Helpful Hints

One thing that helped me progress was to keep a running list of things I learned from my games. Rereading the list occasionally, helped these things sink in to where they'd start automatically popping into my head whenever they'd apply to a move or plan I was contemplating.

Important caveat: These are meant to be considered rather than to be obeyed unconditionally.

Another caveat: Since I didn't start compiling this list until already an advanced player, i.e., a master or nearly a master, some of the concepts mentioned below might be hard for an inexperienced player to fully grasp. Feel free to contact me with any questions, and I'll try to address them either on this site or in a personal reply.

  1. Weigh technical difficulties carefully when deciding whether to win or trade material, i.e., don't overemphasize technical difficulties.
  2. Beware of the position that "looks nice" but offers no constructive plan. Modified 11/7/06
  3. There are very few automatic moves, thus do not automatically reject.
  4. A weakness does not exist unless it can be exploited.
  5. Don't be too eager to sacrifice; be eager enough.
  6. Pawn moves are among the most deceptive and easy to overlook.
  7. Don't automatically capture en passant.
  8. Don't complicate if it's not necessary, or if there is neither tactical nor strategic justification.
  9. Don't overlook the complement. ("Complement" is a term I'd coined for a move that occupies a square that the opponent has just released control of. For example, in the opening sequence 1. e4 Nf6 2. e5 Nd5, 2...Nd5 is the complement to 2. e5.)
  10. Don't ask for it, i.e., make a provocative move just for the sake of being provocative.
  11. Be wary of an intuitively wrong move that seems to work tactically.
  12. Don't make preventive moves that can be advantageously ignored.
  13. Take your opponent seriously.
  14. Analogies are helpful, but may be incorrect.
  15. Expect the opponent to try to thwart your plans. Modified 11/7/06
  16. Avoid tactical moves that lack an effective follow-up.
  17. Don't stop analyzing a line until there are no more threatening moves, captures or checks.
  18. In a quiet position, take into account possibilities beyond the tactical horizon.
  19. False fortresses are prone to diversion or zugzwang.
  20. Never move hastily.
  21. Don't misevaluate defensive possibilities.
  22. Calculate sharp lines, don't evaluate them using only intuition.
  23. Don't count on obscure tactics to counterbalance positional deficiencies.
  24. Don't develop your opponent's men.
  25. Assume the opponent knows the opening at least as well as you.
  26. Don't put a piece on a bad square merely to keep an enemy piece out of its best square. Instead, put your own piece on its best square. Modified 11/7/06
  27. Don't be paranoid about lack of development.
  28. Don't be in a hurry when you can advantageously wait.
  29. Keep your objectivity.
  30. Watch for interference themes.
  31. Never move without anticipating the reply.
  32. Don't walk into pins.
  33. Assume a space advantage combined with pawn tension will lead to a strong attack.
  34. Just because a desirable positional or tactical thrust is achieved, doesn't mean the game is over.
  35. When playing a well-trodden opening line, don't overanalyze alternatives.
  36. Don't "rotely" play as in a similar, but distinctly different position.
  37. When in an apparently unfamiliar opening, try to recall past experiences.
  38. With a structural advantage(s), don't provoke unnecessary complications.
  39. Don't provoke redeployment of a poorly posted piece.
  40. Seek to exchange an opponent's piece that's "in your hair."
  41. Recheck your analysis before playing a move.
  42. An unusual, even inferior plan by the opponent doesn't mean you'll win, especially if he's White.
  43. Be conscious of the risk of playing an opening you don't know. Modified 11/7/06
  44. Don't dissolve your opponent's weaknesses.
  45. A better position isn't necessarily a winning one.
  46. If it's your turn and you're considering several moves (say, five), have scrutinized the first four, and find none of those four to be satisfactory, don't fall into the trap of impulsively thinking that you have to play the fifth move. You need to scrutinize that move to the same extent as you did the others. Added 5/18/14