The Order of Thinking
When I chatted about attack and defence, it illustrated how we need to think in chess. Beginners often make a move with their own ideas at hand without considering what the opponent’s plan is. This is one of the most basic mistakes of chess, not considering how the player will reply. So many times, I have heard beginners say ‘I put my bishop there so I could take their queen next move’ only to leave their bishop where it could be taken totally undefended.
So how should you be thinking during a game?
What are your opponent’s tactics? – They’ve made their move and you so want to make yours but instead you need to stop and have a think. Why did they actually make that move? Where can the piece go now its on a new square? Is there something unblocked now it is no longer on its original position? Look for the immediate threats; are they trying to checkmate; is it a threat to take something; or is there some other sneaky trap such as a fork or disclosed attack.
What are your opponent’s strategies? – So you’ve taken a look and found no traps coming up because of the move. Does your opponent’s move matter? Yes! There is still a reason why they made the move, even though these are long term goals. Are they trying to put their piece on a square where it can move around more? Are they making their king safe? Is this a challenge for the strong central squares? Ask yourself what their plan is and then, if you think it is important, work out a way to stop or challenge it. Remember that a move that gives tactics can also give strategies so you have to think through both of these.
Do you have tactics? – Now you’ve checked you are safe and you’ve looked for ideas as to how to challenge your opponent’s strategies, its time to think of your own tactics. Has the opponent’s move allowed you to come up with any tricks and traps? Have they left themselves open for a checkmate? You may have been setting up a tactic for the last couple of moves so is this the move you should launch it?
What are your strategies? – So you have no tactics or traps or takes that win points. Now is the time to consider your long term plans. You’ve probably already got a strategy set up much earlier in the game (well you should have!) but this modifies itself according to the way your opponent plays and the mistakes that are made. There may be better strategic moves now, or perhaps you’re ready to move that piece that claims the open file. Can you continue building up the attack on the kingside or is it time to launch the pawn storm on the queenside?
Really its swings and roundabouts. There’ll often be times when your opponent’s move has tactics and strategies but you can still use both as well. You have to way up what is best which has the most advantages and the least disadvantages. A move may improve your strategic plans significantly but give your opponent a tactic that may give them some edge (think of a sacrifice where you give up points to have a better attack going). On the other hand, a strategic move by you might also give your opponent options. In the end, its down to you to decide which is best.