How do the best chess players in the world always seem to find the right moves? It all comes down to a skill that every player needs to train hard if they want to make progress or win tournaments – chess calculation. Grandmasters don’t play moves and simply hope they will work – they visualise the opponent’s responses first and analyse continuations.
But there are endless moves, hundreds of possibilities and responses, right? How can someone possibly calculate all the options? The answer is that they simply do not calculate every option – only the ones that matter. We aren’t computers with endless brain power. Trying to calculate every move would be exhausting. Not only that, but tournament games aren’t endless – your clock would soon run out!
The key, explains IM Alexander Belezky in this exclusive Empire Chess preview, is to train yourself to look for the most forcing moves.
Chess Tactics – Forcing Moves
Forcing moves are the moves that force your opponent to respond. When looking at a position, find the captures with check, then look at all moves with check, then look at all moves with captures. If you learn to do this, and with practice, you’ll be able to find the winning moves in critical positions and find winning chess tactics.
If you see that a move has no benefit, you can then eradicate it from the candidate moves, waste no more time and energy looking at it, and look at the next option – the next most forcing move.
A good way to practice finding these moves, for it to become second nature, is to use chess puzzles. The more chess tactics you complete, the more this efficient calculation process becomes second nature. See, there are very good reasons why everyone always suggests practising chess puzzles as one of the main ways to improve your game!
Let’s look at the first position IM Belezky examines in the video. Before reading on, try to follow Alexander’s advice and find all the forcing moves White has in the position. You might want to write them down. So, look for 1. Captures with check, then 2. all moves with check, and then 3. all moves with captures.
How did you do? Let’s see the candidate moves. First, captures with check. There are none! Okay, on to the next most forcing moves – all moves with check. White has Ne7+ or Nh6+ available. What about moves with captures? White has Bxf6, Nxd6, or Nxg7.
So now it is time to analyze them in order. We can throw Ne7+ away already. Black would simply capture our piece and nothing has been accomplished. There is no need to spend more time thinking about this move. Next… Nh6+. Black has two responses, so we need to take a look at both of them and how we’d continue. If Black played …Kh8, we have Nxf7+, which would win Black’s queen and we’d win the game. Alternatively, Black could play …gxh6. Now, White could play Bxf6 which threatens the queen! Say Black were to move the queen away with …Qd7, White would win with Qg3+ …Bg7 Qxg7#. So, the outcome, no matter which option Black chooses, is fantastic for White – either we win a queen, or checkmate the opponent! This must be the right move!
See how we were able to find these by focusing only on the most forcing moves? There was no need to even calculate all the moves we originally found.
This was a rather simple example to show the main ideas of efficient calculation, but now you should watch the video where IM Belezky covers more examples and goes into even more detail.
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