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Calculation, logical thinking and decision-making in chess
Where most players think of tactics, they would be better off considering calculation. Tactics usually involve the winning of material or a forced checkmate but there is much more to calculate than that. Situations such as a liquid pawn center, choosing which piece to recapture a pawn with or working out how to maneuver a knight to a better square, all require careful calculation. And it’s these ‘normal’ decisions that often separate advanced players from beginners. Simply put, better players make better decisions more often.
In this 1 hour video, FM Alisa Melekhina discusses the critical skills of calculation and decision-making. Many times, we’re faced with choices. Do I open or close the center? Exchange minor pieces or not? Castle kingside or queenside? These decisions can have long-standing effects on our game so it’s important to get them right.
Alisa starts with an example from one of her own games, playing the Black side of a Sicilian Defense against an International Master in 2015. FM Melekhina notes that, as soon as a player is out of book, the real tests begin. Where should each undeveloped piece be moved to? Will the bishop be better placed on f5, e6 or g4? It’s these decisions, which may seem unimportant to some players, that can make all the difference. Each square will affect where the other pieces can be placed and give the opponent different options in terms of winning time by attacking pieces. It’s these small advantages and disadvantages that snowball into winning positions.
Even when making positional decisions, calculation is all-important. The ability to see the consequences of each variation might decide the winner.
After this instructive example, Alisa Melekhina shows a more direct example (around 30 mins into the video). In an Queen and pawn endgame, White can force checkmate. To do so, White has to find a series of forcing moves… and one quiet move! This is a more concrete form of decision-making in chess, and one that pays high rewards.
Next, Alisa Melekhina looks at a typical attacking set-up, the type we might see in our own games. White has many pieces aimed at the Black King: bishops on d3 and f6, a knight on g5 and Queen on e4. Of course, we have to expect our opponent will find the best defense but we also have to be ready to play the winning move if they don’t! Alisa breaks the position down into simple components to show all the possible checkmating patterns available if Black makes a wrong move.
This is definitely a video you’ll get the most from by calculating along with FM Alisa Melekhina instead of just watching and waiting for the answers.