Chess can be a complex game just from the number of details that go behind every move. It can be intimidating to create something that would possibly defeat an opposing player.
This amount of information of course gives a tendency for some individuals to think more slowly. That is what I will try to solve for you today, how can you think faster during a game of chess?
To think faster in chess one should fully develop tactical awareness by playing puzzles at around 40% of their studying time. Learning lines of popular openings can also help with preparation that allows competitors to think faster.
Now I know that seems vague and not really all that helpful, but that’s basically what it is in a nutshell. I am going to discuss how you can prosper all those abilities in the shortest amount of time.
I don’t want to keep you waiting, let’s get started.
Is your chess level a big factor for thinking faster?
Some people think that your “smarts” outside of the game will have a huge influence on one’s rate of thinking (inside the game). I can testify though that this is not true, chess is a pursuit of knowledge for the most part, anyone who didn’t study will have a hard time.
Beginners are naturally slow thinkers in chess, this is because they haven’t yet developed the vision to acquire good moves on their own.
Some of you might be frustrated that whenever you look at the board you just can’t think of something. That means you’re very early in the process, or you haven’t put in enough work to ordinarily get the gist of every position.
Beginners will naturally have slower thinking time than advanced players since they just know fewer things. You can’t possibly expect to be thinking faster than someone who’s been doing this for years.
It’s just easier to know what to do when you have experience. It will teach you everything that theory can’t possibly express on its own.
Stronger players can usually think faster than others due to the amount of effort they’ve put in their craft. I’m sure you’re a geek at something too, something that other people don’t have much knowledge about.
That is exactly the reason why stronger players can seemingly think faster. They look at chess games over and over again until it’s become embedded in the brain.
But of course there are other conditions that can cause a player to think slow (environment, pressure, etc.). But the prevailing cause is insufficient understanding of chess principles.
Do not worry though, everybody has gone through this issue at some point. It is quite normal actually, if you didn’t, you must be destined to be on top of the world or something.
Should you think fast, or think better?
This is something that I have to throw in here, the idea that thinking fast matters “that much”. Of course thinking too slow is a real issue, but the focus should not always be on the speed.
The quality of the moves is as important as the speed to get there, thinking better chess should be prioritized over thinking fast.
This is to separate the problem from those that are just overthinking their speed. Yes, there is a level where a player just takes too long to think of ideas.
But there’s also a situation where a player is just doing fine but is not satisfied anyway. And I get it you want to improve, but always remember to not sacrifice quality for speed.
Thinking faster is not as important as you think, although too slow is still a problem. Official chess after all is played in long time formats (usually in multiple hours).
It is ok if you are taking your time in every move, it should suffice. In fact, you should learn to do that, patience is a virtue in this game, those that do not rush moves have the advantage.
Thinking too fast is actually worse than thinking too slow since that is harder to cure. A player that thinks too slow can easily shake that issue with a few practice.
As evidence, a lot of strong grandmasters can be beaten by untitled players on blitz. These people who are way stronger in over the board play can be outplayed by people who play fast.
This tells you the worth of these things, sometimes it just comes to luck rather than skills. But that is playing too fast, but what if we just want to think fast?
My recommended product, resource, or service for this article
There is one thing I hate the most about chess, which is it could be an expensive pursuit (with little value gained) if you look for the wrong products. I believe that chess should be inexpensive if you know what you are doing, which is why I always share my top picks!
In some posts, I embed this section with products related to that specific post so you may see this section throughout the website.
But enough of all that, here are some of my recommended items/services for this post:
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What things should you do in order to think faster in chess?
By experience, these are the things that have worked for me over the years. I will show them so you can try if it can work for you. Here is the complete list:
1.) Do some preparations before the game
Preparations are easily one of the things that makes a player appear to be thinking fast. Not that you will be actually thinking fast, but there are just fewer considerations that you will need to process (which will make you look fast).
This can be as simple as learning some lines in the opening or as complex as following a full game. Try preparing things out and see how it works for you.
2.) Learn the ideas behind some basic openings
Take note that I said “learn” not memorize, you can think of the moves faster (early) if you already know what works. The options will become clearer as you develop your theoretical knowledge.
Plus you will get a grasp behind the thinking of the moves which you can even apply in middlegame/endgames. It is just a learning experience, I’ve known some which improved (their speed) with this, so you should also try.
