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Chess Strategy for Chess Openings and Chess Principles

What is chess strategy? The art of chess strategy is knowing how to formulate a plan for the chess game, and arrange your chess pieces to accomplish this plan. The chess strategy outlined below will get any new chess player on the road to understanding correct chess opening strategy - how to control the chess board from move one. Later you will discover many resources to aid in further improvement.

Introduction to Chess Strategy
Beginning chess players discover very quickly that learning how the pieces move is only the tip of the chess playing iceberg. It's usually after several moves of a typical chess game that the question arises, "What now?" Here we will discuss general chess principles in the chess opening.

This page will provide you with some very simple, easy guidelines in chess strategy for playing the chess opening. Aimed at beginners who know only the rules and moves, there is no talk about specific openings or strings of moves to memorize; only general chess strategy principles to think about when starting a chess game. Later you'll notice that on occasion (rarely) it's best to ignore a principle of chess strategy in the opening; nothing here is carved in granite. But for right now, these chess tips are excellent to follow during the first few moves of your game.

The underlying principle of chess strategy in the opening phase is control of the board's center squares. These are the four squares right in the middle of the chess board (shown here in green):

Chess Strategy

Every chess opening aims to occupy or control these central squares. Why? In chess geometry the center is important because each chess piece exercises maximum mobility in the center. Here's an example using only the Kings and a Knight for each side:


The centrally placed White Knight can move to eight (green) squares; it attacks and controls them. But the poor Black Knight in the corner only has two (yellow) squares, its mobility cut by 75% - plus the White King, attacking eight squares, can move in (red arrow) to capture the Knight. Notice that even the Black King has only three squares (yellow arrows) under control.

Center occupation and central control, getting the King castled to safety; these are the two principles of chess strategy behind all popular chess openings. Below are some typical chess opening moves, which illustrate the back-and-forth fight to dominate the center squares.


[Event "?"] [Site "Anytown"] [Date "2015.??.??"] [Round "?"] [White "Beginner"] [Black "Grandmaster"] [Result "*"] [ECO "C65"] [BlackElo "3000"] [Annotator "Pickard,S."] [PlyCount "8"] [EventDate "2011.04.09"] [SourceDate "2015.04.30"] 1. e4 {[%csl Ge4][%cal Re4d5,Yd1h5,Yf1a6] [A very good chess opening move, which conforms to all the chess strategy principles discussed. White occupies one key center square with a pawn, also attacking another central point. In addition, the move also liberates the White Queen and King's Bishop. As World Champion Bobby Fischer said of 1.e4, "Best by test." If unopposed White will likely play his d-pawn forward next move!]} ({The move} 1. d4 {[%csl Gd4][%cal Yd1d3,Yc1h6,Rd4e5] also meets our requirements, sending a pawn to the center and attacking another central square. The Queen defends the pawn, and she is free to move forward. In addition, the Queen's Bishop can now develop, and White "threatens" to play his e-pawn up two squares to dominate the center.}) ( {Even a move like} 1. Nf3 {[%csl Gd4,Ge5] is quite good, bringing the Knight toward the center, and attacking two center squares. The move also brings White closer to castling his King to safety - another goal of good chess strategy in the opening.}) 1... e5 {[%csl Ge5][%cal Re5d4,Yd8h4,Yf8a3] [Black answers by staking his own claim to the center squares, occupying one and attacking another. The move makes ready to deploy the Queen and King's Bishop to active central squares. Now White cannot hope for two pawns abreast in the center.]} ({Other moves are possible of course, but any good move here will be found to fight for the center and rapidly develop the pieces to squares of maximum efficiency. For example} 1... e6 {[%cal Re6d5,Yd8h4,Yf8a3] attacks an important central square and prepares to support the d-pawn's advance two squares into the center next move. Now after} 2. d4 {(White controls the center of the chess board, an ideal arrangement according to sound chess strategy in the opening)} d5 {Black quickly strikes back in the center, firmly establishing a pawn foothold on the d5 square, for if White captures Black retakes with his e-pawn. Notice that White's e-pawn is also threatened with capture. This position begins the French Defense, a well known chess opening.}) 2. Nf3 {[%csl Re5] [An ideal chess opening move. White develops a Knight to its best square (toward the center!) and attacks the enemy pawn. Black is limited in his reply.]} ({Again, White could make other good moves, like} 2. Nc3 {[%csl Gd5,Ge4] which also meets guidelines for proper chess opening strategy. A Knight is brought out toward the center, two center squares are influenced and the White e-pawn is solidly protected.}) 2... Nc6 {[%csl Yd4, Ye5] [Excellent - a Knight is developed actively, attacking two central squares and defending the Black e-pawn. The influence of White's Knight is thus counteracted.]} 3. Bb5 {[%csl Re5][%cal Ye1g1] [Rapid deployment and no wasted motion. This move adheres to the principles of chess strategy, by preparing to castle and by undermining Black's defense of this e-pawn. Without getting bogged down in chess tactics, observe that White is not yet threatening to win the Black e-pawn, even if he could move again.]} ({Instead} 3. Bc4 {[%cal Ye1g1,Ga2g8] illustrates good chess strategy as well, placing the King's Bishop on an active square where it commands two long diagonals, attacks the d5 central square and prepares to castle.}) 3... Nf6 {[%csl Re4] [Black counterattacks! He brings out the King's Knight and controls two center squares, besides placing the enemy e-pawn under attack.]} 4. O-O {[%csl Gg1] [All according to the best chess strategy. White's King is now safely tucked away in the corner, and his King's Rook is brought toward the center. Next he will plan the development of his Queenside pieces while hampering Black's attempt to smoothly develop.]} Bc5 {[%csl Rg1][%cal Ye8g8,Ga7g1] [The King's Bishop takes up its most active post, where it commands squares leading all the way to White's King. In addition, Black is now ready to castle. This position forms part of the Berlin Defense to the Ruy Lopez.]} *

There is no need to take the game further - we see rapid development, a race to control the center squares and get the King to safety. Note that both players are also trying to prevent the opponent from achieving these strategic goals. It is also clear that no single pawn or piece can stand alone; the whole chess army needs to work as a unit to carry out our chess strategy. Remembering this will help you to understand the principles we're about to discuss.

1) Good chess strategy is to make your first move with the e-pawn or d-pawn advancing two squares. In either case, you will open pathways for the pieces to get off of the back rank and into the fight for the central squares.

2) Good chess strategy is playing each piece one time to its best square, developing them all in turn, and getting your chess pieces off the starting squares. You want to get your pieces into the game rapidly, and posted where they can accomplish something - either aiding your attack or defense of the center. Seldom will you move the same piece twice in the chess opening.

3) Good chess strategy is keeping your King safe, so castle early and get him behind your wing pawns. Castling is a great way to safeguard your King from sudden chess tactics and even checkmate - it gets the King away from the center and develops one of your Rooks at the same time. Top level chess strategy!

4) Good chess strategy is advancing only one or two pawns in the chess opening, just enough to stake out the center and develop your pieces quickly. Moving pawns can weaken your defenses, and is responsible for many losses in the chess opening. A pawn move can never be retracted!

5) Good chess strategy is to make a threat when developing the pieces, which will limit the opponent's freedom of choice. This is the "initiative", a chess strategy meant to dictate the game's course. Develop and threaten - good chess strategy!

If a beginner at chess will stay with these basic principles of chess strategy, success on the board is not far behind! See here for more ideas in the chess opening.

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