I'm currently in a tournament and I'm losing terribly. The problem is that I never implement the strategic things I learned in books (reassess your chess, my system, etc...)

I just calculate some random moves and hope my opponent blunders which he never does. Because of that I drew a game against a much lower rated person than me.

Also, I often overlook 2-move tactics that win a pawn.

Should I create a checklist of things to look at for every move? What could this checklist contain?

When I'm playing on lichess.org (blitz), I suddenly know everything and apply all of those things. I suspect, that I'm irrationally afraid of certain moves and then try to counter those moves.

  • 1
    Setting up a basic checklist could certainly help. Do you play in tournaments regularly, or is this the first tournament you've played in for a while? Your lacking performance could have to do with routine or nerves not being in check because of not being used to play under tournament conditions. – Scounged Jun 3 '17 at 22:06
  • This is my first real tournament. Real refers to classical time control – TheFrenchPlays Hd Micraftn Jun 4 '17 at 5:25
  • What do you mean by lower rated opponent, when you play first classical time control tournament? – hoacin Jun 4 '17 at 5:53
  • @hoacin i already played many rated 65min games – TheFrenchPlays Hd Micraftn Jun 4 '17 at 19:15
  • Checklists help me feel confident I haven't overlooked anything obvious or I won't get blindsided by something I should know. They also prevent me from overthinking--which may be the case with you, since you do ok in blitz. If I keep missing something despite my checklists, maybe I have something to add to it. @Fred_Knight's is very good, but you may wish to customize it for yourself. – aschultz Jun 5 '17 at 19:18

Thinking Techniques that I give my students:

  1. What new threat(s) has my opponent's last move created? How can I answer it?(them?)
  2. Is my King safe? Is my opponent threatening to checkmate me in the next few moves? Can I checkmate my opponent?
  3. What threats can I set up? How?
  4. Have I seen this position, or a similar one before?
  5. If so: who stands better, and what is the best plan for continuing?
  6. If not: what are the outstanding features and elements of this position, and what plan(s) and method(s) of achieving it are available?
  7. What is my play? What specific position would I like to obtain? How can I achieve my goal? How can I improve my position?
  8. How many good moves do I have? Which one is best? Can I capture material without penalty? Can I develop a piece? Can I employ any of the following tactical devices: pin, fork, skewer, discovered attack, double attack, trap a piece, double check, etc.?
  9. Is it safe to move my piece to the square I'm thinking about? (Blunder check.)
  10. Did I remember to start my opponent's clock and write down my move.

Notice that there is no mention of the positional elements. Beginners should be more concerned with the tactical side and how to develop plans. Strategic plans are formed based upon the position. By studying games which have similar positions and learning how the masters continued should help you with strategic plans. There is also plans which can be applied to completely different openings. A knight sacrifice on f5 can be used in both the closed Benoni system and the open Dragon Sicilian. By studying good annotated games, I mean the author saying in a simple language what (s)he is thinking, not pages of computer analysis, you will find great insight.

  • Im not quite sure about #1. Doesnt that give the initiative away? Also, I still think its important to think strategically. As said, i have played 4v4 team tournaments (very succesfully). The real struggle I have is thinking when Im not backed up by my team. My mentality get completely thrown off. Thank you very much anywoy for your comment, my checklist has grown by five points ;) – TheFrenchPlays Hd Micraftn Jun 4 '17 at 20:34
  • @TheFrenchPlaysHdMicraftn You have to be able to discern between real and imagined threats. – Jossie Calderon Jun 5 '17 at 21:09
  • #1 is intended for one-move threats, such as a hanging piece or a back rank mate. As I stated, this list is to help beginners, this is why I stated that positional elements are ignored. As part of a team, I'm sure you're above this level. Since you play better on a team, you may feel that the game is more important than when playing just for yourself. – Fred Knight Jun 10 '17 at 11:29

Well, you answered your own question. Do a problem each day from the reassess your chess workbook by Silman. Your results will significantly improve.

It's not enough to know the information. You have to be able to apply it.

  1. Look for any checks, captures, and threats*.
  2. Apply an evaluation of the seven imbalances.
  3. Decide which side of the board to play on.
  4. Imagine a fantasy position.
  5. Calculate the best move to achieve this fantasy position: it should not give him any counterplay.

*Most threats are imagined. But if he has a mate in two on the next move and you don't have a stronger threat, you should do something about that.

Apply the four steps (including step 0) to positions and you will find the best positional move. It's probably too late to do this in the current tournament, but I sit for an hour and work through one problem from Silman's workbook a day. Alternatively, you can pick a grandmaster game and any random move, and try to guess it.

Don't fret if the move is incorrect. If you verify with an engine that your move is stronger or at least as strong (as I have occasionally), it's because of your successful formulation of a plan.


Should I create a checklist of things to look at for every move? What could this checklist contain?

There are literally hundreds of "thinking methods" in evaluating a position to come up with a reasonable move. all of them include basically the same several elements:

Material; Direct Threats; King safety; open lines; pawn structure/strong and weak squares; center and space; development and piece position.

So, we perform these assessments and based on those assessments we come up with candidates. Then we apply our own calculative powers and derive our game move and play it.

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