Optional Chess Vision Drills

In this section I describe additional chess vision drills that you can use to further develop your abilities. These drills are very helpful, even for strong players. Use them if you feel that you are missing obvious opportunities or are taking too much time to find simple moves.

Knight Flight_

Knight Flight is the grown up version of Knight Sight. Instead of moving the knight along the shortest path between adjacent squares, you will work on being able to see the shortest path between any two squares.

To execute the Knight Flight drill, start with the knight on a1 and move it to b1 in the shortest number of moves, just as in the Knight Sight drill. As with the Knight Sight drill, physically hit the squares that the knight moves to, but do not move the knight itself.

Once you have completed the a1-b1 circuit, move the knight from a1 to c1. The shortest path is now just two moves: b3-c1. As before, physically hit the b3-square and the c1-square with your finger.

With the knight still on a1 continue through the standard loop, going through all of the squares on the board. What is the maximum number of moves that it takes to move a knight from a1 to any other square on the board? You should be able to answer this question after completing this drill.

After you have completed all of the circuits that start on a1 and go to all of the other squares on the board (b1-h1; h2-a2; a3-h3; h4-a4; a5-h5; h6-a6; a7-h7; h8-a8), move the knight to b1 and repeat the process. Once you have gone through all of the squares, move the knight to the c1-square and repeat the process. Then cycle through all of the remaining squares on the board. By the end of this drill you will have placed the knight on every square on the board and from each square you will have moved the knight to every other square on the board.

This drill will take half a day to complete. There are a total of 4032 (64*63) pairs of squares on the board and, assuming that it takes 5 seconds to complete one path, it will take over 5 hours (4032*5/3600) to work through the entire drill.

The ability to quickly know how to move a knight from any square on the board to any other square will have a marked effect on your chess vision, particularly in endgames which feature knights.

The diagram below shows an example from one of my own games. With Black to move, Fritz judges the position to be approximately equal. But my opponent, an experienced 1800 player, was not able to move his knight as effectively as I did. Play continued as follows: 27...&a7 28 £ic3 £>c8 29 £\e4 f5 30 £>c5 *xd6 31 4te6+ Wxe6 32 Wxd8 and Black resigned in two more moves. In this sequence I moved my knight effectively four times in just four moves, something that I would not certainly have been able to do without the benefit of the Knight Flight micro drill.

The Knight Flight micro drill will improve your ability to quickly evaluate positions in which knights play a major role. In this example, my opponent (Black) is an experienced 1800 player. Fritz judges this position to be equal. Play continued: 27...*ha7 28 foc3 *hc8 29 Qse4 f5 30 &c5 Wxd6 31 £>e6+ ^xe6 32 S^xd8 and Black resigned in two more moves.

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The Knight Flight micro drill will improve your ability to quickly evaluate positions in which knights play a major role. In this example, my opponent (Black) is an experienced 1800 player. Fritz judges this position to be equal. Play continued: 27...*ha7 28 foc3 *hc8 29 Qse4 f5 30 &c5 Wxd6 31 £>e6+ ^xe6 32 S^xd8 and Black resigned in two more moves.

As with all other micro-drills, the Knight Flight drill needs to be repeated on successive days to be effective. Ideally, during the initial intensive phase, you will go through the Knight Flight drill twice a day for two weeks. During the refresh phase you will go through the Knight Flight drill at least once a month and before significant tournaments and games.

Pawn Grab_

This drill will help you to see the quickest way to move your pieces to capture your opponent's pawns. This drill is particularly useful for rook and pawn endings.

To work this drill place a white rook on a square and then place any number of black pawns on the board (see the diagram below).

Chess Vision
abcde f gh An example set-up for the pawn capture drill

Now, in your mind's eye, calculate the shortest number of moves required for the rook to capture all of the black pawns. Now move the rook to each square on the board and repeat the process.

After you have gone through each square on the board with this particular pawn set-up you should notice many patterns. What is the minimal number of moves required to capture all of the pawns? Are there any squares that are particularly hard? These are all questions that are of critical importance in rook and pawn endgames.

You can now change the configuration of the black pawns and repeat the process. You can create variations of this drill by changing the white rook to another piece (the knight is, as usual, particularly difficult).

After spending at least a week on this drill, concentrate on variations that are cropping up in your games. Are you reaching many rook and pawn positions in which there are six or seven pawns on the board? Then drill those positions. Are you reaching positions in which a bishop plays a critical role? Then work on bishop pawn grab drills.

Pawn Mines_

The Pawn mines drill is the opposite of the pawn grab drill. Instead of focusing on capturing pawns you now focus on moving a piece to a target square without landing on any square that a pawn attacks.

For an example, see the diagram below. What is the minimal number of moves the rook must make to reach h5 without landing on a square where it can be captured by a black pawn? Note that h3-h5 does not work because on h3 the rook can be captured by the g4 pawn. Another two-move path, c5-h5, does not work because on c5 the rook can be captured by the b6 pawn.

The shortest number of moves is three. The path c2-h2-h5 is an example, as are c1-h1-h5 and c8-h8-h5. Are there any others? For this drill you should focus on finding all minimal paths.

As with other drills, once you have found the solution, you should move the key piece, in this case the rook, to another square on the board and repeat the exercise. As you find more solutions with the same pawn set-up you will start to notice patterns and you will get faster and faster at finding a solution.

What is the minimal number of moves that the white rook must make to reach h5 without landing on a square where it can be captured by a pawn?

Try this drill with various pieces. In the diagram, if the rook is changed to a queen how many moves does it take to get to h5?

King Attack_

The king attack chess vision drill improves your ability to directly attack the king. After you finish this drill your ability to finish off attacks when the opposing king is exposed will be greatly improved.

Place a white queen and a black king on the board. Put some pawns in front of the black king (see the diagram below). Now move the queen in the minimal number of moves to a position where it checks the king and cannot be captured.

What is the minimal number of moves that the white rook must make to reach h5 without landing on a square where it can be captured by a pawn?

In the diagram there are many possible two-move solutions: e4-e8, e2-e8, b2-h8, f5-f8, f2-f8, and g6-e8 are just some of them.

Once you have found a solution, move the queen to another square on the board and repeat the process. Continue to do this until you have a calculated a check from every square on the board.

How Does The King Move

Learn to attack the king. How many times does the queen have to move before it can check the king?

Learn to attack the king. How many times does the queen have to move before it can check the king?

As usual you can change the drill by replacing the white queen with a rook, bishop, or a knight. You can make the problem substantially harder by adding a black piece that can block or capture the white piece. Do not move this extra black piece; simply do not allow the white queen to move to a square where it can be captured. Practice this variant only after you have done the basic exercise every day for at least one week.

Square Name_

This drill is particularly helpful for beginners. When I look at the scoresheets of my early games they are riddled with errors. How to fix this problem? Learn the name and colours of the squares.

Look at a chessboard with no pieces and let your eyes fall on a square. Instantly say the name of the square. Repeat the exercise for fifteen minutes a day for at least two weeks until there is no hesitation.

This exercise will reduce the errors on your scoresheets and make it easier to remember long sequences of moves as you familiarise yourself with the board.

Once you have learned the names of the squares, create a set of flash cards with the square name on the front and the colour on the back (see Figure 7). Run through these flash cards until you can instantly say whether a square is dark or light.

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