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What questions do you ask yourself before making a move?

Do you have a mental check-list that you go through before deciding on which move is the best move in the current position?

The move does not have to be a candidate move because most beginners are not thinking in terms of candidate moves.

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Isn't this essentially the same as: chess.stackexchange.com/questions/1609/… –  user76 Dec 11 '12 at 18:21
    
@GeorgeJempty - Well, yes and no. I thought this question was more geared towards the move not necessarily being a candidate move or someone who does not know what a candidate move is. This question is a more general or broad question, whereas the other one, is specific. –  xaisoft Dec 11 '12 at 19:06

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Before playing a move, I like to think I pay attention to the following :

  • Is some piece of mine undefended ? If a few aren't, then I should bay a particular attention to them not being forkable, with anything (by a queen, mostly). If it is the case, I might decide playing something that safens this matter.

  • Is my king safe enough ? All checks my opponent can administer should be benign.

  • Is my move achieving something ? Better have a wrong plan than no plan at all.

  • What move am I expecting my opponent to play ? A handful of possible moves is fine, as long as it's not “well, anything, basically”. Ideally, I see how neither of these moves are a problem to me.

  • Tactics : Often enough, there is about one square of interest on which both players' pieces concentrate : is this square defended enough times, by the right pieces ? (i.e. defending with a rook and a queen a pawn that my opponent attacks with light pieces is not going to help) Is the checkmate I am defending from still not working ?

Of course, once I thought enough about all of these, I'd expect not to lose any game, but 4. and 5. still leave the door open to surprises if one doesn't read variations into enough depth, “how many is enough ?” still being an open question :·)

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Excellent points. –  xaisoft Dec 6 '12 at 16:12

I usually consider the following things before making a move:

  • Which squares is this piece controlling now and which squares would it control from its new position?
  • Which pieces is it defending now and which pieces would it defend from its new position?
  • What are the various options for my opponent after I make this move?
  • How does this move fit into a longer term plan, or to put it another way, what purpose do I want it to serve?
  • How well is the piece protected in its new position? (Of course, this does not apply when I want to give up the piece.)
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The common trap I used to fall into (and I am actually still falling into it) is to consider mostly your attacking possibilities, and not the opponent's one.

It usually happens this way: "How my god, my pieces are beautifully coordinated, I can probably put my Knight to f5, and then with the support of the Queen, g7 will be very weak. This is going to be a good game..." And on the next move, your opponent checkmates you because you completely missed his bishop b7-Queen c6 configuration that was threatening a mate in 1.

So the meta-rule for me is: - always think about the opponent's possibilities first. What is he threatening ? Do his pieces target some interesting squares ? - Then think about what could be done to stop these threats. Possibly you have even bigger a threat so it is not actually necessary to deal with it. But at least you know it now

Then, when drilling down to the opponent's possibilities, it includes: is my King safe ? Are my pieces protected ? Is there a weak square he can reach ? Is there a forced series of moves that leaves him with the advantage ? Once you are sure that there is no problem left in your position, you can start thinking about your own attacking possibilities: is his King safe ? Are some of his pieces undefended etc.

You can find more pieces of advice on my blog: http://chesstrainerapp.blogspot.fr/

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My thought process is roughly as follows:

  • Decide which move best fits my "plan".
  • After the move, is the moved piece vulnerable:
    • Is it hanging?
    • Can it be attacked by a more minor piece?
  • After the move, does it leave any other piece vulnerable:
    • Does it leave another piece hanging because it is now discovered?
    • Was my piece directly defending any other piece by guarding the square?
  • Can the opponent now check me?
    • If so, can she use it to skewer another piece?
  • What is the move the opponent is more likely to do now?
    • Does my move force the opponent?
    • Does my move encourage the opponent to move a piece?
    • Does my move create any obvious opportunities for the opponent?
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