What questions do you ask yourself when evaluating a position?

  • #1

    What I mean by this, is that when trying to determine your next move, what do you ask yourself about your opponent's/your own position? An example: "What pieces are defending what other pieces?" might help you identify overloaded pieces, and to spot a tactic to capitalize on this. In long time control games you would ask several such questions over a single move, but in blitz if you hypothetically only had time to answer one, what would you start with? (Of course a lot of this happens subconciously, but for the purposes of this post a verbal analysis is necessary.) 

  • #2

    Think about weak squares and pawns, undefended pieces or an exposed king or who is ahead in development (usually signs of tactics), and then calculate concrete variations to make sure your candidate moves work. Try to figure out where the pieces should go, not just which move to play.

  • #3

    AM I LOSING?

    AM I WINNING?

    AM I DRAWING?

    Those three questions are all you need to ask.

  • #4

    1. Is my king safe?

    2. Did my opponent's move threaten or set up a threat on my position?

    3. Do I have to deal with the threat or do I have time to ignore it?

    4. Is there any way I can tactically win material or the game?

    5. Are there any juicy pawn breaks I can take advantage of?

    6. Can I improve my position either by space or activity (mini-goals)?

    7. Can I reduce my opponent's hopes by trading material?

    8. If losing, do I need to make 'last call' sacrifices for counterplay?

     

    That's about all I think of when playing outside of the opening, and in that order as well.

  • #5

    Listen a LOT to a LOT of people like Kasparov, Karpov, Vishy, Dzindzi, Khachiyan, Jesse Kraai, and others. You'll eventually find their voices ringing in your head when certain positions come about. That's what I do. :)

  • #6

    I don't think I ask myself questions more than two or three times, during a game. When I do, I usually question if I can "hold the position"(I love that term, which I think comes from yoga). Smile

  • #7

    Basically FirebrandX answered the question, but not the order in which you should ask yourself.

    My order would be :

    1- What is the rough evaluation of the position ? What are its caracteristics ?

     

    2-As long as point 1- makes the game worth fighting (if you are desperately lost, just resign, if you are completely winning, just pay attention, but usually you can play it on the "automatic pilot") :

    Is there any tactical threats for one side or another (the bell should be ringing when you see a pin, a fork, a discovered check possibility, the pieces being not far from a clasic checkmate position, hanging pieces in the middle of the board, etc.) ?

     

    3-What should be my plan, my opponent's plan, based on the pawn structure, piece placement, other positional imbalances and the tactical opportunities discovered in 2- ? (many answers are possible)

     

    4-How can I make work my plans and counter the opponent's plan from 3- ?

    5- Should I counter the opponent's plan, or pursue my own ? In case I have many possibilities, which one should I choose ?

    6- What move makes best use of the position to get what I want (cf 5-) ? (usually you already know the answer to this after 5-)

  • #8

    There's nothing wrong with my order. Question #1 has saved me from accidentally overlooking back-rank mates many times. The rest of the questions fall into place naturally. Deciding to resign in a lost position falls outside the implicit point of the topic.

  • #9
    FirebrandX wrote:

    1. Is my king safe?

    2. Did my opponent's move threaten or set up a threat on my position?

    3. Do I have to deal with the threat or do I have time to ignore it?

    4. Is there any way I can tactically win material or the game?

    5. Are there any juicy pawn breaks I can take advantage of?

    6. Can I improve my position either by space or activity (mini-goals)?

    7. Can I reduce my opponent's hopes by trading material?

    8. If losing, do I need to make 'last call' sacrifices for counterplay?

     

    That's about all I think of when playing outside of the opening, and in that order as well.

    Excellent. I find nbr 7 particularly interesting.

  • #10
    JFK-Ramsey wrote:
    FirebrandX wrote:

    1. Is my king safe?

    2. Did my opponent's move threaten or set up a threat on my position?

    3. Do I have to deal with the threat or do I have time to ignore it?

    4. Is there any way I can tactically win material or the game?

    5. Are there any juicy pawn breaks I can take advantage of?

    6. Can I improve my position either by space or activity (mini-goals)?

    7. Can I reduce my opponent's hopes by trading material?

    8. If losing, do I need to make 'last call' sacrifices for counterplay?

     

    That's about all I think of when playing outside of the opening, and in that order as well.

    Excellent. I find nbr 7 particularly interesting.

    I agree. That is an excellent listSmile

  • #11

    I look at the following features when I evaluate a position:

    - development;

    - space control;

    - lines control;

    - strong and weak squares;

    - king safety.

  • #12
    b3nnyhaha wrote:

    ...But in blitz if you hypothetically only had time to answer one, what would you start with? (Of course a lot of this happens subconciously, but for the purposes of this post a verbal analysis is necessary.) 

