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Planning Based on The Existence of a Combination

In the absence of the 3 strongest moves in chess, we look at the position for signs or signals that indicate the existence of a combination. At least one of these "T.H.I.E.F.S." signals must be present for a combination to exist.

  1. Trapped pieces
  2. Hanging or undefended pieces.
  3. Inadequately defended pieces or squares. Look for pieces that are defending other pieces.Is it possible to divert, decoy, or block the defending piece so that the piece it defended is left unprotected? Is back rank mate possible? Be on the lookout for ways of creating passed pawns by decoying enemy pawns off important files. Look especially and constantly for enemy pieces performing more than one function. Can such a piece be forced to fulfil only one of its functions?
  4. Exposed King. Is it possible to increase the pressure by opening up more lines.
  5. Fork possibility - pawn and knight fork.
  6. Same rank, file or diagonal. Look for ranks, files, and diagonals that contain more than one enemy piece. Look for ways of decoying enemy pieces to the same line (file, rank, or diagonal).
If you see any of these items in a given position, you can start checking if a plan based on a combination is realizable. Don't forget however to see first if any of the 3 strongest moves in chess can be made - checks, captures and passed pawns. Any of these 3 can spoil a planned combination.

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