Personal GM Inspired System

Personal GM Inspired System

Jul 21, 2010, 2:54 AM |

I have read this book by GM Andrew Soltis three times and each time through I have taken notes on relevant points concerning the calculation process.  Reviewing these notes, I have been able distill out a 36-step system that can be performed for each move.

The goal is to eliminate outright blunders as much as possible (by forcing mental calculation instead of reckless moves) and to foster the strongest moves possible (by identifying weaknesses/vulnerabilities in the opponent's position).

I am posting this system as a personal test for myself (I have the 36 steps memorized in order), as motivation (I have been mentally tired lately and have not applied the system in my games) and as clarification (I will probably learn something through the process of posting it).

It is also possible that someone else may somehow benefit from this post or help me to benefit through their input.

The 36 steps are of two kinds, either mental review of calculation principles or actual mental tasks to be performed.


1) Unprotected Scan - This is performed by asking the question, "What did they just leave unprotected by their last move?".  Also a mental note is made of each unprotected opponent piece.

2) P-W-P Scan - This threefold scan consists of:

  1. Previous (GM) Games - Examining the position for similarities to GM games
  2. Weaknesses - a) Examining the opponent's position for weaknesses in general, b) Examining the board for weak squares in specific
  3. Patterns - Examining the opponent's position for trap patterns (e.g. rook-queen on the same diagonal, knight fork on rook and queen, two pieces on the same rank one square apart etc.)

3) V-O-I Scan - This threefold scan consists of:

  1. Vulnerable Pieces - Scanning the opponent's position for pieces that are vulnerable in one way or another
  2. Overworked Pieces - Identifying opponent pieces that are serving two (or more) defensive purposes simultaneously
  3. Invasion Squares - Idenitfying squares in the enemy's camp that are available for your pieces to land on

4) General Board Scan - This is accomplished by mentally stepping the perspective out to a general overview of the entire board, examining the key pieces for your opponent and yourself; stripping away all but the key pieces

5) Mate Scan - Reviewing the available flight squares for the king

6) Search for candidate moves in the order of most forceful to the least

7) List out the candidate moves



8) Lasker's Law - Sit on your hands until the final end position is identified and has been rechecked

9) Lasker's Advice - When you see a good move don't take it; look for a better one instead

10) Helmut's Thesis - No military plan survives contact with the enemy

11) Attacking Principle - When a player attacks, it is a prime opportunity to destroy them

12) Calculation Defined - Calculation is perceiving positions that have yet to occur

13) Calculation Applied - The key is to comprehend the possibilities in those positions



14) Calculation Goal - The goal is to reach an end position (a position where there is no possible opponent move of force [requiring a response] available to them) and so we must think in terms of concrete variations

15) Calculation Limiter #1 - Common sense

16) Calculation Limiter #2 Loss of material (meaning we can stop calculating with substantial material gain in an end position)

17) Minimum Calculation Requirement - There must be at least no opponent consolidation of their forces

18) Every enemy move of force must be checked

19) Every choice must be examined

20) Enemy choices must be limited - Moves must be chosen that limit possible opponent moves as much as possible

21) Blockage Breaker - If the calculation becomes blocked, mentally freeze the position and find the breakthrough; don't just give up

22) Desperado Goals - The goal is to have more material at the end of the desperado sequence or to find an early breakout  with more material (desperado play is defined as when both players simultaneously ignore each other's attacks, responding instead with other attacks of their own)




23) Verify that: a) All candidate moves have been examined ("are there any available moves I haven't looked at?"), b) Each candidate move has been completely examined ("are there any moves within the variations that haven't been examined?")

24) Do not force moves into an area that is uncertain

25) Each end position must win or improve the position (or it is rejected)

26) Verify that each end position is final

27) Optimize the move order for each candidate (sometimes changing the order in which the moves are made will create a better result)

28) Identify a bailout for each candidate (if something were to go wrong a candidate with a "bailout" would be preferred; e.g. a method of ending the combination safely with a trade-down)

29) Choose the best move




30) Recheck everything

31) Explain as if to a stranger (mentally "aloud")

32) Verify that the forced enemy moves are actually forced

33) Verify that each move is legal

34) Walk through once more slowly

35) Picture the end position and verify that there are no enemy moves of force available

36) Identify weaknesses in your position and make sure they cannot be used to shut down the combination



The Inner Game Of Chess: How to calculate and win