Thinking Outside The Box

Humans tend to form rules in order to make life easier, but these rules are not always true. Chess is not an exception here. To play better chess, we need to form some general rules. These sets of rules are called strategies and they can be applied to different phases of the game. Yet sometimes they are so imprinted that we forget that rules are just tools which don’t always apply.

Accordingly I am not advocating a complete ignorance of the rules but rather supporting rules by calculation (the primary skill). If you try to find the exceptions to the rules you might find the winning move (admittedly this is another general rule!). Here are some instructive examples:

Alekhine against Rubinstein in 1912 – Black to Move

There’s one rule that tells us to capture towards the center, though this does not apply in all cases. Here Rubinstein broke the rule and recaptured with the f pawn, and this turned out to be the move of the game:

15 fxg6!

Rubinstein correctly weighed the value of the open file against the rule to capture towards the center.

16.Nb3 g5 17.Be3 0-0 18.Nf3 Qd7

Here 18…Rxf3 was already an interesting choice after which 19.gxf3 Ne5 20.Qe2 Qd7 would reach a position similar to the game but with a different move order.


“White pays insufficient attention to the scope of his opponent’s threats. A better course was 19.Nfd4 (19…Nxe5 20.Bxg5) seeking to establish equality.” (Tartakower)

19…Rxf3 ! 20.gxf3 Nxe5 21.Qe2

We reached to the position discussed above. The difference is that White could have prevented this on move 19.


Black went on win after few more moves. Here are rest of the moves in case you’re interested.

22.Nd2 Ng6 23.Rfe1 Bd6 24.f4 Nexf4 25.Qf1 Nxh3+ 26.Kh1 g4 27.Qe2 Qf5 0-1

The next example has been taken from the Book “Inner game of Chess” by Soltis.

Christiansen against Shirov in 1991 – White to Move

Q: Here white played 1. h3 and game ended in draw after few more moves. What did White miss?
A: White missed 1.g3!! because it opens lines in front of his own king. And we have learned that we should not open lines in front of our own king whilst under attack.


Threatening Qh7 and h4.


2.hxg4 Qxh4 3.Bxg4

This is winning because 3…Qxg4 is not possible due to Be3.

Ashvin Chauhan