This seems like a silly noob question...but I am a silly noob. Sitting at around 600 (and floating there in both tactics and in 30 minute games) I've noticed I give away material or extend the game considerably sometimes because I just don't see the moves needed.

I know that the trope I read all the time is "tactics, tactic, tactics", and I have been doing tactics for around an hour or so a day in addition to my daily games. I've noticed significant improvement in my ability to see attacks and play smart - but my problem seems to consistently be missing important moves for pieces. Especially in regards to 2 and 3 move mates.

One thing I do is I look for pieces under attack, and start to evaluate moves from there. If no pieces are under attack, I look around the board at pieces that I can improve their positions on. My issue seems to be target fixation:

[FEN "r4rk1/p1p4p/1p6/3pP3/P3nppq/1Q2PP2/4K1PP/R4BNR w KQkq - 0 0"]

Here, the actual move is to move the queen in for a mate in 2, however my first instinct is to notice the queen is protecting a square I can put my knight on, and guarantee a capture of their rook at h1. I don't think I made a terrible move, however it appears I have trouble spotting these easy mates. Additionally, sometimes I fixate on the check and put pieces in peril unnecess

Is there a way I can scan the board more effectively? Or does it come down to just getting beaten down over and over again in tactics until I learn to see them?

  • 3
    You can't mate in 2 here because the king is in check and has to move. Qf2+ Kd1, Qd2# is not possible Aug 30, 2017 at 21:50
  • 1
    @AnthonyPham Aye. I think he misplaced the white king. If he's on e2, then we do have a real mate in 2.
    – Annatar
    Aug 31, 2017 at 6:40
  • 1
    It doesn't really matter whether you see Nf2 or Qf2+ first (although I'd expect the check to jump out) -- the point is to keep looking until you've found both. Aug 31, 2017 at 13:55

3 Answers 3


Skill in chess is all about pattern recognition. You are doing the right thing with the extra tactics training, and as you said, you can definitely see improvement, right? Unfortunately, that is a slow process with no easy shortcut.. but don't worry, if you follow the path you are on, you will be able to spot a mate like in your example easily one day.

In fact, you already do see patterns ("Enemy rook trapped by own knight and pawn, I can win it with my knight on f2"), which is good. Your main problem is that your "map" of patterns is still very incomplete. And of course, it is only natural to focus on a pattern you see immediately and which is already favorable for you, instead of one that you don't know by heart yet. As said, the right priorities will come with time as you fill the blank spots on your map.

It is a good idea and might accelerate this process a bit if you try to get into the habit of ALWAYS calculating all possible checks each move. Especially point blank checks with a queen are rarely a bad idea (this is a pattern too, one that you want to have higher in your priority list). In all honesty, your example isn't that obvious a mate to see at first glance as you might think. The king first looks to have a lot of space to flee to on the queenside. My instinct in a real game (where you don't get told that there's a mate in 2 now) would probably be something like: "Let's see.. point blank check! Always good! Let's do that. Now, before I move, let's check his escape. d1 and d3 (pattern: point blank queen checks only offer 2 escape squares in the way a knight moves). Hm. Kd1 is an obvious mate (pattern: king at border, queen can move right next to him and is protected there), but d3 is kinda out in the open, which is bad when I only have 2 pieces to attack him further. But wait! The pawn on d5 covers c4 and e4! These are the escape squares from a queen check on d2, so this actually is mate, too! Cool."

Long story short, when I start calculating Qf2+, I don't see the mate either, it only becomes obvious after a few seconds of calculation. Hopefully you can draw some hope from that - you are only missing some links, not the whole chain ;) So, keep up your work, focus a bit more on calculating forcing moves (checks), and you should be fine. Good luck!

PS: I am assuming the white king should actually stand on e2, otherwise your example makes no sense.

  • Yeah that was an error on my part. I copied this from chess.com, may not have been the mate in 2 I thought... Haha. Thank you for your advice. I really appreciate it.
    – user14142
    Aug 31, 2017 at 7:41
  • @rec You still have the mate in two but it's just that you can't have the king there Aug 31, 2017 at 18:41

Playing regularly, and playing a lot of games, will normally improve your sight of the board. Constant practice is a method for improvement in chess as in other disciplines. The more positions you see, the more familiar you will become with them and start recognizing familiar patterns. In the position you have shown, you should immediately focus on the weak f2 square, and you should be looking for mate or a check first rather than just winning the rook, since ending the game quickly if possible should be a priority. The move 1..., Qf2+ leads to mate in two no matter where the white king goes, either to d1 or d3, by 2..., Qd2#.


An initial assessment of material is always a good idea, followed by subsequent layers of assessment: possible tactics, pawns structure, piece activity, etc.... I usually look at my side as say to myself: Q-M-M-M-R-R (M being minor pieces - no other distinction at this point); then the opponents side: Q-M-M-R-R...In this case, I'm up a piece so trading down is my major strategy - any move I make should fall within this theme.

And yes, being beaten over and over again initially is a part of the process, sorry to say.

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