Publisher: Mongoose Press, 2014, Pages: 310, Paperback

When a club player decides he wants to raise his rating to the next class level, he typically looks to improve his chess knowledge in some way. Perhaps he will learn a new opening or try to improve his middlegame or endgame understanding. Often enough, however, the true secret to improvement lies not in studying additional chess mate­rial but in learning a more powerful method of thinking.

What is meant by a "more powerful" method of thought? We are talking about an efficient, rigorous, and pragmatic search for the best possible move in a given position. It is clear that those players who can best apply their knowledge and intuition in over-the-board situations rise to the top. Those whose thought processes contain flaws often reach rating "plateaus" no matter how hard they study in their spare time. What this book provides is an in-depth look into the minds of players of all levels. Using the numerous "protocols" - recorded thought process­es of real players - that NM Dan Heisman has compiled throughout his extensive teaching career, The Improving Chess Thinker provides examples of all types of thought processes, from very weak to powerful, game-winning ones.

In each chapter, Heisman breaks down the thought processes of each rating class and explains their mistakes - with an eye toward im­provement. One of the reasons that those who can afford the luxury of a trainer often experience significant rating growth is that a trainer is able to teach his students better methods of thinking. However, within this book lie all the materials necessary to begin discovering higher-level chess thought processes immediately. Heisman has already done all the work for the student: all that a student needs to do is to study the written "protocols" of his peer group and to compare them with the ones found in more advanced chapters. Learning to think in a more logical, informed, and practical manner is necessary for a student to unlock his full potential. If a student does not have a coach available to "show him the way," this book provides the perfect solution.

Does reading a book dealing with the subject of "chess thought" and the decision-making process really allow one to improve? Given that every move in chess is a unique decision, it is actually possible to im­prove one's entire game at once by improving one's thought process. In fact, it is easy to argue that how well a player knows how to choose his move is far more important in raising his level of play than his general chess knowledge! Often, the difference between a Master and an Expert comes down to something as simple as time management habits. Indecisiveness, inability to discard a poor candidate move, and over-think­ing in non-critical positions are all examples of game-losing habits this book can help turn around.

Finally, this book is not only a guide to better thinking. It is also a significant contribution to the realm of "scientific" chess literature. Heisman's experimental methods replicate those of Dutch psychologist Dr. Adriaan de Groot using everyday club players as test subjects. These "protocol" records contained within the work will prove valuable for anyone hoping to gain insight into "the chess mind." But by now, I am sure you are eager to get started diagnosing what setbacks you might be facing in your own chess thought process. Enjoy!

Lev Alburt

What's new in the second edition? Plenty. Here are just some of the changes and additions: 


  • protocols to all the class (rating under 2000)chapters but significantly boosted the “Expert and Above” chapter with numerous additional protocols by players in the 2000-2500 range, for a total of almost one hundred protocols;
  • The chapter “The Most Common Thought Process Mistakes,” which provides discussion and examples of these errors;
  • A short chapter providing additional humorous and interesting stories about giving lessons and using the de Groot exercise;
  • Made corrections and numerous additions to the material from the first edition;


  • The Glossary to include more terms used within the book;
  • Chapter 13, and included a section about finding positions suitable for giving de Groot exercises, with an additional half-dozen sample positions;

About the Author

National Master Dan Heisman has been a full-time chess instructor since 1996. His “Novice Nook” Internet column at Chess Café has received numerous annual awards for Best Instruction from the Chess Journalists of America. His Web TV show, “Q&A with Coach Heisman,” airs bi-weekly on, and his video series, “Improve Your Chess,” appears weekly on the Internet Chess Club.

The Improving Chess Thinker (2nd Edition)