I have recently managed to build up my opening repertoire to something that will no longer cause me to fall into lost positions against decent players, so I can no longer blame my losses upon bad opening preparation.

I still need to improve in order to get to a level that I'm content with, and after doing some soul-searching, I am convinced that I still have one glaring weakness in my games that needs some serious work: I am bad at converting a positional advantage into a win!

I haven't learned how to think efficiently, and what to look for when I'm given a good position. I still think way too much in terms of concrete variations, and I have a hard time forming coherent long-term plans to improve my positions.

Therefore I am planning to start studying classical games from past masters, where they convert an edge into a clearly winning position with confidence and clarity. The masters I have in mind are first-and-foremost:

  • Rubinstein
  • Lasker
  • Capablanca
  • Botvinnik

Others, like Karpov or Kramnik (or any other great technical player, for that matter), are also interesting.

But there is one big problem: These players have all won a huge number of games, and obviously it will not be possible for me to go through them all. I want to study their good technical victories, not some random game that they won based on obvious blunders from their opponents, or where they just won by launching an early attack and crashing through before the opponent knew what happened.

What I'm looking for is a list of famous games to study from the players mentioned above, so I have somewhere to start.

  • Why do you focus on old masters (+Kramnik)? I am sure today's master are at least as good. Magnus Carlsen for instance is supposed to be very good in converting even tiny advantages. Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 20:53
  • 2
    It's easier to understand old masters games because the play is less advanced (complicated)
    – magd
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 21:31
  • @magd: Not sure what you mean? You mean the play is worse? Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 21:39
  • 1
    The openings (and subsequent play) they played are less complicated. Compare the Sveshnikov Siclian to the Queens Gambit Declined Bg5 (both very popular in their time).
    – magd
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 21:51
  • @user1583209 Play gets more and more refined as history moves forward. The idea is that the older games are a bit simpler to follow, and easier to see what the ideas are. Also, the players I focused on are from the past, which means that their notable games have stood the test of time, and should be easier to identify in some sense.
    – Scounged
    Commented Feb 4, 2017 at 22:02

5 Answers 5


Rather than recommend a series of games, I am going to recommend the book Excelling at Technical Chess: Learn to Identify and Exploit Small Advantages by Jacob Aagaard.

Here is the blurb (emphasis is mine):

In this book Jacob Aagaard studies the valuable skill of chess technique. He arms the reader with several endgame weapons that every strong technical player has in his toolbox. These include important skills such as schematic thinking, domination, preventing counterplay, building fortresses and utilizing zugzwang. These tools are illustrated in deeply analyzed games containing numerous different themes. A serious study of this book will ensure that the reader no longer need fear the word "technique"!


I would add Paul Morphy to the list as he mostly had to play against weak players so you can get a good understanding of what to do against weak moves. Bobby Fischer played over all of his games as well as Capablanca's and Steinitz. He did it by hiding the next move they played and trying to find it himself. If that's how Fischer learned to be a great player, I would argue that's a good way to study.


Just look for collections of their best games. Off the top of my head Capablanca's Best Games by Harry Golombek is one.

Test Your Positional Play by Bellin and Ponzetto also covers winning games after picking the correct positional plan. The move by move series covering games by a given player is also pretty good and covers a lot of players.


I think you would really like GM Boris Gelfand's book, Positional Decision Making in Chess. This book was the English Chess Federation's 2015 book of the year.

According to the promotional blurb:

Positional Decision Making in Chess offers a rare look into the mind of a top grandmaster. In his efforts to explain his way of thinking, Boris Gelfand focuses on such topics as the squeeze, space advantage, the transformation of pawn structures and the transformation of advantages. Based on examples from his own games and those of his hero, Akiba Rubinstein, Gelfand explains how he thinks during the game.

Hope this helps.


There are a number of books that stress strategical and positional play. Some examples from my relatively limited library include "Strategic Chess" by Edmar Mednis, "Positional Chess Handbook" by Israel Gelfer, "Positional Ideas in Chess" by John Love", "Winning Chess Strategies" by Yasser Seirawan, "Strategical Themes" by Tom Unger, "Dynamic Chess Strategy" by Mihai Suba, "Modern Chess Strategy" by Ludek Pachman, and "Judgement and Planning in Chess" by Max Euwe. I'm sure there are numerous others which can be found by a search under those key words. These generally will cover games in depth by the masters and would seem to be a more reasonable route to follow than trying to find collections of a specific master's games that focused exclusively on strategy. And even collections of games of individual masters such as those you mention will most likely mainly have games that were won by positional superiority that ultimately led to a tactical material advantage or checkmate rather than games that were won though an opponent's blunder or by an early quick mate, a generally relatively rare occurrence in master games.

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