Read your Opponent's Mind!

  • GM Gserper
  • | May 6, 2012

Let me start with a disclaimer: I cannot read other people's minds. It would be extremely helpful in many different activities but especially so when you play chess.  The good news is, sometimes you don't even need to guess your opponent's thoughts since his moves are just screaming them and all you need to do is just to listen to them and pick up the valuable information.  I just hope that you use your mind reading skills better than the guy in this classic movie.

A very good example of acting upon your opponnent's thoughts is the next game:

Black's last move 9...e6 clearly indicates his intention to play d6-d5 (the immediate 9...d5? was losing a pawn due to 10. g5!). For example, after 10.0-0-0 d5! 11. g5 Nh5 12 exd5 Nxd4 13 Bxd4 Bxd4 14 Qxd4 Qxg5+ Black recovers the pawn because the g5-pawn was hanging. Dolmatov says that his first intention was to play 10. h4 in order to protect the g5 pawn, but then the Black Nh5 gets an opportunity to jump to the g3 square which is not covered by the h2 pawn anymore. Therefore, he came to the conclusion that the best way to protect the g5 pawn is the move 10. Rg1!  This is one of those  famous 'mysterious rook moves' when a Rook moves to a closed file to do some important strategic task. In the game White got a huge positional advantage but then didn't play energetically enough and allowed his opponent to escape with a draw:

My own best  'mysterious rook move' has an interesting story. I was playing in what was going to become the last Soviet Union Championship and in one of the rounds I was intrigued by the game played right next to me:

Of course it was difficult to believe that the great Mikhail Tal just blundered like that, so after the tournament was over I looked at this interesting position.

It turns out that White already cannot avoid losing a pawn, besides it is not that easy to protect the e4 pawn since 8.Bd3? loses a lot of material due to 8...Qxc3+. It was really strange: White developed all his pieces and got a fantastic center, meanwhile Black developed his Queen early (which is not something you want to do in the opening), traded his fianchettoed Bishop and suddenly it was White who was in trouble. It took a lot of time before the correct answer for Black's unusual strategy was found.  And surprisingly, it was very simple: if Black wants to take the Nc3 and open the 'b' file, why not put a Rook on the b1 square even before Black takes on c3? This way my Rook won't be hanging after potential Qxc3 and also in some cases his b7 pawn can be hanging as well. A couple of years later I got an opportunity to try this idea:

Three years later I had another chance to use my idea:

As you could see, in both games my weird looking move 6.Rb1 discouraged Black from playing Bxc3 and essentially made the Qa5 move useless. 

Try to predict the moves and  ideas of your opponents and then prevent or at least discourage your adversary from playing them. Believe me, besides an obvious positive impact on your game the correct reading of other people's minds makes you feel like a magician!


  • 5 years ago


    Thank you! Great article

  • 5 years ago


    TQ GM

  • 5 years ago


  • 5 years ago


    when we play the 1 e4 here for exmple we can play sécilien 

    and the problem is how we play a structure like bishop in b5 i has many player play 3 Bb5 like thisNovikov Stanislav    2552

    Smith bryan G            2460

    Givon Asef                  2272

    Bar Roman                  2455

    Kaufeld juergen         2263

    Jigjidsuren purev       2235

    Valeski robert                 2282

    Lucaroni massimiliano   2262

    Nicolov sasho                 2458

    Ristic nenad                    2413

    Martorelli antonio         2259

    Zak uri                              2261

    they all play 3 Bb5 is game i see so we has this plan

    here i played this vs shreder and he play 3...e5 so  we has this plan

    and here what i sould play if i take the knight in c6 shreder play d*c6 and after N*e5 shreder play Qd4 and we has this plan

    an other option  is playin 4 00 for example here shreder play Nge7 and afeter c3 shreder play g6 so we has 

    so we has many plans but we should know the best structure to play we has many game of svedler peter in the B31 we has also a game between fisher and spassky in 1992 we has 23 game of vladimir kramnik we has also many games in in this plan 

    kramniçk in his game with branko damljanovic he plays in black 3...g6

    so we has many option and we should progress.

  • 5 years ago


    I have seen the same motif in the reversed Grob;  "sacrifice" of fianchetto bishop, with similar advantage.  Good didactic.

  • 5 years ago


    thanks a lot!

  • 5 years ago


    Did Tal really play that game?

  • 5 years ago


    thankx Gm serper for the first game i need more game in Najdorf here in the opening i tried the seme move vs here i think it's défferent  me vs

    so it' very har for wihte to play like this

  • 5 years ago


    Epic, haha

  • 5 years ago


    Nice game.

  • 5 years ago



  • 5 years ago


    Playing white in Sicilian defense, sometimes I avoid poison pawn variation by playing Rb1 when black plays Qb6. As an average player, Rb1 seems a little lousy move in this line. But it doesn't give me too much headache rather than playing poison pawn variation against a strong opponent. Anyway, I have a clear understanding that Rb1 will support an eventual b4 move for a queenside expansion of white.

  • 5 years ago


    Easier when it not online, but none the less helpful.

  • 5 years ago


    Yeah, reaaaally great strategy. But, I'm thinking it works only if your opponent has over 2000 points.. 

    Ad9410 let me guess: You vs yourself..? Trying to hold as more queens as you could?  Haha, οκ, don't pay attention to what I'm saying, I'm just trying to practice some new skills..

  • 5 years ago


    Can't even read my own mind.

  • 5 years ago


    I was reading the old archives of The instructor, and Mark Dvoretsky says that Hans Berliner used the move Rb1 to prepare for the b4 move as to gain space on the queenside if no object of attack is readily available.  Berliner also stated that this was common theme in King's Indian Defense, Old Indian Defense, and Dutch Defense.

  • 5 years ago


    that scene is hilarious

  • 5 years ago


    It's a good ability to read your opponent's mind in chess.

  • 5 years ago


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