    #1 (and only)...What's The Threat?  

    The OP said this was a blitz game.  On average, you have to answer this question about 40 times per game.

    There is no Michael de La Maza list for blitz chess.  Sorry.  Thinking otherwise is a fool's errand.  But some of these lists are hilarious.  Laughing

  • #13

    Question #7 comes from Yasser Seirawan. After reading his book "Play Winning Chess" it opened up a philisophical point about chess I had never realized concerning trading to limit the opponent's hopes. My favorite example is in the endgame, where you might have a couple more pawns than your opponent, and he's down the exchange with knight versus rook. You intentionally sac the rook on his knight to cut off any hope he had of escaping the loss.

  • #14
    [COMMENT DELETED]
  • #15

    I start out with one really basic question - how many pieces and pawns does everyone have?

    After that the 8 questions posted by Firebrand X appear to be well worth memorizing

  • #16

    Throw this one in : 

    Can I prove that my opponent's last move was an exploitable mistake?

  • #17

    "What can he do to me if I don't stop him?"

  • #18

    When I am trying to determine my next move I try to look through most available moves. Then I pick candidate moves and analyze them. If my analyzed candidate moves aren't very good I pick the one that does the least damage to the position. This method I read from Kotov's book think like a grandmaster

  • #19

    #1 - Did my opponent's last move threaten mate in 1?

    If yes...

    #2 - What is the most appropriate way to panic?

    If no...

    #2 - Will sacrificing my queen do any good here? -- The thinking is that by far the best way to come out of a game looking really, really cool is to somehow win as a result of having sacrificed your queen unexpectedly.  All other factors take a back seat to this.

    #3 - Can I even remotely justify sacrificing something else?  Sure, it looks bad on the surface, but can I claim in the post-mortem that it was "speculative," or "positional," or "that I thought it would allow me some sort of abstract compensation in the form of karma?" -- If you ain't saccing, you ain't trying.

    #4 - Did I turn the iron off?

    #5 - (Assuming there is nothing to sacrifice) - What little pawn move can I make way over to one side or the other that won't totally lose it for me right away, that I can later claim was a "high class waiting move?"  -- The thinking here is that every time I make a move that doesn't lose the game for me outright, there's a chance my opponent will make one that does so for him.

    #6 - If none of the above moves are available, can I perform any of those arcane chess moves that are only known to semi-experts, like "castling," or "en passant," or "j'adoube?"

    #7 - No, seriously, did I turn off the iron?

    #8 - Once defeat appears inevitable, what sort of excuse can I make that will be at once so believable that my opponent will have no doubt as to its sincerity, yet so pathetic that he might let me win out of pity?  ("Now that I see your Knight forking my King and Queen that way, I regret playing at all when I should really be at home with my dying dog.  I wish I had never put Windex in his bowl...")

    #9 - Where will the best happy hour be after the game is over, and did I bring any cash, or will I have to mooch?

    Master these, and the tournament hall is yours, my son.

  • #20
    MrBlunderful wrote:

    #1 - Did my opponent's last move threaten mate in 1?

    If yes...

    #2 - What is the most appropriate way to panic?

    If no...

    #2 - Will sacrificing my queen do any good here? -- The thinking is that by far the best way to come out of a game looking really, really cool is to somehow win as a result of having sacrificed your queen unexpectedly.  All other factors take a back seat to this.

    #3 - Can I even remotely justify sacrificing something else?  Sure, it looks bad on the surface, but can I claim in the post-mortem that it was "speculative," or "positional," or "that I thought it would allow me some sort of abstract compensation in the form of karma?" -- If you ain't saccing, you ain't trying.

    #4 - Did I turn the iron off?

    #5 - (Assuming there is nothing to sacrifice) - What little pawn move can I make way over to one side or the other that won't totally lose it for me right away, that I can later claim was a "high class waiting move?"  -- The thinking here is that every time I make a move that doesn't lose the game for me outright, there's a chance my opponent will make one that does so for him.

    #6 - If none of the above moves are available, can I perform any of those arcane chess moves that are only known to semi-experts, like "castling," or "en passant," or "j'adoube?"

    #7 - No, seriously, did I turn off the iron?

    #8 - Once defeat appears inevitable, what sort of excuse can I make that will be at once so believable that my opponent will have no doubt as to its sincerity, yet so pathetic that he might let me win out of pity?  ("Now that I see your Knight forking my King and Queen that way, I regret playing at all when I should really be at home with my dying dog.  I wish I had never put Windex in his bowl...")

    #9 - Where will the best happy hour be after the game is over, and did I bring any cash, or will I have to mooch?

    Master these, and the tournament hall is yours, my son.

    Laughing

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