I’ve always had a terrible memory, so I never really expected to be able to memorize the co-ordinates of the chess board properly, and never imagined that one day not only would be I be able to memorize the co-ordinates – I will also be able to remember the color of each square!
Till recently, I didn’t even consider this very important, and it was only until I hit a road block in the difficulty level of puzzles that I could solve did I realize that I need this skill to improve further.
Why should you memorize the co-ordinates of the chess board?
In order to calculate and hold several positions in your head you need to be able to see your desired position in your mind’s eye. Knowing the co-ordinates and the color of the square helps this process immensely. I would go as far as to say that beyond a certain level you can’t improve in tactics if you don’t have the squares memorized. They provide an anchor in your mind to navigate the sequence of moves, and without this you won’t be able to retain two or three variations in your head which are essential in an actual game.
Knowing the color of each square will help you in your memorization by a factor of at least ten because if you know that e4 is always white then you’ll never look at a square and wonder if this is e4 or d4. My own calculations were greatly improved after I learned the co-ordinates and colors, and my method to memorize this was quite natural, so it didn’t ever seem like a chore to me beyond the normal effort required to learn anything new.
How to memorize the color of each square?
There is research that shows that it is easier to remember that someone is a baker than it is to remember that their name is Mr. Baker. This is because your mind has certain associations with a baker and it holds some meaning for you whereas a name is a meaningless label.
This was the starting point in my attempt to memorize the colors of the squares. I had to give a meaning to every square, and while that may be impractical I was very easily able to give meaning to c4. I am an English player, and always open with c4 which I know to be a white square. This is easy enough to remember.
Due to the symmetry of the board I know that if c4 is white then c2, c6, and c8 should also be white. So, great – all even numbers in the c file are white. Now, look at the board closely – you will see that this is true for every alternate file to c. So, the a, c, e and g files all share this characteristic.
For a couple of weeks I used to think in my head that aceg even is white when it hit me that aceg is an anagram for CAGE.
This was a breakthrough moment for me as remembering CAGE EVEN IS WHITE is the easiest thing in the world. This combination of a mnemonic and a meaningful pattern quickly enabled me to identify all the CAGE square colors instantly. It took about a week’s practice to internalize this and after this it was only natural to transpose this, and say OTHER ODD IS WHITE. Another week or so of practice made me remember this but I have to admit I haven’t internalized this as much as I have the CAGE squares. At this point, it needs some more practice but I’m getting there.
How to memorize the co-ordinates of the chess board?
Once you memorize the colors – the co-ordinates become very easy. My technique is to solve a puzzle, and then close my eyes, and solve it in my head voicing the co-ordinates. I also voice the co-ordinates while watching any chess Youtube videos or when I’m reading any chess books.
The most impactful method by far is to close my eyes, and solve a puzzle in my head. Often I will solve a puzzle, and then solve it again in my head with the co-ordinates. You will be surprised to see that quite often not only can you not solve a solved puzzle you can’t even remember which color you were!
So, obviously practising this muscle helps the skill tremendously, and overall helps your tactics and your results. So, I’d recommend following my method and process and seeing if it helps you memorizing the co-ordinates and colors as well!