17 Hand Positions Every Tournament Chess Player Must Know
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When you play chess online, it doesn't really matter what you do with your hands. But when you play chess at a tournament, sitting across the board from a real human opponent for up to seven hours each game, you MUST master the 17 key hand positions that every top chess player knows.
1. Hidden Hands
While they seem innocent enough, hidden hands show a lack of transparency and a possible threat brewing.
Hidden hands, however, can quickly devolve into despair if you're not careful.
2. The Bridge
The bridge indicates serious concentration and may tip off to your opponent that you have an idea worth thinking about.
3. The Collapsed Bridge
The collapsed bridge occurs when the level of concentration is so high, the standard bridge simply cannot support the weight of calculation. If you see this across from the board, beware!
Everyone needs a little support, right? You'll see the neck pole when a player's chess position could use some shoring up.
With the double neck pole, you get double the support.
5. The Mask
What are they hiding under there? Are they trying to obscure their faces, or their tactical ideas? Probably a little bit of both.
6. The Thinker
“The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin is a world-famous bronze sculpture that depicts stoic philosophy. Chess players employing this pose will usually be as still and hopefully as thoughtful.
7. One-Finger Lip Bridge
This classy hand position demonstrates equal parts contemplation and sophistication.
8. Wings of Glory
Chess players happy with their position will often kick back and display the wings of glory. Who could be happier at the board than the world champion, Magnus Carlsen?
This hand position projects a serene exterior that could be hiding violent tactical ideas. Don’t get lulled to sleep if your opponent adopts this pose.
10. Power Fist
The power fist is often accompanied by a power stare, as your opponent hopes to shake your confidence by looking directly into your soul. Don’t be intimidated by this bit of false bravado.
Can you gain psychic powers simply by placing your index finger above your eye? Probably not, but it doesn’t stop these players from trying.
Nailbiters are almost certainly anxious. Look for hanging pieces or mates in one.
Instead of biting their fingernails, some players their knuckles. Is Vladimir Kramnik nervous, or just hungry?
14. Thumb Post
This moderate pose says that the player needs a little bit of support: about one thumb’s worth. This hand position is good for middlegames with chances for both sides, although the side facing Kramnik usually does not have that luxury.
Kramnik's versatile playing style is rivaled only by his diverse repertoire of hand positions. Here, he seems to be saying "Quiet, please. I am thinking about how to mate you."
This hand position implies the game is causing a headache for the player employing it. Try to make his day even more difficult by playing accurate moves.
17. Star Face
Maybe if I can’t see any of my opponents’ pieces, they don’t exist?
So which hand position reigns supreme in tournament chess? Whichever one works best at the time. Even when two conflicfing positions match up, it's hard to tell who was the real hero: the hands that moved the pieces, or the mind that told them what to do.
Which hand position is your favorite? Which one do you rely on in your tournaments? Make your case in the comment section.
RELATED STUDY MATERIAL
- See hand-position maestro Vladimir Kramnik's endgame technique.
- Or take a look at our video on Kramnik's beloved "Berlin Wall."
- Play like Magnus Carlsen in the Chess Mentor.
- Who needs fancy hand positions when you can destroy your opponents with tactics? Try the free Tactics Trainer.
- Looking for articles with deeper analysis? Try our magazine: The Master's Bulletin.