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Positional Chess For Beginners – IM Renier Castellanos [The Chess World]

Good positional understanding is one of the main criteria separating masters from club players. The problem is that it can be one of the toughest areas of the game to improve. Why is that? Because it is often left out of lessons for beginners, and there is next to nothing for beginners out there that covers positional chess! Also, unlike tactics where a combination of moves gives an immediate benefit, a longer term positional goal doesn’t always jump off the board and make itself apparent to the beginner player.

Sure, everyone knows how to study tactics, openings, and endgames. But, when it comes to something more sophisticated like positional understanding, the majority of players simply don’t know where to start. That’s where IM Renier Castellanos steps in, using his vast experience to explain the key positional ideas you need to know in order to get an unparalleled edge against your competition.

The art of positional play should not be underestimated. Not learning positional fundamentals stagnates your development as a chess player and won’t let you reach your full potential. Your tactics and endgame skills may be there, but if you don’t know what to do in the position you may soon be lost.

In this free preview video of the Comprehensive Positional Course from The Chess World, IM Castellanos focuses on the backward pawn. A backward pawn is simply a pawn that gets left behind when the adjacent pawns move forward. Not only is a backward pawn weak, but the square ahead of it is also weakened, a hole that you can put a good piece on and cause havoc for the opponent.

IM Castellanos analyses some games to show how such a backward pawn, a seemingly small weakness at first, can be the main focus of an attack through good positional play, and how you can take advantage of it.

The Backward Pawn – Positional Chess for Beginners

Let’s take a look at the first position discussed in the video. You can see the position in the diagram on the left. At first glance, the position looks pretty equal, no real weaknesses in Black’s position, but then on closer look we find a backward pawn on a7. It has been left behind by the adjacent pawn, meaning it is a small weakness. The square in front of it is also weak. How did Rubinstein, with the White pieces go about exploiting this weakness?

How to play positional chess1. Ba6. This move is useful as it blocks the a7 pawn, it is now unable to change its fortune by moving to a5. White threatens Bb7, which would force the rook away from defending the pawn. So, Black is forced to play …Bc8. Next, the game continues 2. 0-0 Bxa6 3. Rxa6 and White has a clear plan of attack. White wants to play Rfe1, Nb3 and, at the right time, b5 in order to win the weak a7 pawn.

How to play positional chess

Of course, Black won’t make it easy. …Rfc8, 4. Rfa1 Kf8 5. Nb3 – White can not play b5 right away, as Black could play …Na5. …Bd8 6. Ne5 attacking a defender of a7 …Nh5 7. Bh2 Nxe5 8. Bxe5 Bc7 9. g3 You can see this position on the right. Why g3? This is actually a very smart move. it takes away the f4 square from Black’s knight. If the bishops are exchanged on e5, it also takes away the f6 square!

…Bxe5 10. dxe5 f6 which weakens the e6 pawn! 11. exf6 Nxf6 12. Rxa7 and White wins the pawn and gets a decisive advantage! See how that one weakness dictated the play for many moves. For more in depth analysis of this example, and other examples, be sure to watch the video!


Backward pawns are just one aspect of positional play. Did you know that if you simply learn the fundamentals of positional chess early on, your progress will skyrocket? IM Castellanos’ Comprehensive Positional Course for Club Players will help you do just that. Click here to get instant access with 35% off.

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