Visualizing a chess board

To learn chess, one of the most important concepts is to be able to visualize chess boards and positions on that board. Does anyone know if there is a method where you can see the chess position in your head more clearly?

That’s not really what you want… you want to see the patterns. Just like with words… you want to see the whole word and not the individual letters more clearly. Same thing applies here.


Thanks, I edited the post

I believe it’s just a matter of experience. But I will leave a comment here to get notified if someone has better ideas :smiley:

True. But what do you have to experience. Practice makes perfect, tis true, but you have to know what to practice.

Well, first of all, playing a lot of chess of course.

Then if you want to progress to a higher level, you could start studying grandmaster games. Look at a position from say, move 20 and then think about what move you would do and compare it to what the grandmaster played.

Too improve visualization further you can start playing blindfolded chess, forcing you to visualize everything in the game.

If you’re just getting started, I think it would be easiest to start with endgame studies.

By the way, there is a (I believe croatian) guy who has a lot of great videos on improving in chess on youtube, his channel is called “Hanging Pawns”.


I would probably call myself a very advanced beginner or maybe a very weak intermediate player. I’m good at tactics but very weak on strategy and long term calculation. :frowning:

Which of his videos should I watch first

Aside from the usefulness of being able to do it.

Chunking is the answer. Now I don’t simply mean, looking at things in chunks.

When you have memorised chunks you can keep chunks in your working memory instead of actual individual positions. Out of these chunks you can make larger chunks. Experts usually have a lot of these to the point that they can see the entire board and remember it clearly, the unique expression by the large set of interconnected chunks makes your memory for such a game nearly perfect. Manually memorising the chunks is never done but should be faster and more tedious. It becomes easy to understand when you take two chunks which just about go beyond your ability to easily recall and connect them. Once this connection sticks it becomes easy to recall this larger chunk along with others.

It’s possible to make a memory system for chess too but that may be different and creative in this context.

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I would recommend his videos on endgames, and chess meditations. Middlegame ideas are great as well.

Hi Masked Rebel,
Are you teaching chess? Or learning? I am no great chess player (Elo highest ever was 1870 quite a few years ago, I don’t pay League chess any longer but my current blitz on is 1950) and I’ve never been into blindfold chess - but I can play - and to me the visualisation thing isn’t about seeing ahead it’s calculating and evaluating - I think that the calculation and short term calculable tactical awareness/ability is of greater importance than however far your can visualise. As Reti said: there are two types of chess position: strategic positions and tactical positions, the secret is that they are ALL TACTICAL POSITIONS. Good luck with your chess

The usual approach is to visualize 5 4x4’s. One for each qtr of the board and again one for the central four. You don’t need to visualize the whole board at once. You don’t do that when you play, you study regions and connect them to other regions.


Here’s a link that was given earlier in the thread:

The “chess pattern” discussed in that link is “light-square weaknesses”, because all Black’s white squares are dangerously weak.

In the olden days, a “pattern” was called a “motif” - so here’s a list of motifs. It’s the best and most complete list that I’ve seen. I would have eaten that when I used to play.
In fact the list is so complete that there wasn’t sufficient space to include “light-square weakness”, or “dark-square weakness” :grin:

I recommend that you start with any of the “pawn” motifs. In the above link you will see, in sequence,

  • Backward pawn
  • Connected pawns
  • Doubled pawns

and so on.

If you know all that pawn stuff, you’ll be difficult to beat - even if you completely ignore all the other motifs. The downside is that people will hate you. Nobody likes playing against a good pawn player. The converse, of course, is that if you prefer “cut-and-thrust”, then weak pawns will guarantee you an enjoyable game. Pity about the result.

In the “Backward pawn” example listed above, note that only three pawns are shown, Showing any more pieces would distract the user for no benefit. Many of the random examples that I opened are configured in the same way - with as few pieces as possible. That proves that you don’t need to memorize a complete position such as the “light-square weaknesses” shown in a link above. You only need to visualize the important squares. If you forcefully and deliberately removing some pieces (or even sectors) from your inner mind, it will help to reduce your calculations. Especially in the inevitable bar-room brawls that occur in the mad scramble just before the time-checks.

The list of motifs don’t say much about knights. But since the whole point of this thread seems to be “visualization”, you should certainly know how to handle knights.

Look in for Nimzowitsch with White against the French, or Petrosian with any colour. Note how these guys handle pawns and knights. (There might be better modern players with pawns and knights, but I’ve lost touch with the game.)

You should try to visualize knight moves in practice games. The hardest knight moves to “see” are those which start off with a “backward” move - or even two backward moves - and need about 6 or 8 moves to arrive on the final destination square.

You get good practice by playing with 8 pawns plus four knights for each player - especially 5-minute games :grin: