My lichess puzzle rating (tactics) is around 2100, while my game rating is only around 1400, so I'm pretty sure that means my positional play is utterly trash. There aren't any positional puzzles out there, and when reviewing games, I'm utterly clueless on anything positional since I haven't the slightest idea on how to evaluate a position, and guides on positional play seem abstract to me.

I get by in life by memorizing sicilian opening lines and copying how IMs and GMs develop their pieces, but this only gets me past the early middlegame, and I'm essentially locked out of playing any opening except the ones I've carefully reviewed, like the modern, sicilian, and english.

I was wondering if there was a systematic way like a routine or checklist to determine a better position and a good positional moves, or if it was all dependent on pattern recognition. In other words, help please!

  • 2
    One way to improve your positional understanding is to study endgames, this will help you develop the right plan in the middle game. For example, you could see that an endgame with a certain pawn structure is lost for you, so you will not continue on the path the leads to it, and go a different route.
    – Akavall
    Jan 10, 2020 at 6:09
  • @PhishMaster the title is exactly the same but the question you link to I think the questioner was really asking about decision making full stop, whereas this is definitely specific to strategy.
    – Hamish
    Jan 10, 2020 at 12:18
  • @Hamish The question is the same, and the answer I would give here is the same. I still consider that my best answer I have given here, so maybe I will just repost it completely. Jan 10, 2020 at 13:01
  • I wouldn't judge by difference between puzzle rating and game rating - they are not calibrated at all. My puzzle rating is also much higher than game rating, however, I don't think positional play is my weaker part - I quite often outplay people positionally. Anyway, they do say that at 1400 level, the fastest way to improve is to do tactics anyway.
    – Kostya_I
    Jan 10, 2020 at 13:09
  • 3
    to those who voted to close: I feel that the title unfortunate, making it a duplicate. But in essence the question is: "I am 1400, how do I improve my positional play?", and that has little to do with "how do GMs make positional decisions?" and should be answered quite differently. As you can see, the answers here are actually quite different.
    – Kostya_I
    Jan 10, 2020 at 13:20

2 Answers 2


Positional thinking is more abstract than tactics. If there could be an algorithm for positional thinking then positional thinking would be like tactical thinking and not something else. However, there are thinking steps like noticing weak squares.

I suggest starting with a pawn structure book. Soltis' "Pawn Structure Chess" is a classic and the book that changed my game all those years ago. I really like "Chess Structures - A grandmaster guide" by Mauricio Flores Rios as well.

I believe it is best to start with looking at isolani positions as positional considerations are clear there, As I recall both books start with isolani. After that skip to the chapters with the structures you play and start trying out the ideas in your games.

Think about what the ideal placement of your pieces would be in the position separate from how to get them there.

These books may have unintended consequences. After I read "Pawn Structure Chess" I switched from 1.e4 to 1.d4 because I was more likely to get isolani and hanging pawns structures and outplay my opponents who didn't know about these things.


My two cents on this is to study lots of classic games - chess.com articles by GSerper and especially Bryan Smith are an excellent place to start.

The book Chess Training for Post Beginners is also excellent (the title is misleading - I learnt a tonne when I was 2100) - gives you a review of all the main positional elements (bishop pair, good knight vs bad bishop...)

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