I sometimes find it very difficult to determine the accurate moves in middle game. When a tough opponent is in front of me I dont let to attack at first. I strengthen my defense. But if I ever try to attack, the opponent destroys my defense and I fail! Sometimes I feel this is the right move and also understand the consequence of the move! But still there remain quirks on my move and the opponent take the advantage! I even find it difficult to calculate moves as there are so many possibilities for an opponent! So i want to know how to determine the accurate moves as the grandmasters do and also how many moves should I calculate before any move?

[White "NN"]
[Black "user4226"]
[StartFlipped "1"]
     [FEN ""]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. a3 d6 6. b4 Bb6 7. Bxc6+ bxc6 8. h3 O-O 9. Bb2 a5 10. O-O Be6 11. Nbd2 Nh5 12. Nxe5 dxe5 13. Qxh5 f6 14. Rad1 axb4 15. axb4 Ra2 16. Rb1 Bd4 17. Bxd4 Qxd4 18. Rfc1 Rb2 19. Rxb2 Qxb2 20. Qd1 Qxb4 21. Rb1 Qe7 22. Rb7 Qd7 23. Nb3 Bxb3 24. Rxb3 f5 25. exf5 Qxf5 26. f3 Rd8 

  • I'd like to get more information before I can answer. Can you provide an example? What's your playing strength?
    – JiK
    Nov 14, 2014 at 9:45
  • I have a elo rating of 1685 on www.chess.com live standard
    – user4226
    Nov 14, 2014 at 10:26
  • Can you post a game or two that illustrates your problem? Nov 14, 2014 at 13:27
  • 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3 Bc5 5. a3 d6 6. b4 Bb6 7. Bxc6+ bxc6 8. h3 O-O 9. Bb2 a5 10. O-O Be6 11. Nbd2 Nh5 12. Nxe5 dxe5 13. Qxh5 f6 14. Rad1 axb4 15. axb4 Ra2 16. Rb1 Bd4 17. Bxd4 Qxd4 18. Rfc1 Rb2 19. Rxb2 Qxb2 20. Qd1 Qxb4 21. Rb1 Qe7 22. Rb7 Qd7 23. Nb3 Bxb3 24. Rxb3 f5 25. exf5 Qxf5 26. f3 Rd8
    – user4226
    Nov 14, 2014 at 20:20
  • In the above game i am playing with black. I want to know the best moves there after in the game!
    – user4226
    Nov 14, 2014 at 20:21

3 Answers 3


Chess is a skill that requires hard work and dedicated toning, just like learning to play a musical instrument. Unless you are very exceptional, you won't become a master at it within a few weeks, months or years (the good news is that you don't have to be a master to have fun with chess). Some players were lucky enough to be very talented, had the opportunity to start young and maintained an almost obsessive interest in it - they are the ones most likely to become IM's or GM's after 10 to 15 year of dedication. Most of us just play for fun and must maintain a realistic perspective.

I suggest you read Willy Hendriks' book "Move First, Think Later". The book addresses the very essence of your question, which is: How do I improve my chess?

As a warning, the book is controversial, especially since it spends a lot of effort in undermining certain common conceptions about chess improvement. Hendriks is not scared of taking on the establishment of chess training.

From memory, here is a list of things he suggests you focus on:

  • Tactical puzzles. Nothing improves your chess quicker than doing a lot (as in thousands) of puzzles, as it "programs" your brain to spot good moves and continuations.
  • Play a lot. Over the board, on the internet, as much as you have an appetite for.
  • Notate and study your games. Try to understand where you went wrong (I, for example, found I have a weakness in spotting tactics on my king behind the pawn line).
  • Focus on the things that motivate you. For example, here on chess.SE you will often see the advice "don't study opening theory at beginner level". Well, if you like studying opening theory, then studying opening theory is perfectly fine.

Here is a list of things he suggests you don't waste your time on:

  • Worrying about general rules and common adages (for example "the bishop pair", "respond to an attack on the flank with an attack in the center", leave your thinking time for the "critical moment")
  • Approaching chess from some ideological/academic angle (like Silman's "imbalances"). Hendriks argues that chess ability is not a rational skill, and a rational-based approach will not help in improving it greatly (this point probably needs some elaboration - he's not saying chess is irrational, but that taking some kind of reasoned approach won't help you much - you are going to be better off with an intuition toned through practice than over-the-board reasoning).
  • Worrying about developing some kind of structured thought process (for example: 1. Consider threats. 2. Consider attack points. 3. Consider tactical motifs. 4. Consider alternatives etc etc). Hendriks argues from findings in neuroscience that your brain functions heavily in parallel - don't try to serialize your thinking by adopting a thought process that sub-divides goals - instead, let your brain do its work naturally. Just find the good move!
  • Trying to calculate every position 10 moves deep. GM's don't generally calculate that deep (unless the tactical situation calls for it, of course).
  • Following some abstract "plan". Rather, focus on finding good squares for you pieces and making good moves that forces your opponent to counter actively.
  • Spending 10,000 hours doing it even if you hate it.
  • 3
    "Nothing improves your chess quicker than doing a lot (as in thousands) of puzzles" - For this I personally use lichess.org/training - literally thousands of puzzles for free.
    – user11153
    Nov 14, 2014 at 13:44

Based on the way your question is written, I think your problem is that you think only about "attacking" and "defending", not about the targets what you should attack or defend. If you try hard to do something that your position is not good for, you end up making your position worse even if you calculate perfectly.

