspective. The John Watson books I mentioned in my answer refer to the writings of Nimzowitsch at appropriate moments. Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 14:51

One should definitely mention John Nunn's amazing work on middlegames: Understanding Chess Middlegames is very well structured with regards to themes and strategies. The book is divided into main sections under which you may find dozens of subsections. Here is a list of main sections with crude descriptions:

  1. Material Imbalances: exchange, two bishops vs. bishop and a knight, ...
  2. Strategy: planning, improving piece position, ...
  3. Activity: initiative, open files, ...
  4. Attacking Play: common tactical motifs such as bishop sacrifices on king's flank, ...
  5. Defensive Play: risks of attack, counter-attack, ...
  6. Pawn Structures: isolated, doubled, hanging pawns, ...
  7. Typical Central Pawn Formations: open, closed, half-open and formations arising from common openings, ...
  8. Typical Mistakes common mistakes in the middlegame such as automatically accepting sacrifices, overvaluing slight advantages, ...

This was one of the best books I have read recently and I definitely recommend it for a structured approach to middlegame.


I think you are looking for Priyomes.

Improve Your Chess Pattern Recognition: Key Moves and Motifs in the Middlegame
van de Oudeweetering, International Master Arthur

Techniques of Positional Play: 45 Practical Methods to Gain the Upper Hand in Chess - Bronznik, Valeri

100 Chess Master Trade Secrets: From Sacrifices to Endgames - Soltis, Andrew


I still credit Ludek Pachman's trilogy "Complete Chess Strategy" for first making me understand any chess strategy. It was the difference for me between being an 1800, and when I became a Master.

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