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  1. Forum
  2. General Chess Discussion
  3. Question for experienced players

I've been working on my chess vision these past few days but I think there is a problem with me. So basically when I'm looking at a chess board I can easily imagine the position of the pieces in my head but when I close my eyes for instance, I cannot create an image of the board in my head, I can only create part of it. So I wanted to ask experienced players, do you see the full board clearly in your head? If so, is it due to training or you were just capable of doing it naturally? Any feedback will be appreciated.

I'm not a master but I have played and won blindfolded without seeing anything at all in my mind whatsoever. I memorized where the pieces are then figure out based on co-ordinates where they can go. This sounds impossible, but its actually pretty easy compared to trying to imagine a chess set in your minds eye, which is possible. When I am close to sleep i can see the whole board and play lines in my mind, but never when fully awake. Hope that helps, blindfold chess is awesome. Best meditation experience available IMO. (that's with no blank board, no writing down moves).

I've played a few blindfold games, but I'm not sure I could say I saw the board in my head, but I was able to imagine the locations of all of the pieces. Try taking notation by hand; that can help a lot.

"do you see the full board clearly in your head?"
Yes, I see the full board, but not clearly.
"Yes If so, is it due to training or you were just capable of doing it naturally?"
It comes naturally from training.

I recommend a reading, The Royal Game by Stefan Zweig... sometimes called Chess Story...

I can't even see the whole board with my eyes open! I think that's normal. Next time you're watching a streamer, watch their eyes. You can see them zoom all around the chess board absorbing and playing with the chunks. I first noticed this with Naka as his eyes are just completely spastic while playing. You can also see Magnus' eyes pretty easily in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08hyLoQ9Cec Lots of movement there as well.

I do the same thing without sight of the board - I certainly do not have the entire board in my head, but could generally recreate the whole board pretty easily just by considering all the chunks and how they interact. By interact I mean that for instance that bishop on c2 obviously is not in the same chunk as black's kingside formation, but it hitting h7 is something that must always be 'seen'.

There's an experiment in lower-division college or high-school psychology classes. I don't remember the exact name of the experiment, but, roughly speaking: Imagine a pink or purple elephant in your head. Now, flip the elephant on one axis (mirror image). Change the color of the elephant. Flip on the other axis (invert orientation). Maybe change the color again. -- Ask some questions: Which way WAS the elephant's trunk pointing? Which way IS it pointing now? How many degrees has it rotated? What color is the elephant?

Notice the order of the questions meant to test modifying something in-memory, and referring back to a previous image with some information in-between (without confusing the sequence).

Same concept, except, apply the following:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Method_of_loci

And, as others have said: This comes naturally with training (over time). More specifically, the ability to refer back to a previous state or status (or, in this case image, or semantic representation of sorts) knowing only one detail has changed ... step to step to step (ply).

Like great chess players versus us average folk: Some people have a natural talent, others have to develop it over time, and yet others may never. (About 5% of the population can't hold and modify an image in their head; more complex operations over a set increase this percentage rapidly. Only about 50% of the population can refer back to a an image modified and held in-memory, 3-times, without explicit training to push this limit further. Which very closely mirrors the statement about most chess players being able to see about 3-moves ahead on a chess board, etc...)

And, a personal example: I'm not good at doing this with chess. But, I can do this with numbers (I've dealt in high-precision numeric accuracy and scheduling for a long time). I can do the Pink/Purple Elephant experiment to the degree it was taught to me, but, too many steps [more than 5 to 7], and I lose track of the sequence of images, unless I take the time to leverage a mnemonic tactic like the Method of Loci (and that's an explicit exercise to memorize a series of steps or information, sequentially).

In any case, the key to memorizing the WHOLE BOARD is realizing what the previous state was. This is simple at the start in the first few moves, right? But 10 or 20 moves in, and just about everything has moved around. Think of it like taking a snapshot or checkpoint (not just what is in front of you, but, close your eyes and do it in-memory, repeatedly, and, this should improve slowly over time).

@robotrock you can play blindfolded without visualing and only use co-ordinate to move?!!! That seems much harder than just "seeing" the board and the pieces, to me atleast.
It's Actually interesting, the method you use because I have a friend that told me that he can calculate lines in his sleep but without seeing the board, just by using the co-ordinates. Usually when one happens to be calculating line while asleep, one can see the board clearly same as what you said happens to you.

@noobforlife #1
I never see the whole board, only parts of it and not very sharp.
But since years I know the coordinates, and the colors of the most common squares, and that helps when not looking at the otb or on-line chess board.

@tpr I'd like to know what you see exactly but I guess it's hard to explain :). So, should I expect it to come naturally as I improve as a player?