Mastering Chess: How to See the Entire Board and Win Every Game

Chess is a game of strategy and foresight, where success hinges on your ability to see the entire board at all times.

Understanding the importance of this skill can greatly enhance your gameplay and lead to more victories on the chessboard.

We will explore what it means to see the whole board in chess, why it is crucial, key elements to consider, training techniques, common mistakes to avoid, and ultimately, how it can improve your overall performance in the game.

Let’s dive in!

Key Takeaways:

  • Seeing the whole board in chess means accurately assessing the position of all pieces, identifying threats, and recognizing patterns and plans.
  • It is important to see the whole board in chess to make informed decisions and anticipate opponent moves.
  • To improve your ability to see the whole board, practice visualization exercises, study games from grandmasters, and play blindfold chess. Avoid common mistakes like tunnel vision and ignoring opponent’s moves.
  • What Does It Mean to See the Whole Board in Chess?

    To see the whole board in chess means you are considering all pieces, all lines, and are aware of your opponent’s potential moves and threats as an integral part of your evaluation process. Seeing the whole board is sometimes referred to as Thinking the Game. Critical moves, tactical traps, or devastating blunders become apparent only if you can see the entire board at once.

    Of course no one is able to do this all the time, and not all situations require it, but in general terms seeing the whole board encompasses as wide a context as you can reasonably manage. Practically, seeing the whole board is about recognizing the highest impact pieces and developing a strategy that causes one piece to support the other for maximal effect against your opponent.

    Why Is It Important to See the Whole Board in Chess?

    It is important to see the whole board in chess because it allows you to develop a holistic strategy that incorporates all of the components of the board such as central control, king safety, development of pieces, pawn structures, weak squares, and pawn breaks. By considering all of these elements at once, you will be able to make better decisions in your moves and not overlook threats that your opponent is making on the board.

    Having a broader view of the board also allows you to better anticipate exchanges and which pieces will end up best placed. This will broaden your mind and will lead you to understand chess better from a conceptual perspective which can lead to overall improvements in your thinking and strategic abilities. Always ask yourself whether you have seen everything on the board before making a move. Consider your opponent’s best response and whether it creates any threats that you need to mitigate.

    What Are the Key Elements to Consider When Seeing the Whole Board in Chess?

    The key elements to consider when seeing the whole board in chess are moves, character evaluation, and strategic objectives. You need to evaluate where your and your opponent’s pieces can go with their next move. You need to quickly evaluate the relative value of pieces. Strategic objectives are minor immediate or long-term goals that could change the overall outcome of the game. Ignoring any of these three elements could provide the opponent with powerful positions.

    Evaluating the Position of Pieces

    First, evaluate the position of rooks, pawns, knights, and bishops (before queen). Rooks are strongest in the center, are better off the back rank, and tend to be useful in linking up your debuted rooks. Pawns have higher values when they are center and have not moved (time matters), but many overlooked pawns are very strategically valuable. Knights are most effective at 3 and 6 files off the center. Bishops are generally best if they move outside 2 files of the center in many configurations but always at least different squares and never occupying each other’s squares in a pattern called Baden baden bishops stratagem.

    The evaluation of queen position should answer the question of ‘is my queen helping or bothering the flow in the strength of my forces’. In most cases, the ‘and everybody says checkmate’ line configuration that youtubers, commenters, and even tournament players constantly miss is much more important in practice than the queen.

    The relative strengths of different pieces can determine whether they survive or are exchanged on the board. Appropriate utilization and preservation of strong positions ensure that underestimated pieces play pivotal roles as the game progresses. Whether pieces are advancing, holding off threats, or being sacrificed can be determined by strength placement evaluations.

    Identifying Potential Threats

    Studying the whole board in chess allows potential threats to be identified early when they are at their weakest and easiest to neutralize. An advanced player will try to see the threats on the chessboard one or more moves before they can be executed in order to prepare for them. Threats to widen the objective, offensive, and defensive understanding when looking for threats are the three most common possibilities, said Grandmaster Mihail Marin in his book Pavlov’s Chess.