3.) Increase your positional vision
Positional vision refers to the amount of insight you can apply to the games. This will naturally come if you’re constantly exposed to any chess analysis.
It doesn’t even have to be your game, you can learn to understand key ideas in famous games which will transition in your own thinking speed.
4.) Play tactical puzzles
Of course you shouldn’t focus on mastering tactics indefinitely, but they are definitely helpful in having a boost in speed. Personally, I always take some extra time to analyze the position more whether I missed a tactic.
This of course is an additional time reduced if I’ve just worked on my tactical game (which I’m bad at). You will be more confident in spotting these combinations like the speed of lightning (by working on puzzles).
5.) Conceptualize the basics thoroughly in your game
The fundamentals are things that are usually forgotten but one of the most important. Developing pieces in the opening, finding plans in the middlegame, and opposition in the endgame.
These are all tested concepts that would make your decision process much more smoothly. If you’re familiar with some of these you don’t even need to think sometimes.
6.) Develop your intuitional understanding
Intuition is chess is like the first 5 moves that enter your head whenever there’s a position to analyze. This is key if you want to play as swiftly as possible.
Although you should be wary of relying on intuition, this just makes your thinking process faster. Playing repeatedly over and over again is the best way to develop this.
7.) Familiarize with common rules of chess
Some beginners are hampered with making decisions due to their doubts about the rules. Like how en passant works? Touch move? Piece movements?
This is of course a factor that needs to be eliminated to reduce your thinking time (since there are lesser concerns to think about). Learning the rules should be beneficial long-term as well.
8.) Learn to examine threats
Whether it’s checkmate, fork, or unwanted infiltration, these are things you can prevent easily if you have the ability to spot it.
You will be less worried about making mistakes (since you can identify the threat), therefore accelerating your calculation speed.
9.) Be comfortable with longer time controls
This sounds extremely counterintuitive, but you can never think fast properly if you can’t think slow. People who are very good at fast chess can almost always be as strong in slower time controls.
This is because fundamentals can easily be mastered in slow rather than fast chess. So I recommend that you should start playing long games before going faster.
10.) Recognize that you are thinking too slow, so you can work on it
Let’s be honest there are situations where we lie to ourselves. It’s hard to fix an issue that we have no desire to fix in the first place.
I just want to throw this one in here since it is one of the early steps to thinking fast. But arguably, I think this is one of the most important (to chess in general).
11.) Avoid playing moves that don’t have an intent
Some people think that they can appear to be thinking faster if they don’t calculate much at all. Yes it can seem that way, but you will never develop quick processing skills by doing it this way.
The best path to quick thinking is learning how to proceed with normal thinking and make it faster instead of not thinking at all. It will just impede the growth you can have by working on things the regular way.
12.) Analyze your previous games
The best way to learn something is to reflect on the mistakes that you have made in the past, which is why you should analyze your own games. It will give you valuable insights on how to proceed with future problems whenever encountering them.
Experience is the progenitor of speed, you’ll just learn how to deal with things quickly if you’ve done it before.
13.) Watch games from professional players
If you can’t figure how to wrap things on your own try to observe how the pros do it. Specifically how they play on faster time controls, which you can imitate in your own games.
This extra sense of perception has personally helped me to identify these concepts, maybe you can find something better.
14.) Focus on blitz and faster time formats
If you really want to train your swift calculating prowess, faster time formats (blitz/bullet) is the way to do it. Take note though that there is a danger with excessive addiction to fast chess which you can view here (will open in a new tab).
But in terms of testing out your calculating speed this definitely helps in measuring it. You can focus on this for a while, then switch back to normal time controls once you’ve attained your goal.
15.) Gather as much chess experience as you can
Just being better at chess in general will significantly improve your thinking speed. I think this is a pattern that you’ve seen in all my tips, it just teaches you how to be better.
Of course there are some things that you can do here and there but fundamentally, you will naturally think faster if you are consistently exposed to chess. Just keep playing while learning and you should be just fine.
Are you a fast thinker in chess?
Being able to think quickly in chess may seem like a superpower, yet is definitely achievable by anyone. You just need the correct system and discipline to do it.
Again I repeat, these are the things that have worked for me which may not apply to everyone. Every person is different and these should just be suggestions to find the one that works for you.
Though if you can conceptualize everything here I believe it will be extremely helpful. Sleep well and play chess.