What you see with your mind

"Sight is what you see with your eyes, Vision is what you see with your mind." http://lessons.chessvision. net/

There is a gap between what is under your nose and what you actually notice. It's the gap between what is obvious once your opponent lands a punch and what you did failed to see beforehand...

Chess uses a big board and it's hard to see how things join up sometimes. How can we see things coming before the accident happens?  Can we somehow look ahead better? This is sometimes called sight of the board, or chess visualisation, or chess vision... Shall we call it boardsight, rather than eyesight?  

I was putting together a set of mixed exercises (below), and came across several exercises for developing your boardsight... Here's a selection.

There's a great free online exercise from the Chess Drum

with items like:
  • Without looking at a board: what colour is the square ... b3?

  • Complete the sequence... a7-b8-h2, a5-d8-h4, a3-f8-h6, d1-a4-?

  • On which square can you put a knight to attack .... the g7 and e3 squares?

  • Where would you place a Queen so that it attacks h6, e4 and a3?

  • With a knight, you can attack the d2 and a5 squares from both c4 and...which square?

  • After the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Nbd2 d5 4.g3 c5 5.dxc5 Bxc5 6.Bg2... What should black play here?

Chessboard tasks (Martin Gardner)

  • Place eight queens on a chessboard so no queen attacks or defends another (you can use 8 pawns to stand for Queens).

  • How many Bishops can you place on a chessboard so that no Bishop attacks or defends another?

  • ...And how many knights?

  • Arrange five queens on the board so that every single square is attacked.

  • How many Knights does it take to do the same thing?

Knight Dance

The famous Czech IQ test:


Visit in turn the squares a1, b1, c1...h1, then h2-a2, a3-h3, etc. WITHOUT ever moving to a square occupied or attacked by a Black Pawn. Not too difficult, but can you beat 5 minutes against the clock?
Blindfold chess

Play chess without the pieces, calling moves out to each other.  If you play an illegal move, you lose!  You need a referee for this, who does have the pieces! (There's software too.)  Or try it when only one player plays blindfold… 


Chess Eye

A demo offline/online chess visualisation trainer
Chess Vision trainer

You play against the computer on the screen, but the board shows the position two ply behind...  If you can manage that, it will hide one quarter of the board!
Professor Chess (Jim Mitch)

Jim offers a sample homework set, with questions like:

In this position:
  • How many possible White captures? 
  • How many possible White checks?
  • How many possible Black captures? 
  • How many possible Black checks?

Count again, picturing the board two moves hence!

What's the fastest way for a [Knight] to move from [a7] to [a6]?

Which squares are attacked by both [Qd3] and [Nd2]?

Alex Bartashnikov's chess software

A superb suite that includes some try-before-you-buy visualisation training (including blindfold chess).  Excellent for youngsters!

Detective Chess (Gerry Quinn)

There are White pieces KQRBN at b7,c3,d4,g8 and g5.
The squares a4 and e1 are attacked once each,
the square g1 is attacked twice, and the square g7 three times.
Where is each White piece?

I dunno about playing blindfold or with a partly hidden board: I find playing blindfold a zillion times easier if I have an empty board to look at, and you will never be without a board during a game.

Maybe the simplest idea is: load up a complete game from a database, or open a book of chess games, pick a position half-way through, then imagine the position two moves hence, and count all the possible White checks and captures for each side. Then make the two moves, and check to see if you were right.  Slap yourself once for every one you missed.  Then pick more complicated positions.  Then look further ahead.  Then slap harder.