I can never remember Silman's imbalances when it comes time for a tournament. I can remember them any other time when I'm not all stressed out. Is there any way that I can?

12 Answers 12


At the moment you are trying to remember the imbalances using declarative memory:

Declarative memory (“knowing what”) is memory of facts and events.

Whereas you need to have the imbalances in procedural memory:

Procedural memory is a part of the long-term memory that is responsible for knowing how to do things, also known as motor skills.

So you need to internalise the imbalances by practicing, for example using the The Reassess Your Chess Workbook by I.M. Jeremy Silman.


My experience shows me that in order to apply chess strategies during the game, remembering them alone is often not the main issue. There is a gap between just remembering a strategy and being able to apply it during your game.

If you want to improve your knowledge of imbalances, I suggest that you set up a few training positions from a book (or from your own games) and that you try to go through the list of imbalances in your particular position. You can even do that by looking at the book with the complete imbalances list if it helps. In the end, if you are unsure about some points on the imbalances list in your position, you can ask somebody (maybe a trainer or a friend) or even ask the computer to show you some example lines by playing moves on the board.

By setting up training positions this way, you will not only learn to remember the imbalances better, but more importantly you will understand them on a deeper level. This will allow you to apply them better in future games. Important is that you spend a sufficient amount of time on each position (e.g. 10 minutes) and that you don't already go to the next position after 2 minutes.

If a good chess player looks at a chess board, he doesn't go through a mental list of these imbalances. Instead he already has good working knowledge of them, such that he can focus on how to improve his position upon them.


I remember them as DIMPS (development, initiative, minor, pawn, space).

  • Wow, that's actually a really good idea! but what about Rooks and Files? If you can come up with one like that, it would make my day! Oct 18, 2016 at 14:21
  • slot it in wherever you feel right :) DIMPSO (open file). There will always be exceptions, king safety for example is not included.
    – jf328
    Oct 18, 2016 at 14:47
  • 1
    DIMPSOKS... maybe remember it as Damp Socks... lol Oct 18, 2016 at 21:11
  • 2
    What about superior minor piece? And so on...
    – jaxter
    Oct 18, 2016 at 22:52
  • DRIMPS (development, rooks, initiative, minor (pieces), pawn (structure), space/safety (king)).
    – Priyome
    Nov 16, 2016 at 2:23

Minor Pieces Pawn Structures Space Material Files and squares Development Initiative

You shouldn't try to memorizing the Silman's Imbalances material but instead understand them so you will naturally use them in your play.

Here is how I would use these imbalances during the game: Opening Stage: Development and Initiative usually exists here so focus on these imbalances mostly throughout the opening.

Middlegame and Endgame: Minor Pieces Pawn Structures Space Material Files and squares

For Minor pieces and Pawn structures and material: Just think about the pieces While For Space and files and squares: think about territory.

So during a game: Just focus on these imbalances: Pieces and Territory Opening Stage: Development and Initiative.


I - Initiative
M - Material
P - Pawn Structure
L - Lines
O - Officers (referring to the Knights and Bishops i.e. Minor Pieces)
De - Development
S - Space


The list of imbalances Silman provides in Reassess Your Chess runs:

  • Superior Minor Piece
  • Pawn Structure
    • Doubled
    • Isolated
    • Backward
    • Passed
  • Space
  • Material
  • Control of key lines and squares
  • Development
  • Initiative

You can see that a) There are 2 elements beginning with an "S", and b) There are no priorities offered

Since this is the case, you need to supplement this information with other material.

I found a very useful guide to thinking about both positional and tactical situations in an online course offered by VisualWize, who make chess visualization training software. You can find it here.

There are both sections of content and exercises to practice what you've learned. I admit to using an amalgam of different methods that I've learned from multiple sources, but this is the closest I can find to a comprehensive system.

I realize that this doesn't assist you in memorizing Silman's Imbalances material, but I hope I've convinced you (or will convince you, when you visit the VisualWize site) that the material he offers is not adequately structured or comprehensive enough to work well without being supplemented by other content.


Categorize them!

1: Easy to assess - Material, King Safety, Development 2: More difficult - Pawn Structure, Space 3: Difficult - Statics vs Dynamics, Initiative, Key files/Squares/Diagonals.


