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How do you cope with going blank, so to speak, and not know what to do next during a game? Or am I the only one that faces this problem from time to time?
You need to become familiar with general middlegame and endgame principles so you can assess the strengths and weaknesses in your position and your opponents. If you don't know general rules of thumb like a Rook on the 7th rank is worth a pawn, trade pawns when a pawn down and pieces when a pawn up, and the easiest endings to draw are those with opposite-color Bishops you need to learn them - and lots more!
First read My System by Nimzovitch, next read something by Euwe, Fine, Kotov or Romanovsky - they all wrote excellent works on middlegames and general strategic principles.
You should also work on endgame principles, try reading a general endgame book by Chernev, Euwe or Keres for starters. Fines Basic Chess Endings is indispensable as a general endgame reference book, but it's not meant to be read all the way through anymore than a dictionary is.
Wow. You learn something new every day. A rook on the 7th rank is worth a pawn? Never again shall I place a rook on the seventh rank. No wonder my chess rating is so lowly
NIMZOROY, I appreciate your suggestions of books, because I do purchase books suggested on this site, but you did not answer my question about how you cope with those times when it seems it is not clear what to do next. What is your thought process to clear the fog? I was thinking more like coming up against what the writers call "writer's-block."
Don't stand in the way of someone who sees a chance to show off how smart they are by telling you what you need to do, even if it isn't what you need to do.
I thought Nimzoroy was answering your question.
How do you cope with times when you don't know what to do next? It sounds to me like you're asking how to generate ideas at the chess board. The more knowledge you have, the more able you will be to generate ideas for the given position.
In general, in order to figure out what to do next, you first identify the strengths and weaknesses for each side, then determine how you might use your strengths to exploit your opponent's weaknesses. At the same time you have to consider whether your opponent will do the same to you and can you defend your weaknesses.
If there is no way to directly exploit a weakness, you work on increasing your strength. Which of your pieces is not doing as much as it can and would be more helpful on another square? do you need to fix your pawn structure? do you have undefended pieces? is it useful to add another support to a strong square?
So, how do you cope with not having an idea at the chess board? Use your knowledge to break down the position and build up an idea.
When in doubt, try to improve the positioning of your pieces, and try to play in the center.
Look for a way to improve the position. You don't have to see all the way to the end of the game. Just find something that makes your position better. Get your pieces to more active squares. Control important files, diagonals and squares. Move your forces to concentrate force in the area of the board where the attack is going to come, or where you are going to attack. Put pressure on weak pawns, such as isolated or backward pawns, so the other guy has to tie up resoruces defending them. Always have a plan, but that plan might only be a few moves long, and accomplish a modest goal that improves the position. Keep trying to make your position better and the other guy's job harder.
And always, always, always, look at the tactics. What does the other guy threaten with his move, how can you threaten him?
I appreciated his answer. I should have worded my question more clearly, such as, when you (yourself) are playing a game, instead of how do you handle, because often we use you as almost a generic term. I truly understood that he was attempting to help.
One way of thinking I like in such situations where you can't find any reasonable plan is, "what is your opponent's plan?" If you can spot that, then try to stop it.
Another way of thinking is, deciding which is your worst piece and trying to improve its position.
First, evaluate your Strengths and his Weaknesses.
Next, look for tactics for you, and potential tactics for you.
Then, using this, outline a plan that takes advantage of these AND IS EXECUTABLE.
NOW the hard part.
Repeat these steps from your opponent's perspective, readjust your plan if you must. As long as you do this, you will have no trouble on the chessboard except the limitations of your own tactical ability!
I don't think an individual player's personal way of coming up with an idea will make sense to you. But first of all, yes, everyone has times like this now and again, and if not then we all certainly remember how often it came up as a beginner.
The more you play, the less frequently you'll encounter it, and reading a strategy book would definitely help.
I run into this problem when there is nothing really to do in the position. I usually shore up some squares, create luft for my king, or make a waiting move. In your case though the best advice would probably be to identify your worst placed piece and improve it's position even if it will take 2-3-4 moves to get it there. First find the poor piece, then, imagining you can pick up the piece and place it anywhere you want, find it's new home, your move should start it on it's way.
If any of your pieces are still on the backrank and haven't moved yet (knights, bishops, rooks) then you should never feel like you don't know what to do.
I took the OP to ask what to do when you just draw a blank - obviously if you improve your skill level it will happen less often.
OTB with slower time limits, take a break, forget the game for a minute, get some coffee, step outside for breath of fresh air or to feel the sun, or whatever works best to clear your head.
When you return to the board, approach it from your opponent's side of the board and look at it that way for a minute before sitting back down.
With faster times, of course that's not possible, so the best advice is just to try to improve the position of one of your pieces. If they are all already perfectly placed, you need to look for a pawn break.
One more tip - use the GM Ashley method: ask yourself what your opponent's last move weakened, and try to exploit it.
I agree, yet isn't some of the commentaries in chess books, more or less, the author's ideas of what to do in any given circumstance, such as, endgame play? Perhaps not addressed as facing a blank mind, so to speak, but looking for ways to solve what to do next, which sometimes is a form of blankness. I was just curious as to how others handle such problems of not knowing what to do, and many have given some excellent ways to handle it, which I am certain, they use to solve their problems with it all.
I run into this problem when there is nothing really to do in the position. I usually shore up some squares, create luff for my king, or make a waiting move. In your case though the best advice would probably be to identify your worst placed piece and improve it's position even if it will take 2-3-4 moves to get it there. First find the poor piece, then, imagining you can pick up the piece and place it anywhere you want, find it's new home, your move should start it on it's way.
Now here is what I was seeking. Your personal ways of coping with those times when it seems “there is nothing really to do in the position.” It may only be for a faction of time, but it is there for whatever amount of time when the brain seems to go blank. Not that the player does not know all of the things others, and yourself, have mentioned, but the things you mentioned above do snap one out of the blankness back into action.
This I never have problems with - enveloping chessmen in the opening as far as blankness at times is concerned. Which brings to mind that I have more problems in the area of my least strength - the endgame. All of the suggestions I have received I will attempt to put into practice.
I truly appreciate everyone’s contributions.
I have no problem playing OTB games in needing a break. I often play nearly 3 hour games, but what you have suggested makes sense. However, once I get locked in on a game the last thing I want to do is walk away from it to break my chain of thought. Usually, the blank-mind problem only lasts for a few seconds and I usaully do what many have suggested. Reading those comments helps me know that I have been doing what makes sense to do. However, when at that moment of time, seconds mostly, when the blank-monster comes to visit there is a brief time of panic. It's weird, but it happens. It rarely is fatual, but it is distrubing.
Loomis wrote: I thought Nimzoroy was answering your question.
He was, and he did an excellent job of it. And so did you, but I was holding out for a more personal viewpoint. I was able to translate it all as a personal replies as I continued to read his and others answers.
I am quite satisfied with the replies.
I knew what rule of thumb he was refering to.
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