I don't know your playing strength, but I think I improved from ~1400 to ~1600 in a month just by reading IM Jeremy Silman's "The Amateur's Mind". It taught me one thing: you need to have an idea what you want to achieve in the position before you start calculating. So plans in chess are not series of moves moves but rather something like "I wan't to attack that weak pawn so he has to defend it and then I can use my more active pieces to attack that other weak square there."

I'm not claiming Silman's thinking technique is excellent. Now (as a ~2000 player) I use it for analyzing games and training with unlimited time, but in games I use it mostly to determine weaknesses and strengths of both sides in the position. I've found the actual technique to be too unpractical ("ideological" as @firtydank says in his answer) for real games. For example, he says somewhere that if you have 60 minutes on the clock, it's OK to spend 45 minutes trying to come up with a plan, because once you have a plan, you instantly know what to do in the next moves. My experience tells that around 90 % of the time, my opponent's move is completely unpredicted by me, and around 50 % of the time, it ruins my previous plan, and I have to come up with a new one.

However, here's the main point of my answer: If my original plan was somewhat sensible, my opponent needs to take it into account, and thus he can't do whatever he likes, and I have good chances of winning the game, even if I have to find a new plan each move. If my original plan is totally useless, my opponent doesn't need to care about it and will be able to do whatever he wants, most likely winning the game. Often it looks like I've made a tactical error, allowing him to attack, but I think tactical and strategical errors go somewhat hand in hand: it is easy to miscalculate if you are under pressure, and it's easy to miss opponent's attacking chances if you don't know that he has a good position for attacking because your pieces are not putting any pressure on his position.


First of all Willy Hendriks' book "Move First, Think Later" is clearly not for you nor firtydank. It is for the more experienced player who is already very familiar with the rules, vaguely aware that there are exceptions and wanting to know more.

Second, it is clear that you don't have much of a clue about general principles. When I saw your move 11 .. Nh5 my initial reaction of WTF? wasn't because I immediately saw you were dropping a pawn (that came later) it was because it is completely uncalled for and does nothing to address the needs of the position. It is just a wild planless attacking move.

What are the needs of the position? Well, you should stop and take stock. First of all, you have the bishop pair which is a long term advantage (ignore firtydank and Willy Hendriks ;-). The long term question for you is how to take advantage of the bishop pair. But the short term comes before the long term.

Before that you have a pawn weakness on the queenside with your isolated rook's pawn and perhaps more pressing white can actually make a clear passed pawn on the queenside with bxa and then his a pawn is going to win him the endgame and may very well cause you serious problems in the middlegame. Chop it off first with axb.

Then note that you haven't completed your development. Your rooks aren't connected. Decide whether you want to play Qe7 or Qd7. But wait! If you play Qd7 you'll block your bishop and he will likely play Ng5 threatening to take your bishop and deprive you of your bishop pair advantage. So, maybe h6 first to prevent that. h6 also has the advantage of making air for your king. Not urgent now but later in the game your opponent won't have the chance of a cheap back rank mate if you give your king some air.

So, next h6. Meanwhile White also gets to move. Did he play d4? He would like to! If he did you will have to deal with that next. If he didn't, where do you put your queen? Well, you have lots of pieces pointing at the kingside. Maybe you want your queen on d7 backing up the bishop for a possible sacrifice on a3? Maybe you want to consider g5 then g4? Or how about Nh7 - g5 and start an attack that way? If he plays NxN you have QxN and Bxh3 is a serious threat.

Now, not all of these are necessarily sound. Maybe even none of them are, but these are the kind of thoughts you should be having in the position after white's 11th move. See that the position calls for axb followed by h6 on your next move then see what white does and only then think about how you are going to launch a kingside attack.

Note that one of the basic principles which firtydank is perhaps suggesting you ignore is that you have to have some kind of excuse to launch an attack. If white has done nothing wrong and you don't have some kind of advantage in the area where you want to attack then an attack is going to fail against a half decent opponent. So, if you don't have that kind of advantage yet then continue the build up.

You also need to be aware of things that would be positionally bad for you. If you play c5 then you are turning your black squared bishop into a bad bishop because it is blocked by a lot of your own pawns. It will be in danger of becoming just a "tall pawn". Beware of playing c5 or letting your opponent trick or manoeuvre you into playing it.

  • 1
    Actually I think Nh5 is an obvious candidate move, because a knight on f4 would be very annoying for white. It would take quite some time to dislodge such a knight. If black could just magically transfer the knight directly to f4, I would definitely prefer to play black, there is a very dangerous attack coming up. Dec 28, 2014 at 11:02
  • After 11... Nh5 12. Nxe5 I think white should have continued 12... Ng3 instead of just giving up a pawn. Dec 28, 2014 at 15:45
  • @DagOskarMadsen 12...Ng3 13. Nxc6
    – Brian Towers
    Dec 28, 2014 at 20:44
  • I was thinking 12... Ng3 13. Nxc6 Qd7. Haven't checked with computer. Dec 28, 2014 at 22:42
  • @DagOskarMadsen Me neither. 14. b5 and I still prefer white
    – Brian Towers
    Dec 29, 2014 at 14:23

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