I am a normal player with ~1500 FIDE rating, and I am quite good at tactics and trap things. But I falter at the positional games and I am bound to make mistakes where the things are non-tactical. So how should I improve my positional chess understanding?

  • 3
    I would caution you to think you are better at tactics than you really are. A rating of 1500 indicates you are probably not all that good. Until you reach a rating of 1800+, positional chess matters far less than spotting tactic opportunities. Jun 21, 2016 at 13:49
  • @RandyMinder hmm thanks... I mean I am able to solve tactics quite easily overboard, but not so on the positional aspects of game... Still I believe there is long way to go ahead :D Jun 21, 2016 at 16:39
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    If you could solve tactics quite easily over the board, your rating would be FAR higher than 1500. At 1500 you're missing far more tactics than you are seeing. Jun 21, 2016 at 16:43
  • @RandyMinder no, I mean I can solve tactics when not-in-game. Jun 21, 2016 at 16:47
  • 6
    Solving a tactical position is not the same. In games, you don't know there is a tactic. When you solve positions, you know there is something to find. Big difference. I am good at tactics too, being a Cat A player, but miss things regularly in my games. the two things do not correlate. The reason we do tactical puzzles is to see more positions and to become familiar with what tactical shots might be there. We don't do them for some fake rating.
    – Priyome
    Jun 21, 2016 at 18:18

3 Answers 3


My suggestion ist to take a book on positional chess and look through it. For example "How to Reassess Your Chess" by IM Silman is, in my opinion, a good book to get started. It walks you through all of the positional elements and gives you at least a good idea on what you might want to look out for. Of course this can only be a start and at some point you may have to look beyond for some ideas on pawn structures, for which also several good works are available.

One word of warning is that, often, while you may feel that the weakest part of your game is positional chess, this might not be correct. You can be sure only if a show a couple of your games (especially losses or games where you ended up in an uncomfortable position) to a (quite a bit) stronger player and ask their opinion.

In any case, I would like to recommend also the book series by Yusupov, in particular for your level the Fundamentals series (orange color). These books contain positional chapters, but also endgame, tactics, openings and much more. The goal is to raise the level of all your abilities to the same level. If you can breeze through the tactical parts, this is good for you, then you will mostly gain from the positional chapters. However, it is likely that you will find further parts where you can learn a lot.

  • 2
    +1 for Yusupov (and similar books). If you read a prose book on positional factors, it's easy to believe that you understand what they say, and then during a game you'll find it very hard to apply (or you apply it superficially and find it doesn't work). Yusupov gives you concrete positions to solve, and it turns out to be very hard to solve even the simple ones. But that's what makes you better, in the end. Jun 21, 2016 at 12:52
  • Silman's book is less about positional chess and more about developing useful plans using a step-by-step criteria/process. Often his method will point towards a tactical shot. Positional chess is more or less knowing common priyomes and being aware of how to play for and against them. "Priyome" is just a russian word for pattern recognition. They are generally described at a 40,000 foot level, unlike tactics, which are detailed and concrete.
    – Priyome
    Jun 22, 2016 at 18:47
  • @Mark Godwin: I think this step-by-step process was in previous editions of the book. The most recent 4th edition does not contain a step-by-step process, though it certainly contains many criteria, namely all the positional basics along with explanations and examples how to make use of them and ideas to strengthen positional advantages. Of course, ultimately, you aim for a tactical shot, but this is not the point of the book, it is just the natural consequence of reaching a critical mass of positional advantages.
    – Jester
    Jun 26, 2016 at 8:29
  • Silman outlines a direct step-by-step process for assessing a position and finding moves in ALL versions of his book. I have had the original, the third, and now the fourth. Not sure what you are reading.
    – Priyome
    Jun 26, 2016 at 20:21

For me it was decades of experience and not trying to slash and burn to a win with tactics like I was tempted to do when I first started out.

Along the way it was examples where I was forced to sacrifice the exchange to avoid worse things, and discovered that I had a much better position than the material loss as I ended up winning. Seeing how the minor piece beat a rook in some positions helped me appreciate positional play better.

More recently playing an expert rated player he made less aggressive although not outright passive moves in the opening so I gained some tempi and had more space. Through the game the advantages kept growing until I won. The total lack of tactics and seeing that game as a whole helped me appreciate positional play more and realize that now I am doing more of that and relying less on tactics.

Takeaway is that is is partially a mindset. If you do not like positional play and always look for tactics you will not improve your positional play.

You need to learn how pawn structure affects the play and also study endgames which are not as slash and burn tactical as many players prefer in the opening and middle game which distracts them from positional considerations.

Remember if you do not win in the middle game you will have to play the end game. End games will help you plan ahead in the middle game so that you can do better. Often I have not castled and have been able to move my king into the center at the end game several moves ahead of the opponent thus giving myself a big positional edge.


The first thing you should do in order to improve your positional skills is to read classic books. In my opinion two of the most important books are: 300 Chess Games by Siegbert Tarrash and My System by Aron Nimzowitch. I prefer these books because they could help you to understand the positional laws of chess(the only thing that matters when you face a good player is the ability to estimate an unknown position).

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