Lesson 1: On (almost) every move, consider ALL Checks, Captures and Threats

This position arose in one of my recent games. White is better here to the tune of about +6, partly because of the knight on the great c6-outpost, the pressure on the backward c-pawn and the superior dark squared bishop.

My focus was so much on adding pressure on c7, that I didn’t even perform one of my normal steps at almost every move: consider all forcing and potentially forcing moves, that is checks, captures and threats.

Had I done that, I would have looked at 1.Qxf7+. Now I would have dismissed it fairly quickly, because it leads to nothing, but it would have alerted me to the fact that my Queen was staring down the f-file straight at Black’s bewildered King.

That would have been an important piece of information when I moved on to Threats, because 1.Nd8, threatening 2.Qf7#, suddenly becomes an obvious candidate move. It is, in fact, the best move by some margin.

But in my preoccupation with c7, I got carried away with the protected d8 square and played 1.Bd8, which is parried by 1…Qd7, and although White is still winning after say 2.c5 dxc5 3.d6 Qxd6 4.Bxc7, it is nothing like the advantage after 1.Nd8.

Here are some of the possible continuations after 1.Nd8:

1…Qd7 2.Ne6+ Ke8 3.Nxg7+

1…f6 2.Ne6+ Kf7 3.Bxf6 Nxf6 4.Ng5+

1…Nf6 2.Bxf6 bxf6 3.Qxf6

Lesson 2


About becomingachessmaster

I am a chess player in my late forties with a goal to be as good a chess player as I can possibly be. I hope you find some value from following my experiences.
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5 Responses to Lesson 1: On (almost) every move, consider ALL Checks, Captures and Threats

  1. calydon says:

    Do you use a checklist of considerations to make on every move? I have read some chess books that recommend doing this and I use checklists now in my financial work since just one mental error due to fatigue could be disastrous. That’s why pilots are required to use them. Even though they could do the pre-flight routine in their sleep the risk of a single error is too high.
    I guess it would be something like this. https://www.chess.com/forum/view/general/your-mental-checklist-you-run-through-before-each-move

    At first it’s tedious to do this every time but then it becomes second nature.


  2. Hi, thanks for your comment.

    I don’t use a checklist on every move. For example, if I am in a known opening line, then obviously I won’t use a list.

    I use a shortcut version of the checklist when I am out of opening knowledge and I want to a) find candidate moves (look at checks, captures and threats, look at what opponent might want to do, consider my own plans and where pieces might be best placed, etc.) and b) check my candidate moves are not stupid (look at opponent’s checks, captures and threats after my candidate move).

    A version of the list is in the link I made in the post, to this post: https://becomingachessmaster.com/2015/04/09/how-to-choose-a-chess-move/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Lesson 2: When ahead, don’t overthink | Becoming a Chess Master

  4. David says:

    This sort of shows the limitation to calculation versus road-mapping. Calculation can help you find Nd8, but it won’t every time. You have to fumble through calculations, hope you don’t pitch it as a candidate move too early, and then accidentally calculate through to see the pattern. On the other hand, having better and better pattern recognition means seeing it automatically. Nd8 was my first and only move when looking at the given position, for example. I think it shows the extreme importance of speed chess and speed improvement methods for improving in the standard/classic control.


  5. Thanks for the comment, David.
    I agree that pattern recognition (or roadmap) is important; that is where the spaced repetition, low difficulty, high volume tactics training comes in. However, to be able to do something quickly, you must first learn how to do it at all. I still find myself in the “how to do it” phase, so am ramping up that aspect of my training again after a few dryer months.


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