The Secrets of Calculation

Using Structured Thinking

How do good players calculate variations in their heads? Although there may be no easy answer to this question, it may help to use "structured thinking" to avoid tactical oversights later in the game.

When it's your move, do you play the first idea that comes into your head? You shouldn't unless you have no choice. Instead you should consider other possibilities. On the other hand, analyzing too many moves wastes time and is really a fruitless task anyway.

Whether you are responding to your opponent's last move, formulating a plan, or combining defense with counterattack, you undoubtedly will need to evaluate several possible moves. These are called Candidate moves.

As you scan the board for candidates and review your thoughts from previous turns, various ideas will suggest themselves. Rather than analyze any of these in depth,. First make only a cursory initial review of the potential moves. If any seem worth further consideration, put them on a mental list. You should be able to find three or four candidate moves for this list unless there is a forced move to make, such as a recapture.

Avoid the temptation of analyzing in depth the first move you think of. That could be a serious procedural error. One reason is that you may be wasting your time analyzing an unworthy move. If you first frame several moves into a list and mentally examine them, you may find that one or two of the moves are clearly more attractive than the others. This reduces your workload by eliminating moves not worth analyzing before you analyze them. In summary: 1. Make a superficial analysis of move possibilities 2. Create a mental list of the candidate moves 3. Arrange those moves in order of preference, eliminating those not worth serious thought 4. Analyze the first move on your list as deeply as you can 5. If you run into trouble, turn to the next candidate on the list

This process may not enable you to analyze like World Champions. And it won't equip you to calculate ten or more moves in your head, few people can. But it may help you see and calculate more deeply than you do now. It's this type of "Structured Thinking" on which you can improve on.

The Dutch Championship between Piket and Sosonko. See the difference between what a amateur sees and what a master sees.

Dutch Championship 1993

Next is the discussdion of what calculation is and is not.

What Calculation is and is Not