In my chess lessons this week I’ve been focusing on using your imagination to find moves that your opponent may have missed.    That, after all, is how most chess games are decided.  Either you or your opponent miss something and allow their opponent to thereby get an advantage.  I’m sure we can all remember occasions when, just as our hand quits the piece to complete our move, we suddenly realise that we have left our Queen en-prise or allowed mate in one, etc.  

I still have nightmares about a game of inter-school chess 50 years ago when my opponent was about to blunder a piece and, as his hand quitted the piece by a couple of inches, I jumped for joy.  My leap however was premature as he promptly re-grabbed the piece and then claimed that he had never let go!   I lost the game, but since then I have tried to keep a poker face during play.

“Thinking” is not an easy message to get across to young minds.  I have a player in one of my coaching groups who seems unable to think more than one move deep.  He loves making moves that threaten something but doesn’t continue thinking to work out whether or not they are good threats.  When it is all boiled down chess is a game where you are trying to find a move that your opponent has missed.   You do that by either looking at more candidate moves than you opponent or by analysing a line deeper than your opponent.  If he stops thinking at move 3 but you press on and find a good move at move 5 of a variation then you will no doubt win the game.

How does a player develop his “imagination” and so find obscure moves that others may miss?  A simple thing that everyone can do is just to quickly “look at all checks and captures” just in case one of them turns out to be good.  Beyond that exercises such as doing lots of puzzles on “Chess Tempo” will help to build up the database of chess patterns in your brain so that you are more likely to recognise a combination that comes up in your game because you have seen something similar before.  The other idea is to just force yourself to analyse that extra move deeper.  Many players may look at a line but as soon as they see that next move their queen will be taken (for example) they stop and reject that variation.  There may be a killer move for them just one or two moves deeper, but they won’t find it because they have stopped analysing too early.

For today’s puzzle, which I think is really cute (although very hard), I am going to test your imagination and ability to analyse.

White appears to be in all sorts of trouble as he tries to stop Black from Queening the “c” pawn.  Can you help him to save the game?

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