If one master writes a book on chess strategy (example here) and another writes a book on positional chess (example here), are they writing more or less on the same subject?

Do other major chess languages (if you happen to read any) like Russian, German, Spanish and/or French likewise circulate distinct terms for chess strategy and positional chess?

Usually in English, synonyms will bear some gradation in meaning, so a minor distinction to separate the two terms in question is expected. However, are the two synonymous at all? Suppose that the publisher had swapped the titles of the above two linked books. Would the swap have confused anyone?

See also:

3 Answers 3


These terms overlap but should not be used interchangeably.

"Positional" books tend to take positions from a game and explain a specific aspect, while "Strategy" books usually try to tie positional aspects together (this does not appear to be the case with Watson's book).

An example of strategy would be choosing the "Exchange Ruy Lopez" as White with the idea of having 4 pawns against 3 on the king-side while Black's 4:3 on the Queen-side is crippled and can't force a passed pawn. Then White just needs to trade all the pieces and have a won endgame.

Understanding that Blacks pawns cannot force a passed pawn on their own is a positional aspect of the strategy.


As I have understood it on Spanish yes, there is a difference. Strategy is a top level term for almost everything in chess that is not tactics. Take in consider the definition you provide for strategy also creates a separated field for endgames:

Chess strategy can be defined as the creation of long term plans that will dictate your next several moves. In order to achieve these plans, you can argue that the chess player will resort to either positional, tactical or endgame devices.

Blog post about Chess Strategy.

Endgames are also strategy, but usually they are not positional. Conversely, positional chess use to take place when pieces are on the board, either at opening either at middlegame.

  • 1
    I have added Spanish to the list of languages. (Since I am reading an English translation of Antonio Gude now, I might have remembered to mention Spanish.)
    – thb
    Mar 17, 2019 at 21:00

Chess Strategy contains a lot of principles.

  • Tactics, like skewer and pin
  • Basic principles, like attack the center
  • Better positioning pieces and taking advantage of a position itself.
  • and more.

Positional chess is a part of the strategical chess in my opinion, but a book on positional chess goes even deeper. A LOT deeper. You can sacrifice a whole piece and on some rare occasions a rook and a queen to set up a winning position. Positional chess books focus on teaching you how to see the full potential on a position. That is the difference. Tactical chess is a set of principles and tricks. Understanding the potential of a position though makes you evaluate a position better and opens your mind for another level of chess play. For instance, imagine you got an opponent king, and a lot of pawns and pieces around that king. You might be able to use opponents pieces as obstacles for their king to escape. It is like judo. Use opponent's strength to weaken them.

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