Importance of visualization for a chess player and how to train it

Those of you, who follow me on Twitter (@petrs), may remember I attended a training session with a GM a few weeks ago. It was very interesting, not only about chess itself but also about psychological and other aspects of the game. One of lessons was about importance of  visualization for a chess player. I really liked it and I would like to share some ideas with you, guys.

I hope that everyone agrees that visualization is important for us. It is one of basic stones of our chess skills and it is necessary for our tactical capabilities. But how to train it?

Very good method with great results is this one:
– write the position right before an easy combination of mate-in-two on the paper (see the example below)
– place a clear board on the table
– try to imagine where all the pieces are placed on the board WITHOUT placing them there in reality. Just in your mind
– try to find the best continuation/solutions
– if you are not able to see it place two pieces (it is up to you which ones you chose to place) on the board and repeat the previous step
– repeat previous two steps until you find the solution

Of course, you should try to find the solution with as few as possible pieces on the board.

I hope you understand the principle of this method.

Let’s try it in reality.

The position to be solved is this:
White: Kg1, Qf6, Rd1, Re5, Bb2, pawns a2, b3, c4, f2, g2, h2
Black: Kg8, Qd8, Rc8, Rf8, Bb7, pawns a7, b6, d5, e6, f7, g6, h5
White to move and win. Please, write your solution under the article. And do not cheat ;)
Empty chess board

Another good method how to train visualization skill is to play chess blindfold. Or to take a chess book and play a game from diagram to diagram without chess board.

How do you train your visualization skills? Do you have a favorite method for it? Please, share it with us in the comments section below.

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11 Responses to “Importance of visualization for a chess player and how to train it”

  1. Rob says:

    1. Rxe6 fxe6, 2. Qg7#

    I recently discovered that my visualization skills are holding me back
    and I haven’t tried any methods yet, but I have some ideas. I like this
    list of suggestions. Helpful.

  2. Sean Clark says:

    This is a great exercise, I found myself visualising pieces on the same ranks, files or diagonals along with pawns blocking those lines. This greatly simplified the exercise and meant I didn’t have to memorise the complete position.

    I play a lot of correspondence games and often find myself visualising these when they are at critical points when I am away from the computer doing other things.

  3. Barry Phillips says:

    1. Q-h8+ Kxh8 2.Rxh5+ Kg8 3. Rh8++ Great method of exercise.

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  5. P.N.John says:

    Am I missing something important? Its Q-g7 or h8 mate.But I am not
    sure as I am when doing it from a book.
    This is a super idea.
    I will try it with other material.

  6. @ PN John: Yes, you are missing something.

    Here is a good site for blindfold exercises:

    I’ve played one blindfold game, against my 7
    year old (she can play principally sound for
    the most part). I won, but it was mostly
    because 7 year olds apparently don’t have the
    patience to wait for me to play uber slow while
    trying to remember where all the pieces are!

    It was fun though, I’d like to do it more.

  7. Uri Blass says:

    If your target is elo 2000 than visualization at the level that
    you can solve problems blindfold is unimportant.

    I have fide elo above 2000
    I am not expert of the opening stage and
    I cannot play a single game blindfold.

    My visualization skills are enough usually not to make blunders
    because I can calculate some moves forward when I see the board.

    I never studied the opening seriously and I believe that
    I can achieve better results if I do it because my opponents are also
    not experts of the opening stage and I believe that
    with learning the right opening repertoire I can achieve advantage
    out of the opening in most of my games(or positional advantage
    in the board or advantage in the clock)

    This advantage together with knowing the typical plans in the middle
    of the opening should be enough to get a significant improvement

  8. Louis says:

    I also battled to improve my visualization skills – I even trained to play blindfold chess to the point that I could successfully play 2 games simultaneously against +- 1600 rated players. I can’t say it really helped my practical visual skills.

    However, I made a program for myself to train visual skills and since it worked so well I am offering it for sale on my website –

    You can see some examples of this method in this video too –

  9. Chris says:

    1. Rd1xd5 …
    2. Qh8#

    I don’t think Rob’s Rxe6 works because then white can play pawn to d4, blocking the bishop’s protection to the black Queen.

  10. Chris says:

    Wait, Qg7#

  11. leo says:

    1. Qh8+ Kxh8
    2. Rxh5+ Kg8
    3. Rh8#

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