What is the checklist that you generally follow before you make a move?

I would generally look first for forcing moves (checks/captures), then moves that give me some positional edge.

It would be good to know what good players think during moves.

  • 3
    There are two different things here: 1. How to select candidate moves when calculating lines (that's when starting for forcing moves is a good advice) and 2. When you have settled on a move, what is your last verification before actually playing it (that's what I'd call the checklist: is anything hanging ? does the piece I'm about to move have any function where it stands now ? do my opponent has checks or captures I forgot to check about ?)
    – Evargalo
    Sep 22 '17 at 15:34

1) Did my opponent’s last move contain a threat? Is the threat real and something I need to respond to? Or am I able to ignore that move and continue with my plan?

2) Do my pieces have sufficient protection? Do I have a piece that is hanging? Does my opponent have an under-protected piece?

3) Is my king safe? What about the opponent’s king? Can I take advantage of my opponent’s king by, for example, preventing him from castling?

4) Did my opponent’s last move prevent the threat posed by my previous move?

5) Do I still need to develop my pieces?

6) Can I bring my rooks to an open file or in general, make them useful? Can I double up rooks on an open file? Do I need to still open files for my rooks?

7) Does my opponent have any weaknesses? What are the targets I should considering attacking (undefended pieces, under-protected pieces or squares, open king, etc.)?

8) How can I attack the target(s)? Any other weaknesses that can be exploited? What’s the plan?

9) After looking away for a few seconds and revisiting the position with a completely clean, unbiased mindset, does the move I am about to make appear to be a mistake? Am I hanging a piece? Am I falling for a forced checkmate? Did I analyze all forcing moves (checks, captures, and threats)? Are my thoughts consistent with what I am calculating?

Taken from ChessUniversity.com, but is taught to students everywhere.


1) Checks

2) Captures

3) Threats (I'm threatening to check, capture, tactic like fork, skewer etc. on my next move or the move after)

4) Stop my opponent's plan

5) Improve my position

After everything else but must always be done is blunder check! Even a check or capture can be a blunder. The saying "Patzer sees a check, patzer plays a check" is only about the patzer who forgot to blunder check his move. The first step to stop being a patzer is the final blunder check.

Some players would say that I have "4) Stop my opponent's plan" too far down and it is more important.


There are not so many books that talk about the thought process of selecting a move.

There is a section about this in Michael de la Maza's book Rapic Chess Improvement: A Study Plan for Adult Players (Everyman Chess, 2002). Below is a summary. (See also this PDF.)

  1. Make a physical movement. (This may sound strange, but Michael de la Maza found this important for himself.)
  2. Look at the board with "chess vision". (The book describes exercises to develop your "chess vision". See also Microdrills to Improve Your Chess! on Chess.com.)
  3. Understand what your opponent is threatening.
  4. Write down your opponent's move on your score sheet.
  5. If the opponent makes a serious threat, then respond. If not, calculate a tactical sequence. If no tactical sequence exists, implement a plan:
    • Improve the mobility of your pieces.
    • Prevent the opponent from castling.
    • Trade off pawns.
    • Keep the queen on the board.
  6. Write down your move.
  7. Imagine the position after the intended move and use "chess vision" to check the position.
  8. Make your move and press the clock.

Dan Heisman also describes a thought process in his book The Improving Chess Thinker:

  1. Write down your opponent's move.
  2. Ask yourself: what are all the things your opponent's move does? Look at checks, captures and threats, in that order.
  3. What are all the positive things you want to do? This includes potential tactics.
  4. What are all the candidate moves which might accomplish on or more of your goals.
  5. Which of these candidate moves can you reject immediately because they are not safe? (Find checks, captures and threats that defeat the move.)
  6. Of the final candidate moves, which one is the best you can find in a reasonable amount of time?

The best & shortest checklist before making a move is

  • Find out which opponent's move is most aggressive and coming in my territory or crossing half of the board.
  • Sometimes when you miss the above a volley of moves come in and seizes your initiative and render it to your opponent.
  • From your side you can find out that any of your piece needs protection and king is safe.

You can make a long list for yourself but practically it not feasible sometimes to remember all the steps but the above is the best suited for all formats of the game even in blitz.

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