Watch the Super-Grandmaster think!

by Frederic Friedel
11/20/2018 – Rarely do we get to see the thought process of a player of the very highest caliber. How does a 2765 rated player actually think? When Wesley So, whose highest rating was 2822, was in India for the Tata Steel Chess India 2018, IM Sagar Shah gave him three studies to solve. The catch? Wesley had to work everything out in his mind, without a board. Sagar had a camera rolling while he did this! The video discussion gives us a unique insight into the mind of a world class grandmaster. We invite you to perform a similar experiment on yourself.

Opening package: 1.b3 and Black Secrets in the Modern Italian Opening package: 1.b3 and Black Secrets in the Modern Italian

Wesley So published two new opening DVDs: 1.b3, the so called Nimzo-Larsen-Attack, for White and his black secrets in the modern Italian. Get them in a package and save money!


So says simply: "Practice!"

Here's the deal: in the three diagrams below you can move pieces on the board, trace them backwards and forward, i.e. try different lines of play, until you have solved the study. We urge you to spend some time with this, before proceeding to the video of Wesley working on the studies. When he has shown you the solution of the first position you can pause the video and proceed to the second diagram.

A note to readers rated above 2200: do yourself a favour and try to solve the positions without moving the pieces on the boards. That way you have a chance to compare your thought processes with that of a 2800 player. It is a unique opportunity you should not miss.

So on to the studies:


A technical note

You may not know how to under-promote on our interactive diagrams. This is done by grabbing the pawn and moving it to the right side of the promotion square. The queen, the most common promotion piece, will appear in full size, whereas under-promotion pieces are shown next to it. Move the cursor or your finger to the desired piece to under-promote:

In this case we are promoting to a rook

Attention ChessBase 15 users: if you have just installed the new version you may find that when you enter moves it automatically promotes pawns to queens. That is the default setting. To change it go to the menu File→ Options → Misc and uncheck "Always Promote To Queen." After that when you promote a pawn CB 15 will offer you a choice of pieces.

(Oops, we have inadvertently given you some help with the second study. But never mind, it is tough enough to warrant that. So happy solving.)


The third study Wesley knew, which he admits when Sagar has dictated just the six white pieces. It is something I myself have seen on many occasions when doing similar experiments: these players are rigorously honest and immediately own up when they recognise the position — just like Wesley. His interaction with Sagar also reminds me of an amusing situation I witnessed many years ago: in a tournament press room Vlastimil Hort was showing John Nunn some studies on a chessboard. But when he had set up just a few pieces John would call out the solution to the entire study. I believe Vlastimil was convinced he had some paranormal skills — precognition maybe?

Assuming you have spent some time working on the three studies, you can now watch how Wesley So reacts when confronted with them. Thank you, Sagar, for recording this video and showing us how a Super-GM thinks.

At the end of the video, from 17:10' on, Wesley tells us how normal players can improve their blindfold skills. His advice — we were expecting him to name some herbal supplement from the Philippines — is simply: practice! Do this when analysing your own games, or classic games by top players, and also by solving practical studies. Wesley says there are many good books out there, but especially mentions that "ChessBase has some interesting puzzles, regularly, like the Christmas Puzzles or the holiday puzzles that are really difficult to solve. Go online and check some of these puzzles made by the best composers in the world."

It's very gratifying to hear these words from such a high-powered fan — and very motivating: we are going to have to continue with the tradition and give our readers more of the same.

Replay all solutions (with engine support)


Special thanks to ChessBase India for providing this video. There are hundreds of videos on their very successful ChessBase India YouTube Channel, and we are going to make vigorous use of them in the future.

ChessBase India is also very active on social media: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.


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