The concept of prophylaxis was first introduced by Aron Nimzowitsch in his renowned work My System. On the surface, prophylaxis appears to be a fairly straightforward notion: it refers to the art of stopping your opponent's threats, with an emphasis on positional threats and ideas. In this article, I will take your current understanding of prophylaxis and turn it on its head! I will argue that it is fundamentally wrong to think of prophylaxis as a concept, as something that you simply apply and then forget about. Quite the contrary. Prophylaxis, I believe, is a way of thinking, a potent lens through which you can solve positional and tactical problems of the most complex degree. Even if you know your Nimzowitsch and Dvoretsky backwards and forwards, I invite you to join me on a quest to expand your positional boundaries. Each illustrative game will be dedicated to a separate facet of prophylactic thinking, and, by the end, I hope that we are going to succeed in developing a potent thinking mechanism that will bring us one step closer to chess mastery. In case you are interested, here is a quick breakdown of the games that we are going to examine, and the sub-concept that each game will illustrate:
1. Lasker-Capablanca: In this game, we review what standard, garden-variety prophylaxis looks like, and we delineate the Golden Question without which any sort of prophylactic thinking is impossible.
2. Kribben - Pinkotevsky: With the help of an unknown but tremendously instructive correspondence game, we begin our discussion of more advanced and less well-known types of prophylactic thinking. This game deals with what I call ideational prophylaxis. The name should give you a hint about what that entails, but you're going to have to look at the game for more!
3. Naroditsky-Puranik: I present one of my own games to discuss a type of prophylactic thinking that most players do not consider to be even related to prophylaxis! I will argue, however, that the prophylactic mentality through which I viewed this position was the key to winning the game. What exactly was this mentality? You'll see!
4. Karpov-Lautier: Finally, we discuss sacrificial prophylaxis through the lens of one of my favorite positional games of all time.
The instructive game are followed by five exercises that will enhance and strengthen your understanding of the material presented. Let's get started!