Reflections on reversed pondering in chess

Authors: Karel van Delft, Johan Hellsten, Dries Wedda

‘Reversed pondering is a component of pondering in chess that’s underestimated’, says GM Artur Yusupov. ‘It’s price taking a look at how it’s linked with ahead pondering and what we’re doing principally, how we resolve our issues, how we resolve chess, typically consciously, typically unconsciously. We don’t have an excessive amount of literature about it.’

Does reversed pondering in chess result in higher outcomes, in comparison with ahead pondering? In that case, how and in what domains in chess? Or is bi-directional pondering one of the simplest ways to go? Is reversed pondering trainable? In that case, how? A analysis group of the Chessable science group requested 16 chess consultants through a questionnaire about such questions.

It could appear that to have the ability to apply reversed pondering, a sure degree of information is important. You will need to be acquainted with patterns. Recognizing them directs your pondering. The important thing may be repeatedly studying and practising patterns with the identical motif from easy to extra advanced varieties.

The hazard with fixing positions on websites and in books is that there are answers. To stop false assumptions a coach may present positions which look comparable however they don’t seem to be. Additionally it is fascinating to take the attitude of the defender and search for one transfer backwards.

Because it turned clear ‘fixing’ is simply too slender a formulation, we selected for the broader time period ‘pondering’.This analysis is a follow-up to a ‘Ahead vs Reversed Fixing’ challenge that the science group did in 2021 and 2022. In that analysis, 95 chess gamers through on-line assessments solved mate patterns. In one in all two situations members obtained mate-in-one positions that have been adopted by advanced puzzles with the identical finish positions (within the reversed situation). Contributors within the different (ahead) situation obtained random mate-in-one puzzles, however the identical advanced puzzle as within the different situation. Opposite to expectations there have been no important variations within the outcomes of the assessments.

A weblog and report have been printed on the Chessable web site:
Weblog Prof. Barry Hymer:
Report Karel van Delft:

There have been a number of speculations in regards to the outcomes of the analysis. In a dialog, GM Artur Yusupov confirmed Karel van Delft a Zinar examine by which reversed pondering is one of the simplest ways to go.
This led to follow-up analysis through a questionnaire for 16 chess consultants. That is what Prof. A.D. de Groot in his empirical cycle referred to as the ‘analysis section’.

The 16 respondents have been knowledgeable in regards to the causes for the analysis. They have been requested to look at two brief movies, learn an introduction and reply questions.

1. A video presentation by Karel van Delft in June 2022 at a web-based chess training convention from the FIDE Schooling fee and the ASPU ‘Chess’ Analysis Institute from the College of Yerevan in Armenia. See (from 4:23:05 min).

2. A video with GM Artur Yusupov and Karel van Delft discussing the outcomes of the analysis. Yusupov thinks reversed fixing is an efficient methodology when fixing some endgame positions with pawns and zugzwang. See

The analysis group consists of GM Johan Hellsten, Dries Wedda and Chessable science challenge supervisor Karel van Delft, who coordinates the challenge.

The 16 respondents to the questionnaire are GM Alon Greenfeld, GM Peter Wells, GM Johan Hellsten, GM David Smerdon, GM Max Warmerdam, GM Stefan Kindermann, IM and GM of chess composition Yochanan Afek, IM Arthur van de Oudeweetering, IM Ido Ben-Artzi, IM Merijn van Delft, IM Thomas Beerdsen, FM Nate Solon, CM Can Kabadayi, CCE Alan Bester, Dries Wedda, and Erick Takawira. Of those, Johan Hellsten and Dries Wedda are also concerned within the analysis group. All respondents agreed to say their names within the report. GM Artur Yusupov, Prof. Barry Hymer and Prof. Roland Grabner gave suggestions on the analysis.

Right here we sum up per query outstanding responses. The complete report reveals the entire solutions.


Respondents point out concentrating on fixing mating positions could be very concrete, however only a restricted facet of what’s going on in chess. In endgames, strategic middlegames and reversed research pondering can play one other function.

Some respondents anticipated extra impression within the first analysis from mating patterns as prompts (through sample recognition) for extra advanced mates.

Potential causes for why there have been no important variations between ahead and reversed situations within the former analysis have been talked about. Ahead pondering is the commonest mind-set in chess. Reversed pondering could appear synthetic or is just not thought-about in any respect. Even when educated in reversed pondering, many gamers stick with previous habits. Within the former analysis, the strongest members may be sturdy sufficient to seek out the answer by ahead pondering, whereas many weaker gamers may be too weak to make connections.

It was instructed that by coaching and verbal clarification upfront the connection between easy and sophisticated patterns might need led to greater scores. It additionally might need made a distinction if the take a look at positions had been primarily based on extra acquainted motifs, as a result of they’re extra rooted within the chess gamers’ instinct.

Reversed pondering (which regularly occurs unconsciously) may be a strong instrument, however solely sturdy gamers can use it. They nevertheless may gain advantage from aware use of it. Planning and choice making may revenue when ahead and reversed pondering are mixed. A methodological concern was instructed: along with fixing percentages, response instances in assessments are additionally necessary.


