When to Think: Triggers for Beginners and Club Players

When to Think: Triggers for Beginners and Club Players

One of the most difficult things for every chess player is to recognize the exact moment they have to stop for a moment and think deep to find the best move. No matter what your level is, this is it, this is the key factor to improve your play. In a training session with a coach, we always solve difficult exercises; this improves our vision, our tactical sense, calculation skills and to some degree our awareness to note when there are good moves to be found on the board. But what is the formula if there is one?

Fortunately for us, chess has no formulas but what it does have is rules that don’t always apply but they are clear indicators and can trigger your thinking in order to find the moment when you need to push your brains to maximum capacity.

In this article, we’ll try to explain in a simple way and through examples of when you must concentrate and make game-changing decisions.

Triggers in the Opening:

In order to make the most of this article and benefit, we’d like you to take it seriously and try hard to find the moves before seeing the answer.

A recent example:

when to think 1

Sgircea,R – Dragomirescu,A
White to Move

In the game, white played 10.Bd2. There is nothing wrong with this move, except that white missed a big opportunity to obtain a clear advantage out of the opening. Can you see how?

Triggers to consider:

  • Superior development
  • The pressure in the center, the square d5

In the middle game:

The middle game is complex, at least in most cases. It’s the moment of the game where the two forces collide and both sides are trying to impose their will on the enemy’s position. A good technique is being aware of the opponent’s idea and tries to interfere with that. The thing about this is it should be done in a smart way, keeping harmony with your own plans when possible.

Let’s take the following position:

when to think 2

Castellanos,R – Korneev, O

White to Move

Black has just played Ne5 creating threating concrete threats. If white does nothing or plays soft, black will take on f3 and/or play d5.

What does this mean?

This means the position demands action, concrete action to stop black’s plans. Please take a moment to consider your options and find the strongest move.


  • Opponent’s idea

One last but not least is the winning positions. The winning positions are a highly dangerous ground, not because of the difficulty of the position chess-wise, but because the tendency to be in a more relaxed state of mind or in some cases, with a clear anxiety to win the game quickly. Beware of your opponent resources and save yourself from unnecessary upsets!

Take a look at this position, how would you win?

when to think 3

Castellanos,R – Diaz Herrero

In a totally winning position due to the pin on the a1-h8 diagonal and threatening knights white needs to solve a simple problem, what to do with his queen. The problem is of an easy solution, there are only two squares the queen can go to in order to keep the annoying pin – b2 and a1.

With a little calculation, one can easily find the right move, however, in a state of anxiety and no thinking at all one can blunder like I did.

See the solution here:

Hope you find this article useful and serve you for making decisions at the chessboard. As usual, comments are always appreciated!

Want to learn how to win more games? We have written an amazing post covering the exact chess strategy for beginners to do so. Don’t miss it!

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Updated 01.04.2024


Yury Markushin:
Hi All, thanks for pointing that out, we have added the correct game. The solution is there. Enjoy!
You have to change the game of the 3rd example, you posted the same one as the 2nd example by mistake
Solution to Castellanos/Herrero non existant.
One of the games was posted twice. The last game is missing.