In chess, you constantly think what your opponent might be thinking. Is there a specific word in English for this?

Meta-cognition comes close, but not exactly what I am looking for. Guessing, predicting, and psychoanalysis are obviously not what I am looking for.

Edit: I am looking for a single word (not a phrase) that is closest to this.

  • @Shyam Actually I am searching for one word, mind-reading is a sort of a phrase
    – minusSeven
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 10:59
  • added the tag to clearly specify that you are looking for a single word and not a phrase.
    – Fr0zenFyr
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 11:37
  • 6
    Why do you expect a single word? Is this at the tip of your tongue but you can't remember it? Or do you have a single word for it in your first language (if not English)?
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 12:11
  • @Mitch In so vast English language I think such word does exist. There are a lot of instances where I would like to use such word. Why use a phrase or a sentence to explain something when you can use a word for it .
    – minusSeven
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 12:22
  • meta-cognition, theory of mind, mind-games (though that is more emotional), it doesn't seem there is a good single word for it, except meta-cognition, but it's somehow not satisfying.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 15:08

10 Answers 10


I think we can use foresee. Anticipate is also a good word.


Is outwit any closer to what you are looking for?

Other suggestions: outsmart or anticipate (so that you anticipate what other player is thinking).

Just my two cents.


In chess you are constantly second-guessing your opponent.





1 Anticipate or predict (someone's actions or thoughts) by guesswork.

‘We've been trying to second-guess Augusta all week but there's no sense in trying any longer.’


Contemplate could be very close to the word you are searching. It means “thoughtful observation or study” as mentioned in various dictionaries.

Conjecture and anticipate are pretty close too.


You could use discerning:

"I am attempting to discern what my opponent will do next"

Or calculating:

"I am calculating his next moves"

  • @KitFox thanks for editing in the links, much appreciated
    – user38984
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 16:43

Telepathize: (v.) to practice telepathy
Clairavoyance, Mind-reading and Empathize also have similar meaning.

  • Telepathize means to communicate through minds. It wasn't what I was searching for.
    – minusSeven
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 3:40

As a chess player, I think of it with the phrase putting myself in the other guy's shoes or mindset.

As an AI programmer, I think of it as minimax — the name of the algorithm which has you maximizing from your perspective and minimizing for the other person's turn (or turning the board around, and complementing the scores so you are maximizing from their perspective).

Apart from that the best words we've been able to come up with are words like empathy or perspicacity or insight or rapport.

The Orwellian coinage close to this is doublethink.

Another phrase is perspective shift.

  • +1 I think empathy and strategy are about the closest single word candidates. I like doublethink too. Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 13:41
  • @coleopterist Doublethink is the act of sincerely holding directly contradictory opinions or beliefs simultaneously. It does not describe the act of thinking about someone else's thoughts in any way at all - it doesn't belong on this list. I hope you haven't been misusing it for the past decade. Commented Mar 1 at 21:02

You could use inversion. It's a general term, but could be used effectively with context.

I think reverse psychology is the term people would normally reach for, but you're looking for a single word.

  • can you explain how you can use inversion in this context ? It means the act of inverting. So how can I use it in this context ?
    – minusSeven
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 12:07
  • It'd have to be something of a term, so other people would need to know what you meant by it, in a chess context, before you used it. Then, I'd say something like "Her strategy sucks, but she excels at inversion."
    – Carl Smith
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 12:11
  • It's common to have these kinds of terms in sports, but they need to be established before you can use them. That's circular, but what normally happens is a longer term gets shortened as people become familiar with it.
    – Carl Smith
    Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 12:18

In psychology a close concept is mentalizing. Wikipedia's current definition, isn't bad:

Mentalization can be seen as a form of imaginative mental activity that lets us perceive and interpret human behaviour in terms of intentional mental states (e.g., needs, desires, feelings, beliefs, goals, purposes, and reasons).


Was the word ‘sonder’? I found this thread trying to look for the word sonder and thought it might also be the word you were looking for.

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