(For reference) I'm a candidate master.

However, I've been trying to improve the tactical side of my game, especially calculations and time-management.

One thing I do a lot is double-checking my calculations. While it obviously contributes to my time trouble, this practice has saved me from quite a few blunders.

I've been reading a book by GM Smirnov, Champion Psychology. He strongly insists that it's a very bad habit, as it is a waste of time and proves my lack of self-confidence.

I'm shocked that in my many years of training I've never came across such a blunt opinion (except in Kotov's books, which are, however, strongly criticized e.g. by Nunn in Secrets of Practical Chess).

So what's the deal here? Do strong players (2400+) really not double-check their calculations even in classical time-control?

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    I was busy writing what I hope is a useful answer but in the mean time the question has been closed by someone who seems to have a real difficulty distinguishing between “opinion” and “judgment”. The fact that a coherent answer can be made indicates that this is not an “opinion-based” question. Please re-open this immediately! Please stop closing perfectly reasonable questions. And yet again, it’s a newcomer who is being treated shabbily.
    – Laska
    Mar 6, 2021 at 0:06
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    I agree with the above comment, this question seems reasonable to me. In general, double-checking is inefficient in terms of resource management (time and mental stamina) and could impede one's ability to play well in the long run. I suppose it comes down to how efficient one's general calculation process is to begin with (less efficient -> more need for double-checking). One way to find out what good players do is to look at Hikaru Nakamura's streams. Does he double-check many of his calculations while playing or doing puzzles? My gut feeling is that the answer is "no".
    – Scounged
    Mar 6, 2021 at 0:23
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    "Do strong players (2400+) really not double-check their calculations?" is a question that is not opinion-based. Whether it's "bad" does seem to be. But I prefer to give the benefit of the doubt here.
    – D M
    Mar 6, 2021 at 1:47
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    BTW. I think Nakamura streams are not that informative here, since in blitz you play by intuition much more than pure calculation. I added the info that I'm interested in classical OTB.
    – JohnnyQ
    Mar 6, 2021 at 7:05
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    From a personal view, I'm a FM and don't calculate at all. I learnt that doublechecking merely replaces one miscalculation by another. Almost everywhere I botched up, a single calculation would have been enough to save me. If you need doublechecking, then what you really need is a more effective way to prune the variant tree. If a variant gets lost in the mists of forking zwischenzugs, also the third calculation is useless unless you are Tal (and he let the hippo drown). Mar 6, 2021 at 14:46

2 Answers 2


At shorter time controls, there is little time for conscious double-checking - perhaps there is a kind of parallel awareness of tactical risks and opportunities?

But at longer time controls: there is still a question of what economists call “opportunity cost” - what must I forego if I spend time instead double-checking certain lines?

I am not a serious chess player, but I do compose and solve chess problems, and in both these areas, I reckon that one weakness is I don’t consider enough candidates. I can plunge prematurely into examining detailed lines.

Sometimes that’s productive, but other times I miss better possibilities that I would discover through breadth-first strategic thinking. Effective strategic thinking is hard, but at least I’m aware of the issue and consciously try to work against it. It’s best to do the strategic thinking first, before I go deep and get emotionally invested in particular lines. Once I have an idea of the space of different strategies, then I can triage the most promising ones, then allocating appropriating time to each of them becomes easier, and brief double-checking is a later stage.

By the way, I think this applies to life in general, not just chess. There is no doubt a rack of self-help books about the importance of strategic thinking.

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    I think we have a common understanding of the pros and cons of double checking - I subscribe to everything you wrote. However I feel that changing my ways would lead to a lot of blunders, unless I somehow addressed that too. I'm interested in what different perspectives are there for this problem (besides Smirnov and Kotov).
    – JohnnyQ
    Mar 6, 2021 at 7:09
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    @JohhnyQ I don't think you need change anything. Maybe Smirnov happens to be someone who has great accuracy for avoiding errors, and he doesn't need to check. It might be interesting for you to play more at faster time controls, to see what the effect on performance in slower formats. But I think the greatest "self-confidence" will come from knowing yourself and being true to that. Good luck! :D
    – Laska
    Mar 6, 2021 at 9:04

I think the key is to realize that what works for one person may not work for another person. Some people just make more careless mistakes than others 'by default' and have to make up for that by checking more. Just because one chess grandmaster tells you not to double-check does not at all mean that it is correct for you. In fact, not double-checking at all is definitely wrong for almost every chess player. What is definitely correct is that you have to figure out which subtrees of the search space you want to double-check. Maybe you are double-checking too many of them, and can do better if you skip checking some of the more clear-cut lines, or maybe not. Only you will be able to guess what is the best for you.

You also need to weigh the risks of making an error to guess how many times you want to check a subtree. I definitely check sacrifices a few times just to make sure I did not miss any possible case, because it is too painful to make erroneous sacrifices...

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