The Simple Chess Study Companion: Index

 "By isolating the basic elements of master and grandmaster games, Simple Chess attempts to break down the mystique of chess strategy into plain, clear, easy-to-understand ideas."

Michael Stean

Simple Chess: Study Companion Index 

If you want to work through the posts in order, start with 

Simple Chess - Preview Post and Simple Chess - a Study Companion which introduced the series. You could then work forward day by day.

On the otherhand, if you’re more interested in dipping in and out, I’ve divided up the posts into three categories:-

The Games

some thoughts and reminders to self on each of Stean’s main games.

Additional Material

extra games I added that aren’t included in Simple Chess but which I thought illustrated the points he was making. These posts will always be related to a specific chapter.


musings on questions like how to study chess, how to get the most out of this book in particular and where to go next. These posts relate to the text as a whole not any one chapter.


Week One: Introduction

Botvinnik - Szilagyi, Amsterdam 1966

Botvinnik induces weaknesses on the light squares using well-timed pawn advances and a moment of tactics.

Petrosian - Portisch, Candidates’ Match 1974

Petrosian exploits a long diagonal occupies an outpost at just the right moment.

Adorjan - Mukhin, 1974

Adorjan fixes and attacks Black’s queenside pawn structure then exploits the resulting weaknesses  

Week Two: Outposts

Tal - Bronstein, USSR Ch. 1959

When there’s an outpost in the centre of the board.

Benko - Najdorf, Los Angeles 1963

Both Black and White have an outpost on king bishop five, but only one of them is relevant.

Botvinnik - Donner, Amsterdam 1963

Botvinnik sees the potential for an outpost where an open file crosses a long diagaonal.

Fischer - Gaia, Buenos Aries 1960

Fischer creates an outpost then sets about exchanging off all the Black pieces that could challenge him for it.

Unzicker - Fischer, Varna Olympiad 1962

Bobby allows White up a central outpost and then sets about preventing his opponent from making any use of it.

Week Three: Weak Pawns

Hecht - Forintos, Wijk 1974

Attacking weak pawns with piece play (including use of a rook lift)

Fischer - Petrosian, Candidates’ Final 1971

Playing against an isolated pawn. Two of them, in fact.

Spassky - Fischer (5), World Championship 1972

Black’s pawn weaknesses turn out not to matter. White’s do.

Hutchings - Keene, Woolacombe 1973

Doubled pawns leave White unable to cover weak squares elsewhere on the board. Black exploits them.

Karpov - Spassky, Spartakiad 1975

Spassky has an isolated queen’s pawn. Karpov grinds him down.

Week Four: Open Files

Maroczy Theory

In terms of occupation of open files, first come isn’t always first served.

Donner - Pomar Salamanca, Clare Benedict Cup 1966

While Black’s queen is out of play, Donner occupies the c-file.

Andersson - Knaak, Capablanca Memorial 1974

Andersson plays to gain time to occupy the d-file, and Black’s position collapses in 25 moves.

Karpov - Uhlmann, Madrid 1973

It’s not so much the open file as the 7th rank entry point.

Week Five: Half-open files (Minority Attack)

van den Berg - Kramer, 1950

White’s Minority Attack leaves Black with a loose pawn … that drops off.

Vogt - Andersson, Havana 1975

A Sicilian Minority Attack.

Stean - Mestel

Using the initiative to prevent a Minority Attack from starting to roll.

Week Six: Black Squares and White Squares

Tarrasch - Teichmann, San Sebastian 1912

The threat of White’s king penetrating on the dark squares is so strong that no execution is necessary.

Burn - Marshall, Ostend 1907

White’s bishop is blocked by a pawn on a central square.

Tal - Lisitsin, USSR Championship 1956

Tal’s king marches forward on the dark-squares to win an endgame.

Petrosian - Yuchtman, USSR Championship 1959

Colour complexes informing opening strategy in the KID.

Stean - Planinc, Alekhine Memorial 1975

Planinc has no light-squared bishop so Stean drag’s Black’s pawns on to dark squares.

Petrosian - Mecking, Palma 1969

Mecking’s attack evaporates, but his light-square weaknesses remain.

Week Seven: Space

Fischer - Gheorghiu, Buenos Aires 1970

Fischer converts Black’s 'cramped but solid’ position into 'cramped and lost’ by doing as little as possible.

Karpov - Westerinen, Nice Olympiad 1974 

Anatoly is the dog; Westerinen’s pieces are the sheep.

Portisch - Reshevsky, Petropolis Interzonal 1973

More space leads to a direct attack on Black’s king and White’s Plan B of playing along the e-file is not required.

Smyslov - Gudmundsson, Reykjavik, 

The Black pieces look fine, but Smyslov drives them backwards and leaves his opponent suffocating.

Petrosian - Portisch, Candidates’ Match 1974

More space = more scope for the king to come forward in the endgame.


Week Two: Outposts

Boleslavsky's Outposts

looking for outposts in the games collection of an old Soviet Grandmaster.

Schrodinger’s Outposts

Semi-outposts. They kind of are and kind of aren’t (featuring Spassky - Fischer (5), Reykjavik 1972).

Week Three: Weak pawns

Doubled Isolated pawns

Mostly to be avoided, but not always.

Week Five: Half-open files

Arkell - JB

JMGB versus the king of Minority Attacks himself, GM Keith Arkell

Arkell’s Minority Attacks

Two games played decades apart, one strategy

Say Simple Chess

Martin shows that Minority Attacks aren’t just for the GMs.

Week Six: Black squares and White squares

Colour-complexes, A Third Option

Trading off a bishop then fixing your pawns on that colour.

Week Seven: Space

The Ruy Lopez: a case study in space

The famous Karpov - Unzicker game from Nice 1974.


Simple Chess and tactics practice

It’s doesn’t have to be all about positional play

Woodpeckering your Simple Chess RAM

A discussion on using the woodpecker method with Simple Chess and the benefits of memorising the games

Opening Choices

Thinking about building an opening repertoire based on the pawn structures that

How to woodpecker

A discussion on how to choose positions to review

How to engine

use of computer analysis is both a gift and a potential curse.

How to choose games

A reflection on Stean’s selection (and why it’s ideal for learning)

All Simple Chess All The Time

A question about how to read Simple Chess.

Simple Chess: the end?

Some thoughts on where to go next


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