Every player knows that chess is a game of strategy and tactics, but we also know that the same strategy and tactics won’t be possible if the concept of chess calculation is ignored. Hence, the need to improve your chess calculation.
When a chess grandmaster sees a chess position, the first thing that comes to his mind is to assess the position and understand the situation on board; he goes ahead to form a plan, but he does not move a single piece until he has done proper calculations and has decided that it will favor him in the end.
Calculation in chess involves judging the position and coming up with specific lines (also known as variations) that will best fit a particular position. So how do you improve your chess calculation? What tips and guidelines do you have to follow?
In this article, we will carefully take you through some important concepts to keep note of to improve your chess calculations.
How to Improve Your Chess Calculation?
It is impossible to play chess without calculation, and chess is a game of strategy that is played with the strength of the mind.
The strength of a chess player’s mind and, by extension, his chess ability is determined by his calculation skills.
Therefore, calculation is an invaluable skill in chess that must be learned by any player looking to take their game to the next level.
9 excellent steps which you can use to improve your chess calculation include:
- Always Analyze Forced Moves First
- Solve Chess StudiesSolve Puzzles Over-The-Board (OTB)
- Practice Visualization Techniques
- Get a Playing Partner to Improve Your Chess Calculation
- Play Games with Shorter Time Controls/Formats
- Get Good Chess Books
- Play Blindfold Chess
- Follow Grandmaster Games
Always Analyze Forced Moves First
You have probably played a chess game where you found yourself in a complicated position and did not know what to play next. Unfortunately, this happens to every chess player. The solution to this issue is to find Forced Moves.
As the name implies, forced moves are moves that require urgent attention and must be attended to. A forced move is one that gives your opponent no choice but to attend to it.A check on a king is an excellent example of a forced move because your opponent is forced to abandon his plans and attend to yours temporarily.
Forced moves are easy to calculate and detect immediately. You do not have to calculate many variations because you can almost detect your opponent’s reply to every move if it is a forced sequence.
The more forced moves you find, the more you are likely to control the flow of the game and once you are in control, finding the decisive blow won’t be so difficult.
In addition, forced moves also frustrate your opponent, leaving them with no choice but to abandon their plans and attend to the forcing tactic. It is both an excellent way to play and a cunning tactic that halts your opponent’s plans and forces him to dance to the tune you play.
How do you train yourself to find forcing moves? You can start by solving typical checkmate puzzles, either checkmate in 1,2, or 3 moves, as these will help train your ability to recognize forced moves anywhere.
Solving Chess Studies
Chess studies, which are also called chess compositions, are not positions from actual games. Instead, they are chess puzzles or positions that are created to teach chess players. There is an extensive network of players who create these studies. These players are referred to as chess composers or problemists.
Chess studies combine positions a person has created based on a theme or motif. These are often studies with the White/Black play feature where you’re expected to figure out the idea and calculate it. These ideas are sometimes counterintuitive and not apparent to the naked eye, but they increase our creative perspectives.
An example of a chess study is the Endgame study. An endgame study is a composed position in which the solver aims to find the essentially unique way for one side to win or draw, as stipulated, against any moves the other side plays.
If the study does not end in a checkmate or stalemate, it should be evident that the game is either won or drawn, and the solver can have a selection of many different moves.
You can find excellent chess studies on software like Lichess and Chess.com.
Solving Puzzles Over-The-Board (OTB)
Chess puzzles have been a means of training chess players since the middle ages. A chess puzzle is a puzzle in which knowledge of the pieces and rules of chess is used to solve a chess-related problem.
Solving chess puzzles on the board is a great way to build your calculation skills. As you move the pieces around the board, they register in your subconscious, and a memory pattern begins to form in your brain. This exercise works wonders in improving your chess calculation skills.
Working on over-the-board puzzles is very important as physical contact is involved, which makes it easier to remember. However, solving puzzles casually on the computer screen using the mouse doesn’t have the same effect as over-the-board puzzles.
To practice solving over-the-board puzzles, you will need a chess board and a good puzzle book that cuts through puzzles from the opening to the middle game and endgame phases. An excellent way to challenge yourself further is to use a timer.
You could set the clock to one minute per puzzle, depending on the difficulty level. Then once you start solving and getting the hang of it, you reduce the timer. So, for example, if you were solving puzzles at a time duration of a minute and thirty seconds per puzzle, as you go on, you could reduce the time allotted to a minute.
This ensures that your brain works faster and simulates the feeling of playing an actual game against an opponent sitting across the board.
Practicing over-the-board puzzles is a sure path on the road to improving your chess calculation skills.
Practice Visualization Techniques
Visualization in chess is the ability to see moves in your mind without them being played physically. Therefore, visualization is a very important aspect of chess calculation.
Since chess is a game of the mind, and visualization in chess deals with the mind’s ability to see moves that aren’t physically manifested, it is very important to master visualization.
One way to improve visualization is to study a particular position and recreate it mentally. You should repeat this multiple times to get the hang of it. This exercise will go a long way in improving your chess calculation skills.
Grandmasters have the ability to see 10,20, and even 30 moves ahead in a position. This makes it easier for them to calculate the best moves to be played. However, this impressive ability is not just natural. It is a result of practicing visualization techniques.
