How to improve at calculating and planning?


As my skills improve I obviously end up playing better players who make fewer blunders.

So I was wondering if people had suggestions on how to improve calculating several moves out and various responses. Also how to come up with good plans for what to even start calculating.

Although I have been pulling off more wins than losses lately I find that I end up in spots almost every game where I can't develop a plan and just make a move that either puts pressure somewhere or keeps me safe and wait for the opponent to do something that sparks an idea in my head and allows me to create a plan of attack.


Here's a 10 point program presented in Tim Harding's book, "Better Chess".

It might help you.

1) Assessment of your opponent's last move.

2) What immediate threats must I meet?

3) What tactical blows are at my disposal?

4) Long term positional assessment of position.

5) What moves are suggested by your positional assessment?

6) Compare the 'candidate moves' from steps 2, 3 and 5 and make a short list of say 3 moves to possibly make.

7) Calculate variations based on this short list of candidate moves.

8) Compare these assessments.

9) Have a last look around to guard against traps and blunders

10) Make your move.

 Just an idea...hope its food for thought.

 Good Luck, Gavin


On that list I would say #4 is what I'm referring to. I run into points in the game where I don't see a 5 or 10 move plan for either me or the opponent sp I end up making some safe move simply to see if my opponents move sparks something for me to focus on.

Also I've had problems in a couple of 3o  minute games on here where I run low on time from calculating too much too slowly and blow a winning position from having to make quick moves.


Interesting....Point #4 involves long term posiitonal judgement. I never play timed games myself, I prefer correspondance or "turned based" chess. Probably due to my lack of tactical vision/ability. I tend to be more of a positional player. Incidently that list was put together by a correspondance player. You could try playing games that give you more time to move. Perhaps that might help.


To increase calculation ability, start with something like a puzzle or an analyized position.  Visualize the first move, and then "freeze" that new position and look around the board (if this is a tactical puzzle look around for the opponent's response).  Then make that move, visualize it clearly and then stop.  Look around again.  Keep going slowly until you can't add more moves.

This trains your visualization and as you practice it leads to deeper and more accurate calculation.

As for strategy, that really comes with experience and study.  Stick with an opening for a year, and play over master games from that opening really helps.

But more generally, advice like "look for your worst placed piece and improve it" and similarly "beginners play with their good pieces while masters look for their worst" can be more immediately helpful.

It's really hard to give general advice though because the subject is so vast.  Best would be to post a position you were really stuck on and see what ideas some forum-goers can help you come up with.