Chess Visualization: How to See the Game in Your Mind

Posted on 2022-04-07 by Odin Chess
Updated on 2022-09-04
A man concentrating on a chess game, purple background

One of the best ways to improve at chess is to learn how to visualize the board in your mind. This skill has many different names (board vision, chess eye, and board visualization, just to name a few) but it means being able to see where all the pieces are supposed to be in your mind, and imagining how each move will play out. It can be difficult to do at first, but with practice it becomes easier. In this blog post, we will discuss different exercises you can do to improve your visualization skills. We will also provide tips for experienced chess players who want to take their visualization abilities to the next level!

Why is visualization so important?

Chess is a game of strategy. In order to make the best moves, you need to be able to see the board in your mind and understand how each piece works together. This can be difficult if you are new to the game, but with practice it becomes easier.

One situation where you will need well developed board vision is during over the board games. Chess visualization skills are very important for over the board chess games because if you can't calculate variations in your mind, you won't be able to assess the potential outcomes of each move, and choose the best one.

Another time that good visualization abilities are essential is when reading chess books. If you want to understand what is happening in the book, you need to be able to see the chess board in your mind and follow along with the moves while you read the chess notation.

Some people think that chess visualization is only important for over the board games and chess books, but it can also be helpful when playing online chess. Even though many online chess platforms allow you to play out different variations several moves ahead, you will save time if you can do the same thing in your mind instead.

What is it like to have outstanding visualization skills?

When you have well developed visualization skills, it feels like the chess board is always in your mind. You can see all of the pieces and how they are positioned, and you can calculate variations of moves very quickly. This feeling is different for everyone, but many chess players say that it feels like they are always thinking several moves ahead of their opponents.

One of the coolest things about having great chess visualization skills is that they can help you impress your friends. Imagine being able to play blindfolded, or sitting across the table from someone and just declaring your moves back and forth, no chess board required! That sort of chess ability blows people's minds. That's what they think of when they imagine master level chess players, and you can get there with enough practice.

Why should I train visualization skills specifically?

These days most chess is played online, and most chess software programs allow you to play out a series of potential moves to assess different scenarios and strategize. However, this is not the same as being able to visualize the board in your mind. When you are playing online, you have all the information you need right in front of you. But when you are playing over the board, you need to be able to assess the outcomes of long variations in your mind in order to plan ahead.

Because it doesn't help you build visualizations skills in the way an over the board game does, chess software can function as a bit of a crutch. It doesn't train chess players properly for over the board games by preventing them from developing proper board vision. So if you mostly play online it is important that you also incorporate chess visualization training into your chess studies. That way you can develop into a well-rounded player who is capable of playing well in all environments.

What are some signs that my visualization skills need work?

Here are some signs that you might need to improve your chess visualization abilities:

  • You have trouble following along with chess books or online lessons because you can't see the board in your mind.

  • You find it difficult to assess different chess positions and identify the best move.

  • You have trouble playing blindfolded chess or other similar games that require you to visualize the board in your mind.

  • Your friends are always better at remembering what happened in past games than you are.

If any of these sound familiar, don't worry! With a little bit of practice, you can improve your chess visualization skills.

Exercises to improve your visualization skills

There are many different exercises you can do to improve your visualization skills. Here are a few of our favourites, from easiest to hardest:

  • Practice setting up the board in your mind. This means memorizing where all the pieces go at the start of the game. You can do this by looking at a real board, or by looking at pictures of chess boards online.

  • Use visualization aids. There are many different products on the market that can help you visualize the board in your mind, including chess software programs and books. Here at Odin Chess we offer several free games to assist with visualization training, including our coordinates minigame, and our vision game (for beginners, make sure to choose one of the easier difficulty levels).

  • Try blindfold chess. This is a form of chess where you play without being able to see the board. This can be done with a friend, or you can try it by yourself. Here at Odin Chess we have a free game mode that allows you to block out the board for several moves at a time, allowing you to develop your blindfold chess skills step-by-step.

  • Play through different games in your head. Think about how each move would play out, and try to remember where all the pieces are.

Tips for experienced chess players

If you are a more experienced chess player, you may be wondering how you can take your visualization skills to the next level. Here are a few tips:

  • Play against different opponents. This will help you learn to visualize different openings and different styles of play.

  • Practice in different environments. This means playing in different places, with different people, and at different times of day. It can mean switching it up between playing real opponents and chess engines, or playing online vs over the board.

  • Use visualization aids. As we mentioned before, there are many different products on the market that can help you visualize the board in your mind. Some of the ones for more experienced players include our knight minigame (coming soon), and our vision game on one of the higher difficulty settings.

  • Try blindfold tactics. This is a more advanced form of blindfold chess where you try to solve tactics puzzles without being able to see the board. Here at Odin Chess we offer free blindfold tactics.

  • Train with a coach. A chess coach can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, and they can give you tailored exercises to improve your visualization skills.
A hand drawn image of the Norse God Odin playing chess
Odin Chess
The Odin Chess team is composed of several members. We have various levels of chess skill, from beginner to expert, but are united by our love of chess. Writing blog entries is a team effort, and each blog entry is written with the intent of helping our users improve their chess abilities.