Get a Playing Partner to Improve Your Chess Calculation
There’s a saying that two heads are better than one. This means it is easier for two people who help each other solve a problem than for one person to solve it alone. You should apply the wisdom in this saying to improve your chess calculation.
In this case, getting another “head” means finding a playing partner. A playing partner is another chess player who shares the same chess goals you do.
Having a chess partner will go a long way in improving your overall game. A partner will push you to give your best and sometimes offer helpful advice to help up your game. You can also play competitive games with your partner. In this way, you can push and challenge yourselves to improve your calculation skills, making you better chess players.
Also, solving calculation puzzles with your partner makes you a better player as both of you will tend to exchange ideas and thoughts on how to proceed, giving you a better perspective of the position.
Play Games with Shorter Time Controls/ Formats
Chess can be played with different time formats, ranging from the longer ones like the classical time controls to faster ones like blitz and bullet.
One way to improve your chess calculation is by playing games with faster time controls. This means playing 5+0 blitz or 3+0 blitz games. Playing with faster time controls aids your chess calculation as the games put you in a position where you have to think and calculate faster than you would need in longer time formats.
Playing 5+0 or 3+0 blitz will go a long way in sharpening your calculation skills and ultimately making you a better chess player.
Get Good Chess Books
One of the best ways to improve your chess calculation is by studying chess books. Chess books are guides prepared by authors who possess a deep understanding of the game, to educate you on the intricacies of chess.
One significant advantage of a chess book is that it takes you on a journey into the mind of a grandmaster, explaining how they calculate and treat various chess positions. It is a chess hack of some sort, as it significantly reduces the work you must go through to improve your chess calculation.
This is because the grandmaster or chess writer has already given you a road map into his mind where you can discover the secrets to improve your chess calculation.
Studying chess books will significantly improve your chess calculation skills as they contain systematically broken down calculation processes involved in chess. Every grandmaster has studied chess books. You are guaranteed to find a lot of chess books in any grandmaster’s personal library. It is an integral step in the chess journey that cannot be overlooked.
There are many chess books that chess masters specially wrote for chess players worldwide to train their calculation and pattern recognition skills.
A popular example of a great chess book is Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess.
Play Blindfold Chess
Playing blindfold games is an excellent way to improve your chess calculation. Blindfold chess is a form of chess where the players do not see the positions of the pieces and do not touch them. This ensures that players maintain a mental recollection of the positions of the pieces.
In blindfold chess, moves are communicated via a recognized chess notation. This means that a player will speak out the move he intends to play, and the opponent replies in a similar fashion.
It is quite a challenging way to play chess, as players have to formulate strategies while ensuring that they do not lose track of the positions of their pieces.
Blindfold chess helps to improve chess calculation as it sharpens the memory and strengthens a player’s ability to grasp the intricacies of a chess position. Chess grandmasters also indulge in blindfold chess.
For example, Magnus Carlsen once played a blindfold exhibition with multiple players, and unsurprisingly, he won the game. This is because of the extent of his calculation skills which enabled him to visualize more than one chess board in his head and keep track of all the moves being played on the various boards.
You can practice playing blindfold games on a chess software like lichess. You can also do it physically with a chess-playing partner.
Follow Grandmaster Games
One of the best ways to learn is to take pointers from experts. The grandmaster title is the highest status in chess, second only to the world championship. Players who hold this title are exceptionally strong and tactically sound. Their games feature brilliant moves and exceptional calculation skills.
A grandmaster is able to calculate farther than 20 moves ahead. This is due to their immense talent and calculation skills that have been honed by years of practice and study. Following grandmaster games is one sure way to improve your calculation skills.
In addition, by watching their games, you pick up valuable lessons on various aspects of chess. You can follow grandmaster games online on sites like YouTube.
To get to that height you desire in chess, you must build your calculation skills to help you avoid numerous blunders, take control of your game, gain significant advantages and improve your chess rating in general. So what are you waiting for? Grab a book and go ahead and start improving that calculation skill. Let us know if you found this blog post helpful!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is calculation important in chess?
The ability to calculate is a crucial and core skill in chess. Chess is a strategy game that requires a lot of calculation from start to finish. Therefore, calculation is the most important asset a chess player should possess. This is because, without calculation, the chances of winning a chess game are basically non-existent. Therefore, calculation should be a top priority for any player that wants to improve their game.
What is chess notation?
Chess notations are symbols, letters, and numbers used to record the moves made and the position of the pieces in a game of chess. Chess notation is the language of chess as it is what chess players write down during their games, so others will be able to keep track of the game.
The earliest notation systems used longer narratives to describe each move. Over time, however, it gradually evolved into simpler notation systems. Algebraic notation is now the accepted international standard. Descriptive chess notation was used in English- and Spanish-language literature until the late 20th century but is now non-existent.
Can all grandmasters play blindfold?
Yes, all grandmasters can play blindfold. To become a grandmaster, one must have excellent visualization techniques, and blindfold chess is 100 percent visualization. However, their playing strength might not be as strong as when they play over the board. This is because of the difficulty blindfold chess poses, as they must constantly keep in mind the position of pieces on the board and formulate strategies.
What is the value of each chess piece?
Chess boards come in different makes. In addition, various materials can be used to make a chess board—materials like marble, wood, plastic, and even diamonds. However, the best chess set remains the wooden ones as they are considered the most suitable for top-level games. There are also themed chess boards like the Game of Thrones chess set.