Dorian Rogozenco’s Chess Classics - A review

by ChessBase
10/2/2022 – In studying the classics, we get to know the elementary strategies and tactical motifs of the game, and thus we deepen our understanding of chess. At the same time, we gain an insight into chess history and chess culture. Dorian Rogozenco presents the most beautiful classics on his new FritzTrainer. Phillip Hillebrand has reviewed the training course.

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By Philipp Hillebrand

Some time ago, GM Adrian Mikhalchishin published a FritzTrainer with the title How to study the classics. In his work he placed great emphasis on pattern recognition and gave appropriate examples of how he himself, thanks to the study of classical games, was able to successfully implement solid ideas in his tournament games. The FritzTrainer discussed here uses the same approach. Former German national coach Dorian Rogozenco has been responsible for the section on classics in ChessBase Magazine for a very long time.

Those who are not very well-versed in the game are recommended to expand and deepen their repertoire of ideas through the study of classics so that they can succeed by applying comparable ideas in tournament games. Chess players and trainers call them classics because various manoeuvres, tactical motifs, breakthroughs and the like have proved their worth and can be used either in analogous situations. Some of these ideas are already almost 250 years old and should neither be forgotten nor underestimated in terms of what they can offer for current tournament practice.


White’s last move was 14.c3-c4. Black’s positional advantage is already considerable. It is important to preserve this advantage and, if possible, to prevent counterplay by the opponent. By playing the next pawn move, that is precisely what Black did. After 14...a7-a6, the b5-square is controlled and the white queen is thus deprived of any hint of counterplay.

This example is remarkable for several reasons. On the one hand, the name Philidor might be familiar to chess fans due to the technique that is named after him in rook endings — a defence mechanism, which indicates how to create a fortress while material down. Francois Andre Philidor crafted this technique perfectly many years ago, without engines, and it should suffice as proof to show how strong a player he was, even by today’s standards.

Moreover, it was Philidor who coined the phrase, “Pawns are the soul of chess”. With this phrase, he represented the view that whoever handles these pieces well can gain objective advantages. With him, the first step towards positional chess was made, i.e. the romantic sacrificial attacks, where it was considered a duty to attack regardless of losses, moved increasingly into the background. Measured against the example above, this means that the marginal pawn move was a prophylactic move — a theme that is still one of the most important methods of thinking, both for an attacking and a defending player.

One of the most unusual final positions I have seen so far comes from the following game.


For my taste, this position not only offers aesthetic pleasure, but also illustrates that “a victory of mind over matter” is often seen in chess games. Such extraordinary situations usually come about when the security of one of the kings is insufficient. For example, a knight alone can give the so-called smothered mate, i.e. a constellation where one piece alone can defeat an entire army, the following diagram is a constructed example in this respect, but is intended to underline what has just been said.


Things look bad for White. On the one hand, he is material down, and his king is threatened by various potential mating attacks. However, it is his move, he can force a mate within four moves with the help of a queen sacrifice.

This example also underlines the importance of initiative in chess, i.e. which side can make weighty threats that have to be parried first? Often such situations are those where there is a mating attack or a series of checks. When it comes to an early initiative, material sacrifices aer not to be afraid of, and it is significant that the current Vice World Champion, Ian Nepomniachtchi, who loves to play with the initiative, occasionally resorts to the King’s Gambit.

The following position, comes from the well-known ‘Immortal Game’ by Adolf Anderssen against Lionel Kieseritzky from 1851.


Black’s last move was 21...Kd8 and again a nice mate can be forced with the help of a queen sacrifice. As in the example of the smothered mate, it is a question of having the initiative when it matters most!

With regard to the initiative, the other famous game by Adolf Anderssen is also worthwhile.


The German-born mathematics teacher sacrificed two heavy pieces for a compelling mate attack.

This wild romantic era waned towards the end of the 19th century, when none other than Wilhelm Steinitz, the first official world champion, not only postulated his views on chess but also put them into practice. It was he, among others, who said that it was necessary to accumulate small positional advantages — for example the bishop pair or a better pawn structure — in order to only then win by making the most of these incremental trumps.

A lesson was given to none other than Mikhail Chigorin, who often acted very romantically and loved to cause great complications on the board. Wilhelm Steinitz recognized the weaknesses of such an approach and played very consistently, even by today’s standards, and exploited a weakened colour complex.


Black’s last move reveals the weaknesses along the a2-g8 diagonal and the vulnerability of the h7-square. Subsequently, Steinitz exploited these advantages of his position impeccably.

