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Board Vision: What is it and Where do you get it?


Our beginner chess lessons place a lot of emphasis on something called board vision. But what exactly is it, and how do you get it?


When young beginners play chess, they frequently don’t take the opponent’s wishes into account. As a result, they are prone to suddenly losing pieces or getting checkmated. How do we solve this problem? We help them develop the skill of quickly noticing whether they are in danger, both before and after the move they are considering. This is what we call board vision. Think of it as the ability to notice which squares are being attacked by which pieces. It comes gradually: Students play games, solve exercises, and receive feedback on their work. There are also targeted lessons and positions that can help with this process.


In our Step 1+ course, we use something called a route planner. Students have to accomplish a clearly defined task that takes several moves or more, without moving the pieces. These are not the multi-move “white to move and win” puzzles that you might see in books - those are too complex to be especially useful at this point. Instead, the student has to visualize how one side might do something if everything else on the board stayed the same.


One such task is the following: You have to give a safe check in the smallest number of moves possible. You may not go to any unsafe square, and you may not capture anything. In the beginning, it’s quite difficult for students to avoid unsafe moves! By practicing the skill in a well-structured lesson, they become more likely to notice what the opponent’s pieces can do in a real game. Try it out: How can White give a safe check as soon as possible? Solution after the diagram.

 

Congratulations if you said the bishop should take the following route: f3, e4, b1, a2. From a2 the bishop safely checks the Black king. We write the answer as Bd1-f3-e4-b1-a2+. (The plus sign means check in chess notation). If you solve enough of these, you will think twice before putting a piece on an unsafe square!