My Thought Process

Update: 10/17/2009

I modified the process based on conversations with FM Charles Galofre, I have merged the tactical and strategic scans into one. His point is that even if you find a strong tactical move, you should still look at the strategic aspects of the position since the game might be won with a quiet positional move which you would not have considered if you cut your search short once you had found a tactic.

The following is the thought process I have decided to employ during long games. The idea is to drill these questions in during practice, so that they become second nature when playing an regular game.

The idea is to create your own thought process checklist and make it your own.

It is highly recommended that you also check out Chessplanner by Blue Devil Knight, since it is more thorough than my checklist.

1. Threat Scan

I. What is my opponent threatening?

II. What are the consequences of my opponent’s last move? (how has the position changed?)

III. Do I have any checks, captures or threats (CCT)? Consider forcing moves as possible candidates

2.  Move Scan

A. Tactical Scan

I. Is there likely to be a tactic in the position?

a. Tactical Motifs: hanging pieces, weak back rank, discovered attack, pinned or skewerable along same rank, overworked pieces, lack of development, poorly guarded pieces, overworked pieces, forks, weak king position (uncastled King), large accumulation of pieces on one side, in-between moves.

Even if you find a strong tactical scan, if time allows do a positional scan. If you find a good move look for a better one.

B. Strategical Scan

(If there are no tactics, you need to come up with a plan)

I. Material balance

II. King safety

III.  Pawn structure

a. Who has the better pawn structure (look for doubled pawns, isolated pawns, and hanging pawns)
b. Are there any open lines or diagonals?
c. What are the strong and weak squares?
d. Who is controlling the center?
e. Who has more space and where on the board do they have it?

IV.. Activity
a. which pieces are active and which are not? (how can you make them more active)
b. Who has better development?
c. who has the initiative?

V. Minor pieces
a. Bishops (bishop pair, bad / good bishop, good diagonals for bishops)
b. Knights (outposts, strength compared with bishops)

VI. misc questions
a. what stage of the game are we in?
b. If we removed the Queen’s off the board, who has the better endgame?

4. Select your candidates
(based on scans above)

5. Analyze candidates (start with the most forcing)

6. Select move based on analysis

7. Blundercheck

8. Write down your move

9. Blundercheck again

10. Make your move

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