The Winning Academy 33: The Travelers

by Jan Markos
5/6/2024 – When it comes to manoeuvring, Anatoly Karpov in his best years was in a class of his own. The Slovakian GM Lubomir Ftacnik used to say: "Karpov just had to figure out where to put his pieces. Once he found the right squares, he always knew how to get them there". Manoeuvring is an important skill to master and Jan Markos helps you to master this skill. | Picture:

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In the following article, I would like to show you five journeys of different pieces, one for each piece. Please take a look at the diagrams first and try to visualise the future route of the piece. Where do you want to transport it? And how?


Let us start with the king.

Adams-Eljanov, Wijk aan Zee 2016, Black to move:

How would you evaluate this position? Black is a pawn up, but the f3-pawn is going to fall soon. After that, White will have a passed pawn on the h-file, whereas Black will be left with a doubled c-pawn. On the other hand, Black has got the soulmates R+B against a less attractive pair R+N. Therefore, 29…Bxd3 30.Rxf3+ and 31.Rxd3 is not a good solution for Black. In a rook endgame, he would be worse.

There are probably several ways to equality for Black here. However, Eljanow wanted more. He found a nice manoeuvre of his king to a distant, yet logical target: the a2-pawn.

Black played 29…Ke6 30.Ne1 Kd6 31.Kg3 Kc5 32.Nxf3 Kb4 and it soon transpired that his threats against White’s Q-side are actually more dangerous than the white h-pawn.

In the following fight, Eljanov missed several wins, but had the upper hand till the end of the game.

Here's the complete game:


In the following fight, the queen performed a lovely and surprising maneuver:

Topalov-Jussupow, Dortmund 1997, White to move:

White is apparently winning. He is an exchange up and Black’s pieces are rather passive. But how to strengthen his position?

It would be ideal to get the queen into Black’s camp, but without moving the superbly placed f4-rook. Topalov therefore found a route through an unexpected region of the board, the queenside. He played 59.Qc1! Kg7 60.Qa3 Bf7 61.Qd6.

In a few moves, Topalov added another excellent maneuver, transporting his monarch to the queenside, and won a very fine game.


In the next example, the black rook performs miracles.

Smeets-Carlsen, Wijk aan Zee 2006, Black to move:

Carlsen is a pawn up, but his e4-pawn is very vulnerable, and the white d5-knight is obviously very strong. It is therefore clear that after normal positional play Black will be soon worse. Therefore, Carlsen needs to act quickly and dynamically.

However, his army is divided. The b8-rook seems to be unable to contribute to any activity on the queenside. But Carlsen found an amazing maneuver. After only a few moves, the b8-rook is going to be teleported all the way to f3!

Firstly, Black needs to open the highway to the kingside. Carlsen played 26…Qf7! to force 27.c4. Secondly, the rook starts its travel: 27…Rb3. Of course, it is taboo. After 28.Qxb3?? Black mates in three. Therefore, Smeets played 28.Re1, attacking the e4-pawn.

Now Carlsen continued with the third step of his plan: to weaken the f3-square: 28…Bh4. Smeets answered 29.g3, trying to repulse the bishop. Instead of retreating with this piece, Carlsen played simply 29…Rf3.

The teleportation is finished. Black is at least equal, and Carlsen later won a nice game.


The following bishop maneuver is a must-know for any devotee of the Maroczy structure.

Byrne-Garcia Padron, Costa del Sol 1977, White to move:

It seems that Black has equalized. Yes, White has got the bishop-pair, but Black is nicely developed and has no weaknesses.

But wait. No weaknesses, really? In fact, Black has got one huge weakness: the queenside pawns. Neither the king, nor the minor pieces can protect them easily. And the rook – the only natural defener – might be exchanged along the c-file.

But how to get to the b7-pawn? For Byrne, the answer was clear: he must get his bishop to c8. Therefore, he played 17.g3 Kf8 19.Bh3 Rc7 20.Rc1 Rxc1 21.Kxc1 Ke8 22.Bc8. The Black king was a tempo short. White won a pawn and later also the game.


For a knight, it might be quite difficult to get to a nearby square. His maneuvers somehow resemble the movements of a parking car, and – as a very mediocre driver – I can confirm that sometimes it is rather difficult to get the car to the only free parking slot.

However, in the last example of this article Mamedyarov found where to park his knight very convincingly.

Mamedyarov-Adams, Batumi 2018, White to move:

With his phantastic d7-pawn and all pieces active, White should be clearly winning. But he needs to coordinate his forces to deliver the final blow. Where should his knight go?

Mamedyarov decided to get it to e5. From this square, it covers the d7-pawn, attacks f7, and is in close contact with the d8-square, the promotion square of the pawn. But how to get the knight there?

For the Azeri GM this task was a piece of cake. He played 31.Nd6 Bg6 32.Nc4 Qe2 33.Ne5 Kh7 34.g4 and Black was fully dominated. Adams resigned only three moves later.


Why is maneuvering important? Well, from the times of Wilhelm Steinitz we know that a player can successfully attack only if he or she has an advantage: either on the entire board, or at some part of it.

But what to do in situations when the forces of both armies are balanced? In that situation, maneuvering is the best method how to create an imbalance, or even an advantage.

Most of successful attacks are in fact rooted in smart maneuvering.

Middlegame Secrets Vol.1 + Vol.2

Let us learn together how to find the best spot for the queen in the early middlegame, how to navigate this piece around the board, how to time the queen attack, how to decide whether to exchange it or not, and much more!


Jan Markos is a Slovakian chess author, trainer, and grandmaster. His book Under the Surface was the English Chess Federation´s 2018 Book of the Year. His last book, The Secret Ingredient, co-authored with David Navara, focuses on the practical aspects of play, e.g. time-management over the board, how to prepare against a specific opponent, or how to use chess engines during the training process. Markos was the U16 European Champion twenty years ago. At present he helps his pupils from several countries to achieve similar successes. Apart from focusing on the royal game, he is also the author of several non-chess books, focused on critical thinking, moral dilemmas, and phenomenology.
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