Respondents have been struck by what GM Artur Yusupov needed to say about pawn endgames and corresponding squares in relation to zugzwang. Notice that to motive reversed gamers must have information of theoretical endgames (strategical or tactical) to begin reversed pondering. So this instrument solely can be utilized by sturdy gamers. Some respondents say one of the simplest ways to go is a mix of ahead and backward pondering.

Some respondents surprise how helpful reversed pondering is throughout their very own video games. Others say they’ll give it extra thought as a result of it may be helpful for them. How trainable is reversed pondering?

Reversed pondering is just not solely a weapon for the attacker – the defender can use it to seek out methods to hinder the plan of the attacker. Elimination of potentialities (‘branching issue’) is necessary. Route planning workout routines are instructed such because the Dutch Steps methodology.


Some respondents apply reversed pondering in video games and/or coaching. It isn’t at all times seen as environment friendly in sensible play. A GM makes use of it as an indication throughout trainings with college students to point out what he calls ‘fixing a line throughout calculation’. Reversed pondering implies an optimum place one ought to purpose for. However who tells you throughout a recreation what the optimum place is? A suggestion to consider an optimum place is asking your self which piece of the opponent needs to be eradicated for a variation to work. Then you’ll be able to proceed through reversed pondering to the preliminary place. A number of trainers present their college students first fundamental tactical or strategical concepts after which extra advanced ones the place the identical motif is the kernel. A GM respondent makes an affiliation with prophylaxis. He asks college students to seek out the opponent’s plan. Then he asks them to forestall it. In order that they must assume ahead after which assume again how one can cease it. Reversed pondering is certainly used for composing endgame research. A examine is most frequently created by beginning on the remaining spotlight and creating the answer backward. A number of respondents use the reversed pondering methodology as authors of their Chessable programs.


A number of respondents say reversed pondering will be helpful in pawn endgames and combos. Additionally, typically in technique, for instance when making selections in buying and selling items. Within the case of technique with long-term targets, there may be not a concrete optimum place, however extra a type of place with sure traits. In openings there may be potentialities to match superficially unrelated positions. Some respondents say they assume reversed pondering is beneficial for each space in chess, since it’s at all times useful to create a picture of the place you wish to go after which do some form of reversed pondering. A respondent says he thinks you may use it to determine the place your items are finest positioned to begin or proceed an assault. A comparability is made with how Capablanca approached positions.


In his e-book ‘Chess Recipes from the Grandmaster’s Kitchen’, GM Valeri Beim says ‘inverse pondering’ is ‘steadily utilized, not often formulated’. There’s a relation with sample recognition and the way reversed pondering is utilized in many examine books. A query mark is put at Beim’s definition of what he calls ‘inverse pondering’ because the ‘potential of a participant to acknowledge acquainted…motifs in an unfamiliar place.’ A respondent feels Beim’s e-book touches extra on sample recognition and normal ideas than on the precept of practising the tactic of inverse pondering.

Additionally talked about is Jon Tisdall’s e-book ‘Enhance Your Chess Now’, notably the prolonged Chapter 4Sample Coaching and different helpful workout routines’.

An instance of retrograde chess puzzles is the e-book ‘Chess mysteries of Sherlock Holmes’ by Raymond Smullyan.

Reversed pondering is among the steps within the e-book ‘Köningsplan’ (Kingsplan) by GM Stefan Kindermann and GM of chess composition Robert Ok. von Weizäcker.

A respondent thinks many books associated to chess technique describe a reversed pondering idea. For instance, chapter 6 in ‘Endgame technique’ by Shershevsky describes schematic pondering and attracts on comparable issues.


There’s broad consensus that the idea ‘reversed fixing’ is simply too slender. ‘Reversed pondering’ higher describes the broad array of cognitive processes concerned.

Respondents gave a number of solutions for follow-up analysis. A brand new take a look at may embody extra typical patterns, for instance mate pictures, positional targets, endgame themes, and so on. Advantages of reversed pondering strategies might be discovered through on-line experiments on a extra huge scale by e.g., a platform like, together with the solutions by Grabner to discover the psychological mechanisms. That will vastly improve statistical energy to detect a essential impact in addition to heterogeneous results by power, age and gender (which the primary examine of 95 members didn’t have).

Making coaching strategies express and guiding the scholars on what they need to search for are instructed.

The 2 positions on the highest of this introduction are from the sport Alexander Alekhine vs. Fred Dewhirst Yates, London 1922. See

Concerning the authors:

Karel van Delft is the science challenge supervisor of Chessable. He’s the creator of the e-book ‘Chess For Educators’ and co-author of the e-book ‘Creating Chess Expertise’. He’s working Schaakacademie Apeldoorn (Chess Academy Apeldoorn, in The Netherlands.

GM Johan Hellsten is a chess coach in Ecuador. He’s a former Swedish champion and the creator of a number of Chessable programs, together with ‘Mastering Chess Technique’.

Dries Wedda research Synthetic Intelligence on the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. He’s a web-based worldwide chess coach from The Netherlands.

Correspondence: [email protected]

Hyperlink to the total report