Thinking About Thinking

Sometimes I get the questions, “How do you plan your moves or know what moves to play?” Or “How do you determine candidate moves and figure out which one is best?” This is good start.

Well, there are times in which the moves are obvious and can be played very quickly.

Under this category are:

1) Book Moves – Opening moves that are considered standard, so you don’t have to think about them. For example, 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 represents the Nimzo-Indian Defence and is probably known by at least 90% of all players. The moves can be played quite quickly if both players want to get to that position.

2) Personal Preferences – Moves that a player has decided before the start of game he would like to play when facing a certain position. For example, in the King’s Gambit Accepted (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4), a player may have already decided he may go for the Bishop’s Gambit (3.Bc4), and can play that move instantly. A more experienced player might decide to come up with a new move in a certain position (also called Theoretical Novelty, or TN for short), and then play it to surprise his opponent.

3) Thematic Moves – It is well known that a rook belongs behind a pawn to assist in its promotion. Such thematic moves lessen the time in searching for the right move. Mostly used in speed games where time is limited.

If the moves are not obvious, then it is of great benefit to have a mental hierarchy of what constitutes a good, or even the best move in a certain position.

Here is my list:

1) Does my move, or a series of moves, produce or force a checkmate? If the answer is a yes, then there is no reason to consider anything else as a checkmate ends the game.

2) Does my move, or a series of a move, produce or force a material advantage?

Here is an example:

Maciej Swicarz (2145)-Radoslaw Jedynak (2140)
Polish U18 Team Ch..
Augustow, 1996
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5 4.Qg4 Nc6 5.Nf3 Nge7 6.c3 cxd4 7.Bd3 Qc7 8.O-O Nxe5 9.Nxe5 Qxe5 10.cxd4 Qd6 11.Nc3 Bd7 12.a4 a6 13.a5 Rc8 14.Bd2 Qb8 15.Rfe1 Qa7 16.Bg5 h5 17.Qh4 b5 18.axb6 Qxb6

19.Bxe7! Bxe7 20.Qxe7+!! 1-0 (20…Kxe7 21.Nxd5! wins material.)

I read somewhere that winning a queen gives a player at least a 98% of winning the game. Winning a rook is at least 96%. Don’t ask me where I got this information, it was something I read a long time ago, but it does seem to be accurate. Maybe someone should do a more complete study here.

3) Does advancing a piece create problems for my opponent? For example, in the Fried Liver attack (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5?! 6.Nxf7!) White’s sixth move causes confusion in Black’s position and he has to focus on staying alive. It is also a Book Move.

4) Does pushing a pawn cause a similar effect?

Rhee-Hinrichsen
El Segundo, CA, 1969
[White’s eighth move causes chaos in Black’s position which climaxes in spectacular mating sequence.]
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 d6 5.Nc3 Nf6 6.Bc4 g6 7.Nxc6 bxc6 8.e5
(This sequence of opening moves is known as the Magnus Smith. The pawn advance is key here.) 8…Nd7 9.exd6 exd6 10.O-O Be7 11.Re1 O-O 12.Bh6 Re8 13.Qf3 d5 14.Nxd5 Bb7

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2020_08_20_b.jpg

15.Qxf7+!! Kxf7 16.Ne3+ Kf6 17.Ng4+ Kf5 18.Be6mate 1-0

5) How about on a board with less pieces? Does pushing a pawn increase the potential for queening? Best if a pawn move creates problems for my opponent and threaten to queen at the same time.

It is best to keep in mind that such moves are not played in isolation. The opponent has to make every other move. As such, one has to take into account that short of a forced mate, the opponent can, and usually will, be attacking as well. And one should also use the above list to check if his move, or series of moves, does not allow his opponent to counterattack with a more forceful move.

For example, if I make my move, does this allow my opponent to checkmate me? Can he win material if I was to make this certain move? Etc.

Suddenly, the planning gets complicated. One must now plan, studying, think, and sweat. And you are lucky, the best move, or at least a serious candidate move, will spring out from your labors.

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