I read this article by Dan Heisman on playing 3 different types of chess: "Flip-Coin", "Hope", and "Real". I think I am stuck in "Hope" chess, where I make a move that I think is pretty cool and hope it works instead of playing a move based on sound analysis. How do I get from "Hope" to "Real" chess? I know it is not a simple solution, but are there any techniques/tools that can help?

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    What time controls do you play? If you are playing relatively short time controls, you might consider playing longer games. Maybe even correspondence. That way you have time to evaluate moves properly.
    – Akavall
    Commented Jul 13, 2012 at 16:11
  • @Akavall - I normally play 15 minute games on ICC. Occasionally, I will play a 5 or 30 minute game, but mostly 15.
    – xaisoft
    Commented Jul 13, 2012 at 19:11
  • When I play 15 minute games I play hope chess and I don't fell bad about it. If I try to properly analyze every move I would lose every game on time. I think you need more time to play real chess, perhaps at least an hour.
    – Akavall
    Commented Jul 13, 2012 at 21:34
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    Dan Heisman is pretty clear that "real chess" can only apply to long games (game in 90 min or more, I think is his cut off). Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 12:41

4 Answers 4


Just to ensure that we get the definitions correct, I will quote Dan Heisman on the definition of these two terms:

"HOPE" Chess - This is NOT when you make a move and hope your opponent doesn't see your threat. Instead, Hope chess is when you make a move and don't look at what your opponent might threaten on his next move, and whether you can meet that threat on your next move. Instead, you just wait until next move and see what he does, and then hope you can meet any threats. In my first 3 tournaments I played Hope chess and never won more than 1 game in any of the three. The speed at which you can play Hope chess also explains why I usually took only about half an hour for each game in these tournaments, even though the time control was 50 moves in 2 hours. Most high school level players play hope chess, but almost always lose when they run into a serious player who plays "Real Chess."


Real Chess: In a nutshell, it’s making sure that before you make a move, you make sure you can safely meet your opponents checks, captures, and threats that he could play in reply to your move, and you must do that every move. So in terms of threats:


3) Real Chess - you make sure you can meet next move's threat (actually checks, captures, and threats).

If you still sometimes play Hope Chess you need to train it out of you as a player. The fact is, you will play the way you train and thus you should always train the way you want to play. Regardless of what sort of training you are doing you must always ensure that you are meeting the exceptions of "Real Chess". If you are doing tactics puzzles DO NOT simply push your pieces into the most forcing moves you can find without having come to a real conclusion, instead think about the position. Make sure you have evaluated all of your checks, captures, and threats as well as your opponent's checks, captures, and threats. The same goes for training games or anything else you are doing. If you don't make a rigid habit out of it, you will not do it during an over-the-board game.

In my opinion the best way to train playing Real Chess is ensuring that you are meeting the expectations in chess puzzles (those from real games), K+P(s) v. K(+Ps) endgame puzzles, "solitaire chess" and, of course, practice games against either a computer or human player at long time controls. I think Practical Chess Exercises is a great collection of problems for this sort of training because it does not include only tactical positions but also has strategic themes and endgames all mixed together so that it really lends itself to this sort of training. Some of the positions even have bad combinations in them that don't work because they allow your opponent to equalize or even pull a combination of their own. Instead you have to find the best move, even if it isn't a forcing move.

  • Excellent points. I will take a look at that book you recommended and I download Chess Position Trainer 4.
    – xaisoft
    Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 14:46
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    +1 When you try puzzles, try to solve them without moving pieces. This practice helps a lot. Also, it is better to keep the position on a physical board and solve rather than looking at a picture. At least first, go with simple to moderate level puzzles. Commented Jan 24, 2020 at 10:42
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    What does „ K+P(s) v. K(+Ps)“ mean? It must be something about Kings and pawns, but…
    – Ludi
    Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 7:58
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    @ludi "K+P(s) v. K(+Ps) endgame puzzles" are endgame puzzles where one side has a one or more pawns, and the other side has zero or more pawns. No pieces either side.
    – AakashM
    Commented Sep 10, 2021 at 15:16

One major difference between "hope chess" and "real chess" is the fact that every move in "real chess" improves your position even if your opponent replies perfectly. Instead of making a move and hoping that your opponent blunders (or just makes a subpar move), instead ask yourself before you move "How does this move make my position better and what can my opponent do to make my position worse?".

That's not necessarily an easy question to answer, but it should stop you from making a move like Na4 in order to attack a queen on b6 that can easily move away. Moving the knight away from the center doesn't improve your position at all.

One other major difference between "hope chess" and normal chess is that good players always have a plan. The plan might not be terribly complicated, even something like "I'm going to improve the position of my bishops" is a valid plan, but the simple exercise of coming up with a plan and then seeing how both your moves and your opponent's moves affect it stops some of the "hope chess" moves.

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    Your point about making my position better really sticks with me.
    – xaisoft
    Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 14:45

One thing to do would be to start choosing candidate moves. Basically, this is a technique that promotes systematic analysis. See Alexander Kotov's Think like a Grandmaster. Be sure you get an algebraic edition - older ones will likely use descriptive notation.

I also recommend you find an instructor. Whatever your USCF rating is, add 400 points, and that should be the minimum rating of said instructor - you want someone who will beat you every time.

EDIT - another thing to do is to solve problems. One place you can do this is the Chess Tactics Server. I can't say I like it very much (I don't like the timed nature of the problems,) but it gets the job done.

Here's one I recall liking more: chesstempo

  • I used Chess Temp all the time. I never liked the Chess Tactics Server. I will take a look at the book you mentioned.
    – xaisoft
    Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 14:46
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    What does make you think every player in the world has USCF rating? :) Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 19:21
  • @PiotrDobrogost I wasn't replying to 'every player', I was replying to xaisoft.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 23:20

I agree that "real" chess needs ample time as the player would be required to really think things through and strategize properly before making a "real" move and not only move based on "hope". And 15 minutes definitely isn't enough and that period of time could even be only sufficient for "flip-coin" chess where every move is a gamble as you need to chase time and all you can do is to just expect your opponent to make a silly move to let you win. Try playing a longer game maybe do the 30-minutes sets more often before you attempt the 1-hour matches. And remember to take each game seriously and use it as an opportunity for you to further improve your skills. I believe with much practice and determination, you can achieve to play "real" chess in a 15-minutes game, anytime.

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