My mnemonic is (MPSMFSDI): "My Playing Skills Must Find Simple Dramatic Improvement"-

Minor pieces/ Pawn Structure/ Space/ Material/ Files and../ Squares/ Development/ Initiative/

Though the how, what, why and where to APPLY these, in spite of owning Silman's books is far more difficult to implement, and I just can't seem to win any games using these methods.


I organize my thoughts this way:

First priority: King safety/Obvious tactics and threats

Then: Imbalances related to the board itself (that is, the battlefield)

Space // Key Squares // Pawn Structure // -- (I put pawns in this category because I see them as part of the board, when considered together as a structure)

Then: Imbalances related to the pieces:

Overall Material // Minor piece activity // Development

Imbalances related to the player:

Initiative // Psychological factors


Using mnemonics is one way, or a 'jingle' is another. How you do that is up to you, but repetition is the best way and you need to practice in real positions. You can take any Master game, review it, and periodically stop and do the assessment.

I've revisited this concept and I do the assessment by "color", meaning, assess each factor for each color separately. Whether this is practical in an OTB game is another matter, but if you play correspondence/daily games on any chess server that allows notes, it comes in handy A.F..

Let's assume you can remember the areas you need to focus on (a trivial matter, really). First, you need to look at your opponent's most recent move.

  • Q1: What are your opponent’s THREATS?
  • Q2: What are the CONSEQUENCES of your opponent’s last move and are the threats real?

Then, you want to assess the positional aspects for each color and come up with a list of things you want 'to do'. For example:

[ dsB = Dark-Squared Bishop; lsB = Light-Squared Bishop]

Me (White, to move):

  • Pawn Structure: No weaknesses, potential d4 pawn break.
  • Superior Minor Pieces: dsB=dsB; N vs lsB (to be determined)
  • Space Advantage: In the center
  • Material Advantage: N/A
  • Lead in development: 4 moves to complete development; 0-0, Bg5, Nd2, Rd1.
  • King Safety: after 0-0, king is safe
  • Control of a key file: I control e5
  • Control of a hole/weak square: e5; b6 is a hole.

"White has a space advantage in the center, controls e5, has an easy path to complete development, and a potential d4 pawn break."

You (Black):

  • Pawn Structure: Doubled c-pawn
  • Superior Minor Pieces: lsB is unopposed
  • Space Advantage: Queenside
  • Material Advantage: N/A
  • Lead in development: Slight - 3 moves to castle and complete development
  • King Safety: 0-0 and king is safe
  • Control of a key file: 1/2 open d-file
  • Control of a hole/weak square: e5 is weak for black; b6 is a hole

"Black has a space advantage on the q-side, a doubled c-pawn, a weak e5 and hole on b6, a slight lead in development, and a 1/2 open d-file"


  • Acquisition of the Initiative: White has a slight initiative

  • Statics (positional weaknesses/advantages) vs. Dynamics (tactics): Black has a positional weakness in e5 and hole on b6;

  • Candidate Moves: 0-0 (king safety first here);

  • Game Moves: 0-0

These are all 'sign-posts' to point you in the right direction and give you potentially good moves, and make you aware of the relevant factors in the position. I think it is super-important to play correspondence/daily games to hone this skill and get yourself to the point where it becomes 'second-nature'. Silman kinda makes it seem simple but it's difficult to read his book and bounce in a game and start doing it efficiently. You need to practice it. The fact that you cannot remember the relevant points is an indication that you need more practice at it, and Correspondence games allow you to do that and think slowly upon the concepts.

Chess is Hard. Good Chess takes work.





Pawn structure

control of center
control of space
pawn weaknesses/strengths
    passed pawn
    doubled pawn
    isolated pawn
    backward pawn

Open lines



Safety of the king

Also IMPLODES was given in an old Chess Life article.

Don't remember Silman's elements, however I look first at combinations (including mating attacks), weak points to apply pressure, stopping opponent's plans, and, finally, improve most misplaced piece (including pawns to gain space).


SPSMCDI (Superior minor piece, pawn structure, space, material, control [of key files, ranks, diagonals], development, initiative) You can think of this as a phonetic acronym SUPPOSE MCDONALDS DIDN'T EXIST (SPSMCDI). just spell exist with an “I” instead of an “E”

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