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“I want to improve my calculation skills; I don’t know WHAT to calculate in a particular position; I don’t know HOW to calculate in a particular position; I have troubles calculating lengthy variations; What is the best way to calculate moves?” – and the list of questions/problems that most chess players face goes on. That’s exactly the purpose that this article serves – today I will share with you 5 best tips for effective calculation.
1) Tactics And Calculation Complement Each Other
What’s the difference between Tactics and Calculation? They are like two peas in a pod. You just cannot separate them from each other. They both always complement each other in almost any chess position. Therefore, you should possess really good tactical skills, know almost all the tactical motifs (patterns) and strike a killer blow when an opportunity comes.
Diagram – 1
White to play
For instance, in the above position we can see that White has two pieces attacking Black’s d5-rook. They are the queen on c5 and the rook on d1. And Black has an equal support for the rook – d8-rook and the e6-queen. Nevertheless, when Black’s d8-rook moves out of the 8th rank, White’s rook on a1 goes to a8 and annoys the black king. Yes, you guessed it right – the tactical motif is back rank weakness. And White wins with 1.Rxd5 Qxd5 2.Qxd5 Rxd5 3.Ra8+ Rd8 4.Rxd8#
We can see how calculation and tactics go hand in hand here. You cannot calculate these four moves if you don’t know the tactics in the first place.
2) Observe Your Opponent’s Move
Do not reinvent the wheel. Your mind is usually pre-populated with some ideas and plans. You don’t have to start from the scratch whenever your opponent makes a move. You just have to observe your opponent’s last move carefully, and see if it affects the position or helps you execute your own plans. Let me give an example:
Diagram – 2
Black to play
White just played 1.Rf6, pinning Black’s queen. Observe your opponent’s move CAREFULLY. See if his move has changed the position for better (of course, better for you). If we look closely, we can see that by moving the rook from f4 to f6, White has opened the diagonal for Black’s queen, which is aiming at White’s king.
So, what do we do now? Black just goes ahead with his plan, which is to attack White’s king. That’s why he has the powerful bishop on b7, the queen on d6, and the rook on h8. So, he just looks for the right tactics here (yes, go to the first tip – tactics, as I said, you just cannot ignore it!). Black wins after 1…Rxh4+ 2.Kg1 Rh1#
3) Active pieces – Coordination
Chess is all about pieces. Therefore, you need to have a good harmony of pieces before going for a mind boggling calculation. In Diagram-1, if it wasn’t for the coordination between White’s queen and his two rooks, the back rank tactics wouldn’t be there.
And in Diagram-2, though the queen is pinned by White’s rook, it held its purpose of attacking that diagonal where White king stays in. The two key diagonals for White’s king to escape were well captured by Black’s queen and the bishop. Also, thanks to his e3-pawn for not letting the king escape via f2, and of course, the rook which delivered the checkmate – voila, piece coordination!
SuggestedCalculation and Evaluation in chess
4) Blindfold Exercises
Calculation is all about visualizing things in your mind without touching the pieces on the board. And the best way to practice this is to do a lot of blindfold exercises. “A strong memory, concentration, imagination, and a strong will is required to become a great chess player”. Bobby Fischer. This is also one of the 10 tips to improve in chess.
For starters, you can solve simple mate in one/two/three moves puzzles blindfolded, then some simple tactical motifs, later some tough combinations, and then try to play an entire chess game blindfolded.
5) Find Forcing Moves
Calculating a lot of variations with unforceful moves would just suck your time hard and you will soon get into time trouble. It is always good to go ahead with calculations involving forcing moves. Try to ‘force’ things as much as possible, so that you get what you want. Also, it need not be strictly forcing moves – of course, there will be some situations when your opponent could play some other move, but make sure that, in such cases, he loses material.
For example, in the second diagram, White was forced to play 2.Kg1, whereas in the first diagram, if Black had not taken 1…Qxd5, then he would have lost material. So, 1…Qxd5 was technically a forced move.
Finally, I’d like to share with you one of the best chess calculations ever by Bobby Fischer. It was an about equal middlegame and Fischer’s knight was attacked by his opponent’s pawn. How he calculated from there and won the game is simply a beauty to watch. You can find the PGN of the game below: