I cannot write everything because I don't know everything I do when I play chess. This, however, is a list of the things I do frequently.
1. I play to win. That's it. So I don't really think that I want to win, because that is the default. Everything else I do after that is subservient to the winning goal. I approach the game and my moves with a winning mentality.
2. I play the opening that I know most about. I have always played 1. e4, and I almost always start that way. Everything else that comes after that, I have seen at least once. This helps me gain confidence that I know what I am doing. Sometimes I cannot think straight when I am stressed out. The calm I feel after playing 1. e4 helps me think. I have won way more games than I have lost, overall. So I feel like I am going to win when I play 1.e4
3. I account for all my pieces. I look all over the board. I make sure I know where all my pieces are. (I also account for all my opponent's pieces.) This is not really thinking. It is just looking and seeing. As you look, your mind thinks. It has to interpret what it sees.
4. I explain every move that is made. I will not make a move if I cannot tell somebody why I made it. I will not play my move if I don't know what my opponent was doing with his last move.
5. I treat every position as a mate in 10 (I am laughing because this is not entirely true!) I search for the strongest continuation possible. The best way for me, is to assume that there is "mate" somewhere, and I don't want to find out after the game (that I missed it.)
6. What would Fischer or Capablanca play? Those are my Models. You need to see lots of games of your Model to have a feel of what they would play.
7. I usually think three moves ahead, no more! I can see 12 moves total - that is 4 variations of 3 moves each. Unless it's totally clear, like in the end game, I don't look too far ahead. I am not sure if this would help me if I played a GM. The good thing about Chess is that when your opponent makes a move, you have time to figure out what they are doing before they follow it up with something. You can always foil their plans.
8. I focus on the Chessboard and not the person I am playing. Well, except a few times, and I will talk about that in a later post! But playing the board is way better than playing the person.
9. I count to 32 before I make move - especially when I have a won position! There have been times when I have lost won positions because I was too excited. Counting while I am thinking and re-evaluating my decision, helps me find things that I could have missed. 32 is just the number of pieces at the beginning of the game. It takes me a long time to count to 32. It gives me time to reflect. Don't do this when you are short on time!
10. I think about the best times I won from a lost position, or when I created something to win... and tell myself I can do it again. I don't lose until I am dead.
11. Before I play the winning move or the resigning move, I think about what I will say to my opponent. It has to be nice either way. I don't leave the table/chair until I am ready to leave, win or lose. After a long fight, I just don't want to get up and fall, or to do something stupid, like forgetting to say, "nice game", or "I enjoyed playing you", or whatever. If I win, I don't want my opponent to feel like he is not good enough. If I lose, I don't want him to think, "what a jerk, good thing I kicked his butt!".