Book review: Positional Decision-Making by Boris Gelfand

We often get questions about the books we recommend reading and studying, so we have decided to make a list of the ones we read and liked a lot. It has been a while since this book has been released (the second one is out for some time as well), but it is a great read and we will start our list with it.

The author, Boris Gelfand, needs no further introduction, as he has been a top player for many years. His play is methodical and very instructive, hence many of his games are on our list of “model games”. It was even better to play through them while reading the book, while reading his own thoughts and comments on the moves.

Boris Gelfand (photo credit: AP/Misha Japaridze)

This takes me to the first thing I liked at this book, and this is the honesty of the author when speaking about his own games and giving sidelines. He is fair with the reader when it comes to his thoughts during the game and gives practical advice to follow in your own encounters. He often underlines the important moments and ideas and repeats several times the points he considers to be important during a game, almost like a teacher making sure that his students will leave the classroom with the lesson already learned.

The book goes through important moments that have to do with the correct evaluation of the position from a strategical point of view and realizing the positional advantage, such as the squeeze (Chapter 2), the space advantage (Chapter 3), transformation of pawn structures (Chapter 4) and transformation of the advantages, where he shows positions with static and dynamic advantage (Chapter 5). Throughout the whole book Boris Gelfand shares his view and explains the way he thinks during a game, what factors influence his decisions and why.

He gives important guidelines on how to use the space advantage and how to correctly identify when you have one. He shows, with illustrative examples, how having more space optically does not necessarily mean that you have a space advantage. What matters is, in fact, the squares that you manage to take away from your opponent’s pieces:

“No matter who you are, there are only 64 squares on the board. And if I control 40, there will only be 24 left for you – no matter how strong a player you are.”

One important step in the chess journey of every player is the study of the classics. Right from the beginning, the author introduces us to Akiba Rubinstein, whose style he admires a lot and has had a great influence on defining his own style of play. He describes his own development as a chess player and shows games of both Rubinstein and his that were played in Rubinstein’s style, while explaining the subtleties of the position and the plans chosen.

All the ideas presented in the book, as well as the examples and the games are very well explained, so that everyone can understand what’s going on on the board. He gives practical advice and it gives the reader a glimpse at a top Grandmaster’s way of thinking. While it’s highly educational, the book is also entertaining, with many stories and insights, which makes it easy and pleasant to read. A highly recommended read and a great addition to your library! You can purchase it by clicking on the picture below:

  Written by (WIM) Raluca Sgircea


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