Over the years, after studying numerous Grandmasters, this is like a summary of that. If you can implement these in your games, then you will definitely become a better chess player. Any position in a game, you can have 30-40legal moves and you can't evaluate each and every one of them. That's where you need to understand the concept of candidate moves as you get better, you learn to recognize moves that are possibly good. Those are the one we call the 'candidate moves'.
How many candidate moves do you think Grandmasters evaluate? Let me tell you, in most cases, Grandmasters don't look beyond 2-3 moves. If you are wondering, how can you restrict your analysis to just 2 or 3 candidate moves, just the shortcuts that I'm going to share with you and this is what the Grandmasters do.
- Forcing Moves: A forcing move is one which needs the opponent to reply in a certain way, or which greatly limits the way in which they can respond. So basically, forcing moves can be checks, captures or threats. There are like one-move or two-move tactic. You should always look for such move first as it's easier to spot them in the first few minutes.
- General Principles: Relying on general principles are very important as Grandmasters often justify their moves by citing fundamental chess values. For example, Pawns should capture towards the center or Rooks belong on the seventh Rank etc. You can often play a "general principle move" without much thought because its value has been proven over centuries.
- Understanding Problem Pieces: Problem pieces here refer to your opponent's strong pieces and your own weak piece. You need to look for moves to exchange such piece especially when you can't find any other attractive candidates. Also sometimes, when you can't trade off your worst piece, you should at least try to reposition it on a better square to develop and create better opportunities for the future moves.
- Consistency: Last but not least that practice that Grandmaster follow and that is to be consistent. Even when there no obvious cues to justify a move, you might feel a particular candidate is correct, just because it fits in well with your previous moves and that's what consistency is all about. I summary, all move that you make should align with each other, which means they should be part of an overall plan. It sounds easy to be consistent, but it isn't.
All thee pointers are very helpful but don't forget to pay attention to your opponent's last move. Even in a position where there are no clear tactics, your opponent's last move can trigger a game-changing candidate.