Can any of the higher rated players here (1500+) talk about their thought process during a game so I can improve my own?

For example, my own process goes like this:

  1. Am I hanging a piece with this move?

  2. Does this move create a hole in my camp?

  3. Can the opponent put me in a nasty fork after this move?

  • 2
    possible duplicate chess.stackexchange.com/questions/1609/… Mar 19, 2020 at 17:33
  • 3
    @MichaelWest This seems like more of a general question than just candidate moves. Mar 19, 2020 at 17:36
  • I'm assuming at 3) you're also looking for pins and other traps, not just forks?
    – Mast
    Mar 20, 2020 at 9:21
  • 2
    "What do they want to do next?" works surprisingly well. Eventually you will be able to ask "What do they want to do in the next 2 moves?" and so on.
    – jamie
    Mar 20, 2020 at 13:01

3 Answers 3


I would recomend getting tips on how to think from CJS Purdy's blog; see the associated links on the right hand pane.

CJS Purdy was the first World Correspondence Chess Champion. Bobby Fischer praised his didactic abilities.

My view is that the basis of winning chess revolves around the double threat. (A triple threat is rarer but even better!) The double threat may be directed at your opponent's material but may also be directed at certain key squares in the position. You must be able to see quickly all the basic double attacks such as the pattern of forks each piece is capable of and of course the possible double attacks your opponent could unleash!

Your thought process will vary depending on whether it is your move or your opponent's move.


The first thing is that you should have a general idea where your play is, whether on the queenside, center, or kingside. Your plan as to where your place your pieces, and how you open that part of the board is going to be based on the opening pawn structure.

If it is later in the game, you want to try to figure out where the opponent is weakest. From there, you want to figure out which of your pieces you can aim at that weakness. This is called "planning".

From there, you have to analyze the best order of moves to move your pieces to attack that weakness, while taking into account your own weaknesses, knowing that your opponent will be trying to do the same to you. Sometimes, you have to just wait and defend if you are much worse.

A lot of this is intuitive based on your level of play, but from there, you just have to calculate variations.

Lastly, as I have gotten older, and tend to miss obvious things more, I like to look at every possible move for both sides, no matter how absurd a move seems. I am not analyzing them, but sometimes, it is just that simple consideration of a move that makes me see a tactic I might have missed, or a mistake I am about to make. I am only talking about spending seconds total looking at all the moves.

Mark Dvoretsky and Artur Yusupov, and I think I have seen other strong GMs say it, say that most calculation errors happen in the first couple of moves.

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    "but from there, you just have to calculate variations".Does this mean that I have to look at bunch of candidate moves and then calculate the Best one?
    – bretlee
    Mar 19, 2020 at 18:33
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    As part of this process, certain candidate moves will arise, and you will calculate which is best. I was being general on purpose since that has been discussed a lot, and there is a link to that question above. Mar 19, 2020 at 19:03
  1. What are the priorities/responsibilities of my pieces?(there are times where a piece is protecting more than a single square.)
  2. Is there a move that can force the opponent a certain move? If there is, how can I take advantage of it?
  3. Is there a move that has multiple purposes?
  4. How will my opponent respond to my move?
  5. Is the sacrifice worth it?

These are the questions I ask myself when I play long games.

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