I often think, only a correspondence player has the
adopting a genuinely consistent thinking process. The rest of us have
to contend with the clock, our emotions, our laziness...
I have struggled with this issue all my life, it seems.
has to be something which balances the thorough with the
For juniors, I have been playing around with a THINking
scheme, which was really driven by the need to correct some common
errors; it goes:
Because I like acronymns as mnemonics, that works
out as THINC (Threats, Hopes, Improvements, Next, Check)
- Look for your opponent's threats. If there is something
you have to deal with it, use your dealing with threats routine (*1).
- Look for your own opportunities:
examine every check and every capture, especially if there are clues
that a combination(*2) might be around. If there is one, play it.
- If you haven't got a move yet, look for one of
pieces that isn't doing much, and do something to improve the position of your worst-placed
- If you can, play with a plan (*3). Have
idea what you might be wanting to do next,
over the next 5 moves. You can get clues about what you
should be doing by looking at the
- Check your move
before you play it, in case it loses a piece or something.
- (*1) Dealing with threats is ABCD: Avoid, Block,
Capture, Defend (actually, it is
ABCDX, but using X=counterattack can go badly wrong).
- (*2) Combinations come in six flavours: MJFNPT (Mates, Jumps, Forks, Nets,
Ties). If it helps to go
through it, you Might
Just Find a Neat Powerful Tactic.
- (*3) Making a plan comes in three stages: Ready, Aim and Fire.
The Ready bit is looking at the position(*4), the Aim
bit is deciding what you should be doing, and Fire is finding a move
that helps you do that.
- (*4) Looking at the position comes in six
stages: TKWPFLC (Tactics,
King safety, Weaknesses, Piece placement, Forcing
moves, Lines, Centre/space). Again,
if it helps: To Know What Plan to Follow, Look Carefully.
Beginners, I'm happy if they do just 123 and 5. If
can't manage that, then just 1 and 5 will do. If they can't
manage that, then just do 3... Anyone
who regularly does every step between 1 and (*4) can probably outplay
- First impressions (which may be left over
thinking): what are my candidate moves?
- What did my opponent's last move change?
- What is going on in the position? (he gives a
overlaps with mine above)
- Is there a combination? (he gives another
- What is my plan?
- Return to decide on a list of candidate
decide on one, then:
- Visualise it clearly on the board
- Do a safety check
Purdy adds: "Being
unmethodical by nature, I have never been
able to train myself to use my own system throughout a game!"
Although he adds, having made a list of errors after a tournament, he
was convinced that at least half of them would have been avoided had he
Dan Heisman regards organising your thinking as one of
Five things to get right. He also, helpfully, provides us with an
described in a dozen pages, which I summarise:
- Can I checkmate my opponent?
- What changed? (New threats or opportunities,
opportunities that disappeared)
- What am I threatened by? (deal with any
you're pretty good, don't counterattack)
- What are my candidate moves?
- Analyse each line until quiescence, i.e. the
settles down to manoevring, remember what the best move is so
far. Things that help with this include:
Choose, but don't play, your move.
- does my opponent have a killer threat?
- what is my evaluation of the
- is my evaluation of the situation
best move so far the same? i.e. +=
- do I have something to achieve, a
- Is there something better?
- Try one last sanity check
This is quite a lot, for sure, but he reassures us that
of it becomes automatic -- it's not something you go through like
OK, this all may be too much advice by now. How
respond to all that? In particular, how do you make sense of
three overlapping but contradictory schemes?!
- Reflect on how you decide on a move in various
positions. That sort of translates as: try and notice yourself thinking
while you're thinking. Also, reflect on your mistakes.
What do you do when you are thinking? Is there
order to it at all? Could you organise it better?
What's missing? Are there things suggested
would be useful to
include, for example, routine blunder-checking? Try including one
steps at once, get them rehearsed, build up your habits until your
thinking process is complete.
Write down some sort of organised scheme for yourself
Compare it with the schemes above: what steps might you be missing
out? Don't make it more complicated than you need.
- If you're keen, make a recording of yourself
Try and stick to this scheme in as much of as many of
games as you can manage.
Go back to 1 after a month or three of practice, see
you sound now.