Have you ever had that moment when you realize you made a mistake, right after you made your move? You can’t believe your own eyes?! You almost feel like pulling your own hair out?! You’re not alone! It happens to the very best: Garry Kasparov blundered his queen against Viswanathan Anand in this legendary blitz game from 1996 in Geneva. We’ve all heard that every move has a consequence and one should think before to move. But how exactly? Here are 5 questions to ask yourself before you make your move.
1 Are there any immediate threats from my opponent?
As a result of his or her last move, is your opponent threatening any immediate tactical combinations such as double attacks, skewers, discovered checks, deflections, trapped pieces …? Can your opponent check you and follow the check up with any of the above? Can your opponent threaten a checkmate and follow the threat up with any of the above? Can your opponent capture one of your pieces and upon recapture from your side follow up with any of the above? Can your opponent approach your king, expose your king or entice your king towards more dangerous waters?
2 How did my opponent’s last move change the position?
Now it’s time to have a closer look at the chess board: observe what has happened to the position. Every move has a consequence and firstly, you want to identify the consequences of your opponent’s last move. Is there any piece of yours under attack now? Any files, ranks or diagonals that are now opened up or shut down? Which squares have become available for your pieces? Which squares are no longer available? It’s important to not only look at where the piece has moved to but also where it has moved from: what was the piece doing at it’s original square in the first place? Did (s)he create any weaknesses by leaving that square?
3 What is the long term strategic plan of my opponent?
Now it’s time to ask yourself the question why: why did your opponent make this move? What’s the purpose of the move? Is (s)he planning an attack anytime soon? Maybe it’s a prophylactic move? Maybe (s)he’s just gradually improving his/her position?
Don’t trick yourself into believing that your opponent doesn’t know what (s)he is doing. Even though this might be true occasionally, you want to play every game, every move as if you’d be playing yourself.
Your opponent, your opponent, your opponent…. What about me???
Yes, in chess, it’s important to focus on the other person first. It’s almost as if you’re listening to what your opponent tells you with his/her last move. Once you have a better understanding of your opponent’s intentions, it’s time to think about your move and come with a response.
4 How can I prevent my opponent’s plan?
Again my opponent??? One more question to keep at the back of your mind before you build your own plan. After question 3, you have a better understanding of what your opponent is trying to do. Make sure that after whatever move you’re planning to make, your opponent can’t just run his plan freely without any obstruction from your part.
5 What’s my biggest opportunity?
By now, you have a pretty good idea of what your opponent is trying to achieve and how you can prevent it from happening. Go through questions 1 and 3 again but from your point of view this time. This serves as the basis for forming your own plan. Plenty of ideas are coming to mind now and it’s time to make a decision: many good candidate moves but how do you select the best one? What’s my biggest opportunity? The answer might surprise you: LET IT GO! Take a deep breath, exhale slowly, follow your gut feeling and make your move!