Wilhelm Steinitz also contributed a great deal to the understanding of isolated pawns. In addition to the now well-known idea of “inhibiting, blocking and then destroying” such pawns (Aaron Nimzowitsch), the first world champion also showed that behind an isolated pawn the pieces can develop a lot of power.


Basically, this is another example of the importance of the initiative, because if Black manages to stabilize his position, he might even be a little more comfortable because of the latent weakness of the white pawn d4. However, this still costs a little time, and that is precisely the moment when Steinitz took over with a positional pawn sacrifice and ended the game very elegantly.

There is also a legend about the game that Curt von Bardeleben was so enraged about the course of the game that he left the tournament hall without resigning the game after Steinitz’s brilliant moves.


All the white pieces are threatened, but a handful of skilful checks avoid Black from striking a fatal blow in his turn.

A kind of revelation at the time was a game played by José Raul Capablanca against Aaron Nimzowitsch:


The last move of White was 15.Qd3 and it looks as if he has a healthy extra pawn. However, the black pieces are very active, especially the g7-bihsop and the rooks, which will exert enormous pressure along the a and b-files. This concept was later expanded by Pal Benkö and Russian correspondence chess players from the Volga region, and it is now a very respected and dangerous weapon in the hands of an accomplished player with the black pieces.

Consequently, it is not only tactical tricks and general wisdom that we have adopted, but sometimes also complete opening philosophies (here the sacrifice of a pawn for prolonged piece pressure, comparable to the Marshall Gambit in the Spanish Opening).

I find the game between Friedrich Sämisch and Aaron Nimzowitsch from 1923 very appealing.


Black’s last move was 25...h6, and it’s hard to believe that White no longer has a constructive move or plan and is basically stalemated with a full board and has laid down his arms. For those who want to know how this came about, the author presents a very instructive video of the entire game.

This is one of the essential structural features of FritzTrainer. GM Rogozenco explains why it can be quite sufficient to study fragments rather than a complete game. By concentrating on the patterns, it is possible to recognize ideas, motifs, tactical blows or other important elements regardless of one’s preferred openings, without running the risk of becoming ‘operationally blind’ to one’s own openings.

The FritzTrainer offers ten instructive fragments worth seeing, which the author discusses in detail and conscientiously at the critical points. The other block consists of 33 games, each of which is discussed in a separate clip. These are mostly between 10 and 15 minutes long and offer, apart from the instructive aspect of a chess game, chess history, chess culture and the attitudes (e.g. aggressive without regard for losses or rather conservative) to the course of a chess game.

The material was created over several years from clips from the various issues of ChessBase magazine. But that doesn’t matter at all, because on the one hand each individual video has its own high quality content and through the careful compilation and structuring of the experienced coach provides excellent ‘raw materials’ for independent study.

The knowledge of classical games is not only of great value for amateurs, since world-class players also make use of the insights of the old masters.


White’s last move was 22.g3 and Rubinstein unleashed a beautiful final, sacrificial attack. A kind of "double" to this game was played between Levon Aronian and Vishy Anand in Wijk an Zee 2013.


Anand also noted after the game that he was reminded of Akiba Rubinstein's game, referring in particular to his two bishops, the g4-knight and the black queen on the h-file.


This FritzTrainer offers a lot. Besides introducing and teaching useful skills for a tournament player, thanks to Rogozenco’s clips, you also get insights into chess culture and its development, which can also help you improve your game. The selected fragments and games are a very nicely compiled potpourri and, in my opinion, are just the right length for effective training.

The notations provided do not contain verbal comments, but only the so-called Informator style. Thanks to the visual highlights (arrows and squares), ideas and plans are indicated in a comprehensible way. This is anything but a disadvantage because, if it suits you, you can first read the notation, play through the game, note down your own ideas and variations and then compare them with the clips.

The structuring of the games/fragments according to topics is also very helpful. It’s rarely the case that a game has only one instructive feature and if you're looking for something on the topic of ‘bishop pair’, ‘prophylaxis’ or ‘initiative’, you'll find it quickly and will be able to train specifically!

I can unreservedly recommend this FritzTrainer to every chess lover who is interested in a more profound understanding of this fascinating game. For trainers, too, this compilation is either a good basis or an addition to the repertoire of ideas to discuss with your protégés.

Chess Classics - games you must know

As the author explains in the introductory video, knowing the classic games from the past enriches your chess understanding in general, and helps to improve the level of your own games.

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