Thought Processes


Here is a list of some various thought processes. Be warned, it is a tad bit long.

Michael Maza System

1)    Make a physical movement. Initially I shuffled my legs but found that they got tired in long games. Now I shift around in my chair, move my arms up and down, or wiggle my toes (5 seconds; total time: 5 seconds).

2)    Look at the board with Chess Vision, the ability developed by going through the micro-level drills described in a previous chapter (10 seconds; total time: 15 seconds).

3)    Understand what the opponent is threatening (20 seconds; total time:35 seconds).

4)    Write down the opponent’s first move on my score sheet (5 seconds; total time: 40 seconds).

5)    If the opponent has a serious threat, then respond. If not, calculate a tactical sequence. If no tactical sequence exists, implement a plan (70 seconds; total time: 110 seconds).
    A    Improve the mobility of the Pieces
    B    Prevent the opponent from castling
    C    Trade off pawns
    D    Keep the Queen on the board

6)    Write down my move (5seconds; total time: 115 seconds).

7)    Imagine the position after I make my intended move and use Chess Vision to check the position. If Chess Vision does not locate any problems, make the move and press the clock. If Chess Vision does locate a problem, go back to step 1. (10 seconds; total time:125 seconds).

8)    Make sure that I have pressed the clock.

    I force myself to implement these plans very quickly. No ‘long thinks’ are allowed. I very rarely spend more than five minutes on a position and, as a result, win approximately 10% of my games because my opponent gets into time trouble. At the class level, spending time creating a complicated plan is often counterproductive. While you are executing a longwinded plan you or your opponent will almost certainly make a tactical error which will drastically change the evaluation of the plan.

    My belief, this system could take anyone that is tactically savvy to 2000 or possibly higher if he meets some requirements. The player MUST have a killer tactical base. I would assume somewhere close to 1000 puzzles that are 2-3 movers. He should be able to solve each puzzle instantly or within 2 seconds and finish them all in a day.
    I am also of the opinion that it would be very difficult to achieve a rating much higher than master with this thought process. Once you get out of class play, games are decided less often by tactical ability (players are not making tactical blunders) and positional play takes greater precedence.


The 8 Question method (I think this is Purdy's System)

1) What type of pawn structure is it?
    A) No pawns; Play with pieces are important
    B) Centre is blocked; break on the flank (learn various basic pawn centre)
2) What is good and what is bad about my position?
    A) Neutralize opponents advantages and profit from yours.
3) Which pieces do I exchange, and which to keep?
4) Which side of the board should I play on?
    A) Simple Trick; Side with more pieces or where they have best chances.
5) What is my Dream Position?
    A) If I were allowed to move several moves in a row, which would they be? Find weak spots in opponent’s position and insecure position of king will aid in prompt plan.
6) What does my opponent want to do?
7) Tactics
    A) Here is where you crunch moves for the first time
8) Candidate Moves



The simplest Thought Process that I have introduced to children is three step.

1) Look

2) Think

3) Move

Here is the break down of the three steps.

1) Look

a) Clear the lines of pieces in your head. Picture each piece on the board and where it can move on a open board. You can look to see where it can move from each of those locations (usually involving more than half the board with each piece). This will allow your subconscious to start to connect the dots as far as seeing patterns.

b) Understand your opponents move.

2) Think

a) Look for a Tactical Shot. If you have done enough puzzles and performed a adequate LOOK process then you will recognize them. You could mentally take note of any Seeds of Tactical Destruction (Dan Hiesman).

b) No tactic, then you must do positional improvement. Put your pieces on better squares. The easiest is to find your worst piece and make it better or increase your mobility (the number of squares you control on the board).

3) Move

a) Picture your move in your mind's eye. Do a blunder check which involves looking at all forcing moves (checks, captures and threats) and calculating them to their quintessential point (no forcing moves remaining).

b) Make the move with confidence and double check you hit the clock.


Silman’s Thinking Technique

1)    Figure out the positive and negative imbalances for both sides.

2)    Figure out the side of the board you wish to play on. You can only play where a favorable imbalance or the possibility of a creating a favorable imbalance exists.

3)    Don’t Calculate! Instead, dream up various fantasy positions, I.e., the positions you would most like to achieve.

4)    Once you find a fantasy position that makes you happy, you must figure out if you can reach it. If you find that your choice was not possible to implement, you must create another dream position that is easier to achieve.