    Recognizing Patterns and Plans

    Recognizing patterns and plans refers to identifying generalized structures in a given chess position that fall under a particular theme and can be manipulated to aid one’s strategy. For example, understanding that double pawns are weak, and recognizing positions where one can create double pawns for the opponent. The topic of recognizing patterns and plans ties in closely with improving board visualization. For additional training beyond playing real or practice games, recognize patterns on chess problem websites such as, and sparring sites such as

    How Can You Train Yourself to See the Whole Board in Chess?

    You can train yourself to see the whole board in chess by following four key steps. One, practice makes perfect. Play chess regularly and it will soon become second nature. Two, head movement. Your brain can better process an image when the eyes accompany the brain while switching the focus of attention. Three, annotate your games. Keep a record of moves to make it easier for you to follow the game’s development and re-examine them later. Four, mirror exercises. These exercises can improve the connection between your brain and eyes.

    Practice Visualization Exercises

    Visualization exercises are training tools in which you view a chessboard with specified pieces, remember their locations when the board is removed, then place the pieces on a second identical board without visual aids. Most chess exercise books will include these. In the article Can I Train Visual Memory, Ilona Roth summarizes research that highlights how one’s spatial ability and verbal memory ability correlate with the ability to visualize on the chessboard.

    Study Chess Games from Grandmasters

    Watching Chess games at an expert level serves as both training for the brain and as a strategic referee. Chess grandmasters have unique tactics that they develop over time as well as personal philosophies on how to approach the game. By studying their games, you can train yourself to think like them during your own games, and to better understand strategies that they employ during matches, even if they are not using them overtly gain you clearer insights on what you can do to improve your overall game of chess.

    The Hitler of Chess, Bobby Fisher, developed an aggressive strategy of concentrating on attacking the queenside and revealed that it was more effective to train your forces on one side as opposed to splitting offensive intentions on both wings.

    Play Blindfold Chess

    Blindfold chess is a form of chess play wherein the players refrain from using a physical representation of the board at hand. This technique results in mentally visualizing the board and making moves in the mind that are properly translated into the actual game’s positions. Paul Morphy, Mikhail Tal, and Alexander Jeifmans are some examples of past and current grandmasters who are known for being proficient blindfold chess players.

    What Are Some Common Mistakes That Can Prevent You from Seeing the Whole Board in Chess?

    Some common mistakes that can prevent you from seeing the whole board in chess include thinking too narrowly in terms of possibilities regarding how the board will look shortly, and not considering how the board should look in a general sense when planning future moves (not thinking in terms of probabilities). For example, a player familiar with the Lasker pattern may begin to visualize it and think that the center pawns should indeed be in their original squares in order to make further progress with his attack, as opposed to visualizing the position and trying to determine where it is likely the pieces of both sides should be.

    In a game between UK men’s chess grandmaster Nick Pert and former woman’s world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk, Alexandra is able to send home her advantage after Nick tries giving back the pawn that Alexandra thought was blocking long-term operations and could only be justified by his towering central pawn obstruction of his passively mobile knight. Had Alexandra understood that the pawn obstruction here was in Nick’s playing style but not in the best interests of his pieces, she would be forced to bring forth the pawn and calculate the ensuing tactical shoots from such an accumulation of strength. But Alexandra realized that the passive g3 bishop and the lack of control all of his pawns had at that point was central to his entire plan to prevent any long-term success. By concentrating on the board position, players can expand their planning beyond the move in front of them to incorporate a more general understanding of which central, open, or half-open files would be best for the type of position they aim to create moving forward.

    Tunnel Vision

    A person with tunnel vision sees surrounding areas narrowly, often eliminating certain parts from her field of regard. This impairment occurs when only peripheral vision remains because central vision is diminished. Tunnel vision may develop suddenly or more gradually depending on the underlying disease or condition causing it. Severe tunnel vision can impair a person’s ability to read, recognize faces, drive a car, and perform other critical activities of daily life that depend on vision in the central or direct gaze.

