I am new to chess, so I have some difficulties on understanding some concepts. For example, by watching games usually I hear that a player has a winning position, or a better position respect to the other player.

But how do I understand if my position is good? What are the signs that a overall position of the pieces on the board is a good position?

Thanks in advance

  • 2
    As a rule, try to give some time before accepting an answer. You never know what you might find!
    – corsiKa
    Commented Dec 15, 2019 at 9:09

2 Answers 2


Not easy to answer in great detail.

In General checkmate is a winning position as are the positions from the moves leading up to that happening.

Any position the opponent resigns in is a winning position.
That usually agrees with your feeling you have a won position but sometimes opponents see ghosts and resign anyway. A 'good' position that confuses the opponent would seem to be a winning position if it makes them resign or even just blunder away material.

A complex but unclear position with the opponent having little time on his clock may pressure them to either resign or to blunder and then resign. Or they may lose on time anyway when the flag falls [or these days the red light comes on]. So a position where the opponent can not make his moves before the flag drops is a winning position even though without any time limit it might be lost.

In general with sufficient material advantage the win should be a matter of technique. So any position that allows for a combination to win material could be a winning position and usually is but not always. Clearly sacrifices are often made to get a winning attack so in such cases material is irrelevant.

Leading up to those types of positions are less clear positions that are merely one with an 'advantage' not yet winning. More space, better piece positions, time advantage both useful moves ahead or on the clock, or 'initiative' are more likely to lead to winning positions and then to won positions and finally a win. These factors are subject to surprise tactics as well as not being followed up properly so as to continue building the advantage until it is overwhelmingly a win. So while good, they are not yet properly called winning.

To summarize, a winning position depends on many factors, but whether it is called winning or not depends on the judgement of the person evaluating the position. And sometimes those persons are wrong. Also each player has a different spot in the gray area where they would call it winning instead of just having an advantage.


This is very broad, but what is winning is very related to your strength. I have seen plenty of beginners, who could not win even up a full queen.

For example, a beginner might need a queen, or more, to be able to win a position. I have been a "regular" Master for more than 30 years, so it might just one pawn, but the right pawn. :)

By comparison, I used to read Garry Kasparov's notes to his games in the Informants, and he would use the symbol +- (winning) in positions that looked barely better to me. His sense of winning, of course, was correct, but it was much more refined than mine.

All of this still means only so much in practice because as they say, "the hardest thing to do in chess is win a won position".

Understanding when your position is good or won simply comes with time, study, and practice. It is too open a subject to be more specific.

  • Good point about the level of the players changing the criteria to say the position was winning. We need to ask winning for who unless really good computers are playing each other.
    – yobamamama
    Commented Dec 14, 2019 at 16:41

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