The Biggest Problem All Chess Players Face (And The Solution)

A logical thinking process helps you access your chess knowledge in an effective and efficient manner.
A logical thinking process helps you access your chess knowledge in an effective and efficient manner.

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How do you consistently find good moves?

This question represents a fundamental problem that all chess players face. And here’s the answer:

The most effective and efficient way to find good moves is to follow a logical thinking process.

Developing a logical thinking process specific to chess is the single most powerful thing you can do to improve your game. This is because chess is essentially an exercise in problem-solving and independent thinking.

To help you improve your thinking method, here is a list of questions to ask yourself during a game. These questions will always guide your thoughts in the right direction.

6 Questions that will help you develop a logical thinking process

(The questions are listed in order of importance)

  1. What are the consequences of my opponent’s last move?
  2. What is my opponent threatening?
  3. Is there a forcing way to improve my position?
  4. What is my most logical objective in this position?
  5. Where are the pressure-points in my opponent’s position?
  6. What are the consequences of my intended move?

Let’s look at the details to each of the 6 questions:

1) What are the consequences of my opponent’s last move?

The first question puts the focus on the downsides of your opponent’s move. Does his move leave something unprotected? Which squares have been weakened by this move? Is there a way I can take advantage of their move?

Your opponent’s last move contains a lot of very relevant information and you should observe it carefully before you do anything else.

2) What is my opponent threatening?

This question strongly relates to the first question, but whereas the first question referred to the downsides of their move, this questions refers to the upsides. How does the move improve their position? In what way does it threaten me? Are the threats so strong that I need to deal with it or can I continue with the development of my own plan?

Understanding the consequences of your opponent’s move will help you be more effective in your calculation and planning.

3) Is there a forcing way to improve my position?

This question refers to tempo moves and tactic. Do I have a tempo move (threat) that improves my position and forces my opponent to make a defensive move?

If there is a forcing way to improve your position, then the most logical step would be to play the move. Don’t miss opportunities to force your ideas on your opponent, if in the same time they don’t get a chance to improve their position. However, before you make the move, you should ask yourself question 6.

4) What is my most logical objective in this position?

There are primarily 2 things that determine your most logical objective:

  1. The consequences of your opponent’s moves
  2. The stage of the game

The consequences of your opponent’s moves should always be the starting-point of your plan. You have to take your opponent’s threats and ideas into account when you plan your own move. Combining the consequences of your opponent’s moves with your understanding of the main goals of the opening, middle-game and endgame, plays an important role in helping you find a good strategy.

The objectives you identify and the quality of your plan to achieve those objectives will depend on your overall chess understanding and knowledge.

5) Where are the pressure-points in my opponent’s position?

A pressure-point generally refers to:

  1. weak squares
  2. weak areas

A weak square is a square that cannot be attacked by one of your opponent’s pawns – making it an ideal destination for your pieces.

A weak area refers to a specific area of the board where your forces can quickly coordinate to create a superior attacking force. The 3 target areas are typically 1)the centre, 2) the king-side and 3) the queen-side. The centre is always the first target you should attack. If the centre is stable, then you can focus your activities on the side where you have more space for your pieces to move.

6) What are the consequences of my intended move?

You complete your logical thinking process by returning to the first question, but applying it to your own move. This question also serves as a “blunder-check” to help you avoid oversights.

It’s easy to get excited about the advantages of your move, but have you checked the disadvantages too? Overlooking the consequences of moving a piece or pawn is very often the cause of blunders.

How to practice your logical thinking process

A logical thinking method is a powerful weapon and it is essential if you are serious about improving your game. To get the most value from this article you should practice to apply it in your own games.

Here are 2 things you can do to help you master this logical thinking method.

  1. Memorize the 6 questions and consciously apply them in the next 15-20 games you play. Initially this may feel like a tedious process but after some time it will become a lot easier. You will soon get to the point where you instinctively follow it.
  2. Play through GM games. At random positions in the game, stop and apply the 6 questions to the position. Decide what you would have moved. Look at the GM’s move. Try to identify the idea behind the GM’s move and compare it to your idea.