Watching chess online on Youtube (Eric Hansen, Daniel Naroditsky, Kevin Bordi ...) playing blitz I noticed that they often try at first to avoid a "check" even if the potential following moves do not seem to show any dangerous threat (and, of course, they don't have a check or an obvious winning move themselves).

Obviously a "check" induces a forced move, and this is indeed uncomfortable, but it seems that the higher rated players tend to top-prioritize a check, maybe overlooking another move that might ensure some gain (and a 3-0/1 blitz game does not allow for a deep calculation).

Is it mostly by reflex? Avoiding a check - first - would appease the mind in a blitz game?

(Sorry, don't have a game to show right now)

  • I think it depends on their opponent. Sometimes, you might be so cautious against your opponent because you know he/she can use any mistake to win easily. Also, it depends on their analysis. Sometimes you don't want to play in an endgame soon, so you won't give a chance for exchanges to your opponent. Commented Jan 2 at 5:07

2 Answers 2


it seems that the higher rated players tend to top-prioritize a check, maybe overlooking another move that might ensure some gain

Quite the contrary; there's a chess saying (attributed to Fischer) "Patzer sees check, gives check." Meaning that the stronger the player, the more they rely on the actual strength of a move than it being a check.

Note that e.g. Naroditsky is one of the best online blitz players in the world. If a player of that caliber avoids a check when you don't see a reason for that, it would typically be because they see deeper than you (and deeper than they have time to comment on), not for some psychological reasons.

Blitz is largely about an ability to quickly find a useful, improving move, and it is a fact that a move eschewing a check is quite often such a move. Even if you don't see the check as dangerous, it might be that it is, actually, dangerous, and a strong player sees it, or it may become dangerous a few moves form now. This has pragmatic component in blitz - if you play a prophylactic move, you don't need to calculate the check on every move - but also it may have an objective value, in that you will have some moves available that would be otherwise refuted by the check.

If it feels to you that strong players avoid checks more often than necessary, it might indicate that you systematically underestimate the dangers of checks and the value of prophylactics, and working to revise that bias would improve your game.

  • excellent answer, but the spelling is prophilactic.
    – Philip Roe
    Commented Jan 4 at 17:25
  • @PhilipRoe thanks - corrected.
    – Kostya_I
    Commented Jan 4 at 17:30
  • 2
    Not to be impolite, but it's actually prophylactic, not prophilactic. Before suggesting such a revision it might be sensible to check with google. The version spelled with an "i" gets around 80,000 hits while the "y" version gets 236 million. Commented Jan 5 at 4:16

Good question!

It is generally good to avoid checks. While the following moves after a check may not affect the player on a small scale; checks generally help the attacking player. Even if the ensuing moves won't cause problems for the attacked player, checks are avoided by principal due to the following reasons:

The check helps enemy development

The attacking piece is devolved while attacking the enemy king, this forces the enemy player to lose tempo and momentum. Due to the fact that the enemy player must block the check or move out of check. This concept is extremely important in the opening, as the goal is to get your pieces out as fast as possible. If the flow of development is interrupted by a check, the attacking player will be two moves up on the enemy player

Checks win momentum and tempo

One of the critical parts of chess is having the momentum. When an enemy king is checked it starts to develop a momentum and build a tempo of attack

The concept of momentum is simple, if you are replying to an attack, then you don't have the momentum, the enemy does. However, if you attack, and your opponent has to reply, than you have the momentum, and are one move up on your opponent

Side affects

Pieces blocking check are pinned and can be pressured later in the game, also if the checked king ever has to move out of check before castling it will no longer be able to castle putting the attacked king at a major disadvantage

Saving time

In blitz and bullet, the key reason for avoiding checks is the amount of time it takes to analyze whether or not a check will lead to a major attack takes to much time. So the check is blocked

Better safe than sorry!

I hope this helps!

  • Note that if your opponent gives a check, they win a tempo, but if you spend a move preempting the check, you also hand them the same tempo. So, it is actually a bit more subtle.
    – Kostya_I
    Commented Jan 5 at 8:32

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