Mastering Priyomes: A Key to Chess Improvement

Russians have a very interesting concept. The word for it is “priyome.” It’s actually a very common word in Russian, but it’s the chess concept that I want to discuss in this brief blog post.

Improving chess players begin to study pawn structures seriously. Priyomes are closely related. They are critical situations to learn and remember. The concept of priyome includes both patterns and associated maneuvers. I believe Andy Soltis has the most helpful definition in his book, Studying Chess Made Easy. Priyomes are positional patterns.

The diagram below comes from Andy Soltis’ latest book, 100 Chess Master Secrets: From Sacrifices to Endgames. White to move.

The first element of a priyome is to recognize the structure. To do that, we need to know the characteristics of a particular structure and then be able to recognize it on the board. In this case, we have an endgame where the d file is open. It could have been the e file. Or, any single open file.

The second element is to recognize the associated maneuver to exploit the structure. In this case, white should move Rd1 followed by Rd7. White gets a decisive advantage as a result.

Not all priyomes are so obvious and decisive. Some are simple, others are elaborate. Some can result in a decisive advantage, others only slightly improve a position.

One distinguishing characteristic of priyomes is that they can be described in words rather than moves. As I noted in the example above, the priyome does not depend on the d file being open. The priyome is this: an open file that can be seized by a rook, which can then penetrate to the seventh rank with devastating effect.

Masters know lots of priyomes. The Soviet chess schools urged students to collect new patterns and save them in notebooks. They wanted their students to instantly recognize a pattern and then remember the associated priyome. Trainer Anatoly Trekhin amassed over 100 different priyomes in his notebook. Mark Dvoretsky had more than 3,000 positions in his collection. Yasser Seirawan had 32 notebooks. Do you need such a large collection? Andy Soltis argues, “No.” In his latest book, he claims there are 25 essential priyomes.

Whether you collect priyomes in a notebook, save them on notecards, or store them on a computer, thinking in terms of priyomes is an excellent method for taking pattern recognition to a further level and enhancing your chess intuition.

Glenn Mitchell