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Improving pattern recognition through classics – Part-1

GM Swapnil Dhopade & FM Ankit Gajwa

GM Swapnil Dhopade & FM Ankit Gajwa

Headcoach - Chess Pathshala

Improving pattern recognition through classics – Part-1

Lasker’s double bishop sacrifice and Rubinstein’s queen manoeuvre!

“Intuition is for thinking what observation is for perception. Intuition and observation are the sources of our knowledge” Rudolf Steiner

Hello Dear Readers,

There are times when a chess player simply knows the right move or plan in a certain position, which is neither based on calculation nor based on theoretical preparation. It is by means of pattern recognition that in such cases the player realizes that a certain move or a certain plan is suitable for the position.

Pattern recognition plays a huge role in over-the-board decision making. When we look at a master game, there are new patterns that we learn, which are stored in our subconscious mind. These patterns then come in handy when we reach a similar type of position in our own games, and we know automatically, due to our understanding of such patterns, the right move or plan in that position.

We know more than we think we do, largely because of the role our subconscious mind plays in decision making, which acts as a data-bank for information. This information (patterns in our case) is retrieved at the right moment.

Elite players have a very good understanding of patterns, which is why a lot of moves come automatically to them. A good understanding of patterns makes decision making easier, as it limits the amount of calculation you need to do. Pattern recognition plays an integral part in enriching a chess player’s intuition.

Imagine how much more difficult math would be if we had to come up with all the formulas ourselves. It took mathematicians lots and lots of years to develop these formulas. It is the same with Chess.

Patterns in Chess are akin to such formulas, which took a great deal of time for the players of the past to come up with – Chess becomes way more difficult if we don’t know these patterns, as then we would have to calculate everything, just like a computer.

A very good way to improve our understanding of patterns is by going through a lot of master games. The time spent on such work never goes wasted, and the player will reap its benefits at the right time.

Mark Dvoretsky suggested in his book ‘Secrets of Chess training’ to maintain a ‘positional sketch’ – a collection of fragments of games, or positions, where an interesting pattern was observed. 

In this series, we will be going through some instructive patterns that were displayed in classical games. Hopefully, this will be of help to the readers in improving their pattern recognition.

A nice example of a renowned tactical pattern is Lasker’s double bishop sacrifice.


  1. A player who has gone through some examples on the above-mentioned pattern will understand that after sacrificing the bishops and giving a check with the queen on the g-file, the rook lift is customary and a very natural follow up.

  2. In short – sacrifice your bishops, give a check on the g-file, then lift your rook to checkmate along the h-file – this pattern would be inscribed in the player’s mind after having studied Lasker’s game and some relevant examples.

  3. However, a player not aware of this pattern will have to find everything by means of calculation.


  1. Even more difficult is to find patterns of positional nature on your own since one cannot usually find them on the basis of calculation alone, and here again, pattern recognition plays a huge role.

  2. It isn’t surprising that going through annotated games is a method that a lot of great players advocate in order to improve one’s positional understanding because it instills various kinds of positional patterns in the player’s mind.

I would like to direct the reader’s attention to a very nice positional idea that was displayed by Rubinstein in his game against Janowski.


  1. After seeing the above-mentioned game, the move played by black in the following position should not be too difficult to come up with.


and now, you have the chance to play like Kasparov, by using the pattern you’ve just learnt from Rubinstein’s game.


Finally, I would like to offer a couple of positions for the readers to solve based on the patterns we’ve learnt. 


Annotation 2020-07-31 172829

Black to play, how will you proceed?


Annotation 2020-07-31 172850

Black to play, Black went for an interesting idea based on one of the patterns we’ve discussed. Can you find it?

Solution for position from the last article-

Answer –

1.Nh1!! (The exchange on g3 must be avoided since the White knight is better than the Black bishop on h4. The knight is surprisingly well placed on h1 for the moment, as it defends f2 securely. White now intends to attack Black’s weak pawns on the queenside with his queen. Once the black bishop is forced to defend black’s own pawns, the White knight will join the game again.)

Thank you for reading the article. We will be back again with a new wonderful article!

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