My chess thinking process

In chess, one of the basics is the thinking system. Your chess thinking process helps you find good moves in any position. This process comes naturally to talented players, that’s why there isn’t a lot of resources about it. However it is a very important part of chess.

chess thinking process

Without a good thinking system:

  • you can blunder because you missed something,
  • you can get into time trouble because you can’t decide which move to choose.

Here is my chess thinking process which is largely inspired by the course “The Grandmaster’s Secrets” by GM Igor Smirnov:

When my clock is ticking:

1. What it the threat?

Immediately after my opponent’s move, I ask myself: “what is the idea of this move?” and “what does my opponent want to do next?”

These questions help me prevent blunders and defend against threats.

2. My plan

After acknowledging the potential threats, I then think about what I want to accomplish.

In the opening, I want to develop my pieces, castle and connect the rooks (developing the queen).

For the middlegame, I want to find something to attack (the king or any weakness in my opponent’s position) and I need to figure out how to attack (making a plan).

In the endgame, I want to create and advance passed pawns and/or attack the opponent’s weak pawns.

To help me find concrete candidate moves to accomplish those tasks, I use the “base strategical principles” taught in GM secrets.

3. Calculation

After selecting my candidate moves, I calculate them and I choose the most promising one (according to my understanding of the final position).

I only calculate the forcing variations. When there isn’t any forcing lines, I use my positional understanding to evaluate my choices.

4. Anti-blunder check

Before making my intended move, I first check the aggressive replies (checks, captures and threats) of my opponent. This helps me avoid blunders and any surprise attack. When I’m sure that my move is safe, I then make it and press the clock.

When my opponent’s clock is ticking:

I first check the time on the clocks and make sure I will not be in time trouble by adjusting the time I allocate per move if I’m behind.

Then I think about generalities : what is my plan?, what is the evaluation of the position?, …

If my opponent is still thinking by then, I usually relax, hydrate and eat some fruit (glucose is the brain’s fuel), walk and stretch.

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