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How to think and play chess like a grandmaster

Updated on April 21, 2010

Play chess like a grandmaster

This article is by no means a replication of Alexandra Kotov’s book rather it is a description of my little understanding of how grandmasters reason based on my analysis of their games and understanding of their attitudes to the game.

To start with a grandmaster of chess according to FIDE (World chess federation) is any player who achieves a rating of 2600 and the title so awarded is for life. In all there are over 1000 grandmasters and countless more international masters and candidate masters.

How grandmasters think on the chess board

On the chess board, a grandmaster is a totally different person from his real self (well may be in most cases). On the chess board grandmasters learn to be selfish, cruel, brutal, harsh, suspicious and unbecoming. Here is what I mean, as a selfish person you wish only yourself the best and wish the exact opposite for others. You want to be successful but you want your opponent to fail. That is the mindset most grandmasters take with them to the board. If you want to win a game your opponent has to lose and that can only happen if you achieve a decisive advantage such as having a superior position, more material or even a mating attack that cannot be refuted.

Another thinking style of chess grandmasters is in their cruelty. If you want to win most of your games learn to think of the most evil, sinister plot to use in destroying your opponent. Don’t just sit back and wait for your opponent to strike, strike him real hard so that he will not be able to retaliate. This is best achieved by eliminating counter play and one grandmaster particularly good at this was capablanca who despite his simplicity on the chess board was an extremely skillful defender and attacker at the same time. His cruelty became evident whenever he initiated his attacks against weak spots.

Think and play aggressively when your opponent tries to snatch a pawn threaten to pick up a knight or a bishop of his instead of trying to defend your pawn. If your opponent develops his pieces to active squares try and undermine his development with a mobile pawn center and so on. In all if your opponent threatens you or tries to mobilize men for an attack do whatever you can to do much worse than what he/she tries to do to you.

Think and play accurately despite all the talk of being aggressive and cruel you must learn to be clear headed and very observant. The position in chess is the single most important factor every other thing is second so learn to understand the demands of the position and base your decisions on those demands.

Plan and evaluate your plan in chess like in war and business, the plan is the basis of success. A lack of planning is the biggest cause of failure in the game. By the way a plan only exists when there is an objective or target. Grandmasters are especially very good at finding weaknesses which become their targets. Examples of such weaknesses could include weak pawns (backward pawns, isolated pawns and doubled pawns), weak squares and unguarded pieces as well as an exposed king. Then a plan which will try to exploit this weakness will now be sought out with the consequences of that plan on both sides being played out in the mind’s eye of the grandmaster. They plan but they also checkout what will become of them if their plan succeeds or fails.


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