5)    Only now do you look at the move you wish to calculate (called candidate moves). The candidate moves are all the moves that lead to our dream position. This will be discussed fully in Part Three of this book.


1)    Superior Minor Pieces (the interplay between Bishops and Knights).

2)    Pawn Structures (a broad subject that encompasses doubled pawns, isolated pawns, etc).

3)    Space (the annexation of territory on a chess board).

4)    Material (owning pieces of greater value than the opponent’s).

5)    Control of Key file or Squares (files and diagonals act as pathways for your pieces, while squares act as homes).

6)    Lead in Development (more force in a specific area of the board).

7)    Initiative (dictating the tempo of a game).


Hey that was interesting! It kind of sounded like the introduction of a book or something... Where is it from?


That was great thank you for that.


It is different thinking techniques from various authors.

Rich, i realize we all have our own thinking techniques but perhaps it will be an enjoyable read for some. This is my first post on the open forum. Perhaps in the future i will learn to better label my writtings so that you dont read something that disgusts you.


rich wrote:

 Language like that gets you reported to an admin.


Lol, weird the post got deleted. but I have seen worse around here.


Regarding the 8-question method, it seems clear to me you should be identifying candidate moves before you start crunching tactics.



I think the reasoning for doing tactics before candidate moves might be for the simple things. Example, it is hardly necessary for you to list X number of candidate moves if a forced mate OR loose queen is on the board. Here you would just need to double check the veracity of the move.

I personally use the Look, Think, Move system but i spend most of my time at blitz chess.



Yes, knightdreamer - depends on what you call tactics really, I suppose.

What you're saying there would basically mean you're doing candidate moves and a tactics check at the same time.

I don't think you should spend more than 15 secs checking the tactics of each move before you've listed all the moves, though.


quite interesting. thanks


Well it's easy to say that checks/captures/threats on both sides are pretty much the forcing moves you want to look at ... as is the case in Blitz.

They "may" become candidate moves ... perhaps the candidate will appear from secondary observations as the lists above recommend.

Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that reacting to the tactical situation on the board (if there is one) immediately before looking for other candidates is a must.


Agreed, Shivsky. Your opponent's last move and threats generally must come first, because they will naturally take out a lot of candidate moves before you've even started.


My thought process while playing chess is roughly this:

  1. I'M GONNA DIE!!
  2. I'M GONNA DIE!!
  3. I'M GONNA DIE!!
  4. Repeat ad infinitum.
marvellosity wrote:

Agreed, Shivsky. Your opponent's last move and threats generally must come first, because they will naturally take out a lot of candidate moves before you've even started.

I believe an even more sophisticated "method" of taking forcing-but-losing moves "out" is part of most chess engine's algorithms. They even have a cute name for it => Futility Pruning :)


BTW, the original poster's first system that he mentioned is from Michael de la Maza of "400 points in 400 days" fame. Here's the original article from Dan Heisman's Chess Corner section over at The link is to a PDF file.


Good stuff OP. Thanks. Here's one from William Hartston's book, "Better Chess" that is golden advice for us occasionally lazy thinkers, "Always look one move deeper than seems to be necessary."


gbidari: I think it's good advice in general, not just for lazy thinkers.

I say this because there is a potential downside to having good pattern recognition. Sometimes it leads us to make conclusions that aren't necessarily valid at the end of a line. Over the last season OTB, both my dad (a couple of times) and I (once) contrived not to play the strongest continuation as we 'recognised' the position at the end of the line as not good for us. However, on these occasions, there was some specific feature of the position we'd missed that made the line work.

I think it really does pay to look one move further than it seems needed. Does that move *really* refute our variation, or do we have one last counter-punch?


Based on another post seen here => I'd like to throw this in as well =>

- Falsify your candidate moves as opposed to Confirming them.

I believe this is what seperates the grown-ups from the rest of the pack.

Falsify? Confirmation?=> Basically develop a mental state of "questioning" ... instead of trying to find evidence on the board to reinforce how "awesome" your candidate is (Confirming), do the exact opposite. Be your harshest critic and try to justify why that move is unplayable. (Falsification).

I've found that even a rank intermediate like me has started getting better at ruling out candidates that initially seemed promising thanks to the Falsifying approach. I used to fall in love with "pretty looking" moves that really did more damage than good...