    In a chess context, thinking of too narrow a range of squares, pieces, or future moves equates to tunnel vision. Merely training one’s brain to broaden its focus can significantly improve most people’s ability to see the whole board, as it is called in chess.

    Focusing Too Much on One Area

    Focusing only on the center and adjacent areas is the most basic strategy in opening theory, encouraged by almost all opening principles established by renowned trainers of the past. However, if a player focuses exclusively on viewing the center on the behalf of both armies and does not keep an eye on the sides, they might overlook an overlap of the weak points of opposite flanks, which could even decide the outcome of the game. Mikhail Botvinnik and Arkady Balashov triumphed over excellent players while following a flank pawns strategy which focuses on one of the sides.

    The late Paolo Serpieri (1944-2022) was the founder of the Circle of Genius players, managing chess for decades in Rimini and promoting top-level competition. Serpieri, and several others of his era, are known to have played a variation championed by the Polish Master August Karel Herstein in the Pirc-Ufimzev defense. Playing …g4 in the opening to prepare to launch a flank-attack on the King’s side. The move is meant to do as much damage as it can to the broadening of the opponent’s pawn-and-piece front in order to cause a problem for the opponent which can only be solved with the centralized opposition of the player’s own pieces.

    Ignoring Opponent’s Moves

    Whilst you wish to always pay attention to the moves your opposite player is making, during the game use time to strategize your moves while not paying attention to the other player’s direct moves. This will help you practice paying attention to the entire board without input from your opponent. During downtime when there is no way to continue your strategy, quickly assess your opponent’s moves and begin strategizing your chess moves again.


    Seeing the whole board in chess is about combining individual element awareness and developing intuitive, automated processing in super computers well beyond the power of even the most powerful current AI systems.

    To better see the whole board in chess, players should assess how long their computations currently take and then develop high-quality patterns in areas they do not wish to focus on to improve the speed of their automated processes. As players master more and more such elements, they have more processing power and speed available to direct towards making calculations about the most interesting lines in the position.

    See the whole board more efficiently by increasing your own mental processing power until enough computing power is freed up to see the whole board in a few seconds. To develop better board vision, the following steps can be taken by players of all levels:

    • Bring your full attention to the whole board between moves.
    • During your opponent’s move, consciously assess where your pieces are defensively or offensively and how you can improve them using the advice of IM Silman and GM Soltis.
    • In tactical positions, after you perform a move, periodically search the board for loose pieces; your own, your opponent’s, or attacked/defended pieces.
    • Spice up your training with blindfold chess, board visualization exercises, and memory games.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How to See the Whole Board in Chess?

    As a chess player, it is crucial to have a good understanding of the entire board in order to make strategic and effective moves. Here are some commonly asked questions about how to see the whole board in chess.

    1. What is the best way to see the whole chess board?

    To see the whole chess board, it is important to have a clear view of all the squares and pieces. Sit directly in front of the board and make sure there are no obstacles blocking your view. It may also be helpful to slightly tilt the board towards you.

    2. Why is it important to see the whole board in chess?

    In order to make good decisions and anticipate your opponent’s moves, it is crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of the entire board. This allows you to see potential threats and opportunities on both your own and your opponent’s side.

    3. How can I train myself to see the whole board better?

    One way to improve your ability to see the whole board is to practice regularly and play against different opponents. You can also try playing blindfolded or solving chess puzzles, which can enhance your spatial and strategic thinking abilities.

    4. What should I focus on when trying to see the whole board?

    When looking at the entire chess board, pay attention to the overall structure and placement of your pieces. Take note of any potential weaknesses or areas where your pieces may be vulnerable. It is also important to consider your opponent’s positioning and potential threats.

    5. Are there any tips for seeing the whole board during a game?

    During a game, it may be helpful to take a step back from the board and look at it from a distance. This can give you a different perspective and help you see patterns and potential moves that you may have missed before.

    6. Can I improve my ability to see the whole board by studying chess theory?

    Studying chess theory and learning about different strategies and openings can definitely help improve your overall understanding of the game and your ability to see the whole board. However, it is also important to practice and apply these concepts in real games in order to truly improve your skills.

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