In lower level chess matches I often find myself in closed positions where black and whites knights are restricted, bishops can't be used for attack, and rooks are locked behind your pawn structure. What tips do you have to play in this position, or is it better to play more aggressive and avoid this position all together.

I interpret Closed Position as being, where major pieces are developed behind the pawn structure, where both players prioritized positional plays.

This is an example using the Pirc defense

[FEN ""]
1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nc3 e6 4. Nf3 a6 5. Be2 Be7 6. O-O O-O 7. h3 b5 8. a3 Bb7 9. e5 Nfd7 10. Bf4 Nc6 11. Bg3 Nb6 12. Bd3 d5

Where the next best move would be for to take the e pawn, but black decides to advance the d-pawn.

  • 3
    It would be better if you provide some of your PGN games here so that we can analyse and give you the correct advice . Unless the Games are visible we cannot derive specific ideas . Mar 22, 2017 at 13:19

5 Answers 5


It would help to see a specific example of your games.

Normally closed positions refers to positions with a closed center where the central (e and d pawns, sometimes also c and f pawns) pawns are blocking each other. It is unusual that all 8 pawns are blocked. In this case the normal plan is to attack the center by pawns from the side. For instance in the advance French black is attacking the center by a pawn from c5 and later also from the other side with f7-f6.

[FEN ""]
1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5

The technical term for this is pawn break and you can see other examples in the wikipedia article on pawn structure. (Search for "break").


Closed positions are a very different type of game, but if you understand them then there is no reason to avoid entering them. Generally, the best idea in closed positions is the play on the sides of the board (either the Queenside or Kingside) since the center is locked.

The best way to play on the sides is to open lines for your pieces. This is often done through a pawn breakthrough. One important thing to keep in mind is that you want to open the position so that your worst pieces can get out into the game. For example, assume you had a terrible Knight that was stuck in the corner and was completely out of the game. Try to find ways to open the position so that this Knight can escape. For example, if you need a file opened, organize a pawn breakthrough on that file.

In closed positions Knights tend to be better than Bishops since they can hop around the pawns. With this in mind, it is often a good idea to exchange your Bishops for your opponent's Knights (however, if you think the position may open up soon, this is not a very good idea! ). In closed positions, Knights can often find one good outpost that they can just stay on for a long time. Try to identify a number of squares that you would like to have your Knight(s) on, and then map out a route for your Knight to hop to that square.

Here is a good video on how to break through in closed positions. It is by Grandmaster Akobian, who I think is currently in the top 15 list in the US.


Also, here is a link to a post where a FIDE Master discusses closed, semi-open, and open positions. I think there are some additional resources he lists as well:



If the centre is closed, then you need to play on the flanks. Which flank should you focus on? The flank where you have more space. In the advanced Caro-Kann, white often plays on the kingside:

[FEN ""]

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nc3 {This is the start of Nunn-Shirov attack. It is not the only way to play the advanced Caro-Kann as white, but shows the idea of 'attacking where you have space' in a neat way} e6 5. g4 Bg6

In some openings you have a choice of which flank to play on, for example when there is a Botvinnik triangle, e.g. pawns on c4-d3-e4:

[FEN ""]
[StartPly "16"]

1. c4 c5 2. Nc3 Nc6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. e4 e5 6. Nge2 Nge7 7. O-O O-O 8. d3 d6

In the Botvinnik English setup above, white has the options of playing:

  • On the queenside, with Rb1 and b4
  • On the kingside, with f4
  • In the centre, with d4, assuming it is properly prepared

In the setup above, I've made black mimic white (not always a good thing to do!) to illustrate that black could have the same options as white.

The final point I want to make is that when you prepare a pawn break, take your time to put all of your pieces onto the best squares.


Just a generic answer to your Question . When you encounter Closed position u then you can do the below .

  1. Prefer Knights instead of Bishops as Bishops are long ranged piece and if a Bishop is confined to its own Pawn structure then it acts as a Pawn and not a Piece .

  2. You can exchange your Bishops with Opponents Knights before you make the Position closed .

  3. Sometimes it is essential to make a Sacrifice to gain activity . Lets assume you have central pawns which is blockaded by Opponents central pawns and you see that a combination is there which gains activity and opens up lines for the attack . Then you must not be afraid to make such sacrifices at all . example of a game with a Blockade position is Blockade Position piece sacrifice

  4. Try arranging your pieces and look for a Pawn break . Blocked games are never fast and you can put your pieces into the best squares taking your time .

  5. William Steinitz was one of the Players that I had read who loved playing Blocked Closed Positions . Study his games for your advancement .


In such positions each side tries to break open the position to their advantage using "pawn levers". These are pawn moves where one pawn moves forward and attacks an opposition pawn. Before this there is usually a period of each side arranging their pieces in order to:

1) try and make sure that when they play their pawn lever the position opens to their advantage.

2) try and either stop the opponent's pawn levers or arrange pieces so they don't get advantage from this.

In the position you show black has two pawn levers, c7-c5 (expanding and attacking on the queenside) and f7-f6 (attacking the center pawns and on the kingside).

White has one pawn lever f2-f4-f5.

Once you see this you also see that black's pieces are badly misplaced. The knight on c6 is blocking the c7-c5 lever and would be much better on d7. At the same time the bishop on b7 is a complete waste of a bishop blocked as it is by the pawn on d5. It would also prefer to be on d7 protecting the e6 pawn in anticipation of the f7-f6 pawn lever.

Meanwhile white's pieces are also misplaced.

1) The knight on c3 needs to come to d2 to allow c3 to protect d4 in anticipation of black's c5 pawn lever.

2) The knight on f3 is also misplaced because it blocks the f2-f4-f5 pawn lever.

Nevertheless white looks to have the advantage because he has his center pawns pointing at black's castled king, he has more space particularly on the kingside, his pieces are much more ready for a kingside attack, black has several pieces tied up in cramped positions, stepping on each others' toes on the queenside.

If the players had been aware of these considerations they would probably have played completely different moves. For instance, black would never have played the way he did and then follow up with d5 entombing his white squared bishop. Black would have replied to 9) e5 with Nd5 leaving d7 free for his other knight. White would never have played 9) e5 extending the view and power of the black bishop on b7. Instead he would have perhaps preferred 9) d5 trying to block it out and shut it down, etc., etc.

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