How to Analyze Chess
Splane © 2008
Levels 1-3 are tactics, things computers do perfectly. You
should perform these tasks when it is your turn to move. Level 4 is positional thinking,
which you perform when it’s the opponent’s turn to move. Positional judgment involves tradeoffs, so
deciding what to do is more of an art than a science.
Level One – Checks
and Checkmate Threats
all of your checks. Examine each one. If you see a sequence that leads to
a forced win, play it.
- If you
don’t see a sequence that leads to a forced win, then examine all of the
opponent’s checks. If you see a
sequence that leads to a forced loss, prevent it.
- Find all
of your moves that threaten to checkmate on the following move. If your
opponent can’t stop the mate, play the threatening move.
- If you
don’t see an unstoppable checkmate threat for you, then examine your
opponent’s options. If he can threaten to checkmate you, prevent it.
there are no dangerous check or checkmate threats, examine all of the
Level Two – Captures
all your captures. If any of these win material, find the one that wins
all your opponent’s captures. If any of these win material, find the one
that wins the most.
If your best capture wins more material than his best capture, play your
capture. If his best capture wins more material than your best capture,
prevent his capture.
capturing sequences, watch out for in-between moves where the opponent
plays something other than the expected recapture.
there are no checks or captures that win material, look for threatening
Level Three – Threats
Find the biggest threat for each side. If yours is the
biggest, play it. If his is the biggest, avoid it.
Examples of Threats
Attacks (For example a pawn move that attacks a knight.)
(One piece attacking two pieces in different directions. All pieces can
(A bishop, rook, or queen attacks two pieces on the same line. A line is a rank, file, or diagonal. If
the attacked piece moves, the one behind it can be captured.)
Checks (One piece moves with check, while a piece behind it also gives
and Double Attacks (Your piece moves, exposing an attack by another one of
your pieces against an opponent’s piece. If the moving piece also makes a
threat it is called a double attack.)
(A pinned piece can often be successfully attacked by a pawn. It also
loses control over squares it would normally control so those squares can
be used by the attacker.)
Pieces (Pieces that have nowhere to move when attacked by pawns. Bishops
are often trapped by pawns.)
Promotion (Safely getting a pawn through to the eighth rank is a common
Pieces (A piece may be tied down to guarding more than one square. Moving
a piece to one of those squares forces the defender to give up the defense
of the other square.
sacrifices. A piece moves, often as a sacrifice, to let another piece
occupy its previous square and create powerful threats.
Level Four –
there are no checks, captures or threats, look for ways to strengthen your
position, or weaken the opponent’s.
There are many positional ideas to choose from. Here are some key ideas.
Ask yourself, “What does my
opponent want to do?” If it is
dangerous, stop it.
Identify your most inactive piece
and try to find a better square for it.
that can make many moves are stronger than those with fewer choices.
that are blocked by your own pawns or pieces are poorly placed.
that threaten to capture the opponent’s pieces or pawns are well placed.
Pawns and Squares
are strongest when they are side by side.
that are doubled, backward, or isolated are weaker.
- It is
often a good idea to push the rook pawn in front of your castled king to
avoid back row checkmates. However, this makes it easier for your opponent
to trade off the pawns in front of your king.
- If you
are behind in development it is usually a bad idea to make pawn moves.
there are no pawns on the central files it is usually a bad idea to move
pawns until the ending is reached.
strong square is one on which your piece can not be attacked by enemy
pawns. Usually it is in the center or in the enemy’s half of the board.
- A weak
square is one that needs to be guarded by a piece.
squares in front of weak pawns are often weak because enemy pieces can sit
- If a
king lacks pawn cover, or if an attacker has more pieces than the defender
in the king’s vicinity, the king is vulnerable to attack.
the center files blocked by pawns a king is often safer in the middle than
- If one
or more of the center files are open, the kings are safer being castled.
kings castle on opposite sides, the player whose pawns attack the enemy
king fastest usually wins.
- If the
enemy has a queen, or two rooks, keep the king in a safe place.
several pieces have been exchanged, the king is usually safe from
checkmate and should be used actively.
If you are ahead in material by a piece
or more, you do not need to win more material. Play it safe.
The first rule is always “Don’t allow
Aim for even trades to try and reach a winning
Protect your king!
Do not trade off all of the pawns.
If you are behind in material the
ending is lost so avoid even trades.
Your best chance is to try to checkmate your
Try to make exchanges which unbalance the
material: knight for bishop, rook and pawn for two minor pieces, and so on.
Unbalancing the pieces makes it harder for the opponent to trade down into a
If your opponent has a bad piece, limited in its
movements, do not exchange it.
If your opponent has a piece which can move to
many squares or is performing a vital task, try to trade for it.
If your opponent has two pieces that need to
occupy the same square to be effective, avoid exchanging them.
After the opening stage, if your opponent lacks
space for his pieces, avoid piece trades.
The exchange of even one pair of pieces is often
enough to relieve a cramped position.