As a chess coach, what do you think is my biggest battle in trying to teach kids how to play better?  It’s to get them to stop analysing and rather to try to understand what is happening in the position and instead to look for ideas.

On seeing a position most children just launch into analysis.   “What can I threaten?” ….. “Do I have an attack?” and so on.   I had a class last Wednesday where I tried to explain to the students that if you are trying to solve a puzzle for example, there are in fact four things that you need to think about.

  1. What do I want to do?
  2. What does he want to do?
  3. What can he do to stop my plan?
  4. What can I do to stop his plan?

If you stop and first look at the ideas as above then that will clarify what is happening in the position and help you to refine/reduce the amount of anaysis that you have to do.   For instance if you want to queen a pawn and he does also, but his pawn is faster, then you can forget about attacking ideas and focus on how to stop him queening.

Chess, after all, is largely a battle to see ideas that your opponent may have missed.   An average player may reject moves because they appear to be bad (that move loses my queen!) but a better player will look a little deeper just in case there is something good there even if you do lose your queen.   Even simple ideas can sometimes elude us as most players are just coasting along looking at the obvious moves whereas a more imaginative player is looking at more candidate moves than his opponent.

The other night I was playing through some games on and I stumbled across a nice example of one player totally missing an idea.  I bet he kicked himself after the game.

Have a look at the position below (Black to play) and see if you can find an idea for Black that just might work …. with a little help from your unimaginative opponent.