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A few months ago I wrote a blog "Danisms" (, about chess terms I have created to better explain how players learn, think, and play chess. In addition to these terms, I have also made up a few "principles/heuristics/sayings" that might be of interest, so I thought I would list a few, along with some notes of explanation. I apologize if one or two of these pre-date me and I don't remember that over the years I have been regurgitating rather than originating, but I can assure you at least most of these originate from me Smile.

  • You can't play what you don't see - at the very least, this applies to finding candidate moves for both sides. For example, if you don't look for a better move, then you can't play one. Similarly, if you look for one but can't find it, you can't play it either. This principle also means that if your visualization skills are poor, you can't properly analyze even if your other analysis skills are adequate because you can't properly visualize the position you are analyzing.
  • Always play with confidence, aggression, and respect for your opponent's moves and ideas - chess is not a game where you can play the entire game passively and hope for a draw. And if you don't respect your opponent's ideas you will often not look for, and prevent, avoidable dangers.
  • Checks, captures, and threats (the forcing moves) - see,10656013, a hat designed by members of our Main Line Chess Club because I spout these so frequently Smile.
  • You have to lose your fear of a rating before you can become that rating - This also implies that to get to the next level you usually need to play players at the level at least somewhat regularly.
  • Don't worry about your rating, work on your playing strength and your rating will follow - too many players try to manipulate their rating: who and where they play, etc. Play as much as you can and learn as much as you can.
  • Don't worry about losing a game; worry about playing a game and not learning anything - it is far more interesting, and instructive, to lose 100 games in a row to a superior player than to Scholar's mate a beginner 100 games in a row.
  • Never start a game without the intention of using almost all your time - if you don't feel like thinking to fill up your time, then start with a shorter time control where you would. To play faster than the time limit is just giving your opponent a handicap. This may be the most important, if not the most well-known, of the heuristics in this blog.
  • The more you are winning, the more you should think defense first. - This is often misinterpreted as a suggestion to play defensively or passively, which is not good. Think defense first has to do with ordering each move's priorities, and not a suggestion to play passively (passive is generally bad).
  • If learning chess were that easy, everyone would be good; there are no tic-tac-toe instructors.
  • If you see a good move, don't just look for a better one - take time to make sure your intended move is safe and as good as you think it is."
  • Having 15 minutes left when your opponent has 5 (in sudden death time controls) is worth about 200 rating points. - This assumes, of course, that the game is still competitive.
  • Think of a draw offer as an offer to remain ignorant of what you would have learned from playing out the game. - Legend has it that young Bobby Fischer would turn down draws before the opponent could finish the question!
  • Never push a passed pawn beyond its "zone of protection" - this  is the cautionary part of the famous "Passed pawns must be pushed."
  • See a pawn and pick it up and all the game you'll have good luck.
  • In a swiss tournament the most important rounds are the first and the last. - That's because the first round helps determine for several rounds what kind of opposition you will face; the final round's outcome, unlike earlier rounds, cannot be made up with future rounds' results when there is an unexpected outcome (and, if you are playing rated chess and having a good event, often "bonus points" are at stakeSmile).
  • Only have two chess "gears": try your best or resign - Too many players either get sloppy when winning easily or start playing quickly when they are losing "just to see what happens" - this can easily lead to very bad habits.
  • "Hand-waving is worse than Hope Chess" - this means that playing analytical positions by principle rather than slow, careful analysis is even more insidious than not consistently checking to see if your move is safe (whether it can be met by an opponent reply of a check, capture, or threat that cannot safely be met).

I am honored that authors such as GMs Andy Soltis (in The wisest things ever said about chess) and Lev Alburt (in Chess Rules of Thumb, along with co-author Al Lawrence) have picked a couple of these for publication in their books.