Loading... Please wait...

Chess Maxims

Charles Dealtry Locock (1862 – 1946) was a British literary scholar, editor, and translator who wrote on a wide array of subjects - including chess, billiards, and croquet. He can be seen on the losing side against notable players, between 1880 and 1890.

Here his little book actually has 103 Maxims, plus 8 random-ass "don'ts" for beginners. Anyway, it'll make a page of content

One Hundred Chess Maxims For Beginners and Moderate Players, By C. D. Locock

Eight "Don'ts" for Beginners

1. Don't play f2-f3 (or f7-f6), especially before castling. The move robs your King's Knight of its best square, exposes your King to a check by the Queen, and may stop your castling if the opponent has a Bishop at c5 (or c4).

2. Don't play your Bishop to d3 in front of your d-pawn.

3. Don't play b2-b3 to defend a Bishop at c4, It cuts off the retreat of the Bishop to that square.

4. Don't play your Queen's Bishop to f4. It has no attacking force there, is probably undefended, and liable to attack by Queen or Knight.

5. Don't move the same piece twice unnecessarily, except to win something. A favorite beginner's move is Nb5, the "plan" being to fork the King and Queen's Rook if the Queen moves away from the c-pawn. (But why should the Queen move away?)

6. Don't play Qe1, when there is nothing against Qe2. You don't want to keep your Queen on the back row and shut in your Rook.

7. Don't be afraid of the adverse King. Queen touching King is by far the commonest mate. It is always nearly mate.

8. Don't copy your opponent's opening moves when captures are possible on both sides. It is usually the first side to capture that wins. The same rule applies when a player leaves a piece "en prise" in order to attack another.

I. Values of the Pieces

1. The King is invaluable. In the opening and middlegame his duties are confined to defending pieces and pawns, to hiding, and sometimes to running away. In the endgame, when danger from mate is over, he becomes an attacking force, at least as powerful as a minor piece.

2. The Queen is usually worth a Bishop and two Knights, or a Rook, a Knight and two pawns. A Queen and pawn are about equal to two fully developed Rooks. The Queen's high value is due to her power of attacking two or more things at once.

3. A Rook in play is worth nearly a Knight and two pawns. A Rook and pawn are nearly equal to two Knights, but are not so good as a Bishop and Knight. Thus, castling is a sufficient defense against an attack on the f-pawn by a Knight and Bishop.

4. Bishops and Knights are worth about three and a half pawns. The Bishop is the more useful for stopping passed pawns; the Knight for attacking pawns on either color, especially doubled pawns. A Bishop is capable of confining a Knight. Queen and Knight are usually stronger than Queen and Bishop, but a single Rook and Bishop are stronger than Rook and Knight.

5. Two Bishops are much stronger than two Knights. They can mate or confine the King.

6. Two well-placed Bishops, unassailable by Knights and pawns, are usually quite as strong as Rook and Knight, especially when the Queens are still on the board. The owner of the Bishops should think twice before winning "the Exchange," which the opponent will often be only too glad to give up.

7. Two Knights are strongly placed when side by side, supported by pawns. They are at their worst when defending each other. Any piece which attacks two such Knights prevents either from moving.

II. The Opening

8. Always play 1e4. Other openings, involving positional play, are for experts only. Always reply to 1.e4 by 1...e5. The Open Game, with its rapid development and direct attacks on the King, should be mastered first.

9. Three golden rules for beginners are 1) Get your pieces off the back row; 2) Take; 3) Attack.

10. The Giuoco Pianissimo is the best opening for learning the principles of normal development, the Queen and the four minor pieces all coming off the back row in seven moves. With correct play, however, it turns into a waiting game, and such openings as the Scotch and Danish Gambits are better practice for learning the principles of attack and defense.

11. Play your Queen's pawn to d4 for White, whenever it does not lose a pawn, and very often when it does. The reply to ...d5 should nearly always be exd5. Otherwise the opponent will usually gain an advantage, either by exchanging pawns and Queens, or by attacking a Knight at c3 by ...d5-d4.

12. Avoid the Ruy Lopez till you are prepared to learn many scores of variations by heart. Remember that the Lopez is not an immediate threat to win a pawn; since after 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.Nxe5 Black's 5...Qd4 recovers the pawn. Consequently any Black developing move at turn three must be a fairly satisfactory reply.

13. The Queen's Bishop is often the last minor piece to be developed, the last being the Queen's Rook. You never know where you may ultimately want it. Look out especially for the chance of playing it to a3, preventing castling.

14. Don't pin the King's Knight unless your opponent has castled - or must eventually castle - on the Kingside.

15. The answer to such a pin is either () To move the Queen (since the doubled pawn will be no disadvantage to him, especially if you have castled on that side); or 2) To drive the Bishop away by ...h6 and ...g5, forming an attack on your castled King.

16. Avoid h2-h3 - the "country move" - unless it attacks something, or unless you intend g2-g4. It is a non-developing and usually a needlessly defensive move. Moreover, if you castle that side, the pawn serves as a point of attack for the opponent's g-pawn or Queen's Bishop.

17. At the start of a game both sides have one weak point - the f-pawn, which is defended only by the King. In "open" games this is usually the object of the first attack. A common example of this, when the d-pawns have gone, is Bxf7+, which may win a pawn or sometimes the Queen.

18. The opponent, if his King's Knight is out, may sometimes recover the Queen by ...Bb4+. In that case the answer Qd2 - usually better than c2-c3 - is frequently overlooked.

19. Playing Ng5 (after Bc4) is another way of attacking the weak spot, but generally useless if the opponent can castle, unless it can be followed immediately by Qh5. But always think of Ng5 in such positions.

20. Always look out for all checks, especially Bxf7+.

21. The move Qh5, when played too early, usually results in loss of time, since the Queen can soon be driven away by ...Nf6. But when this is not the case, this move - and Qg4 - are two of the strongest moves on the board, often overlooked by fairly good players. One merit of these moves is that they prevent the opponent from making them.

22. Avoid Bc4 when the opponent's e-pawn is at e6, or is unmoved.

23. In games of the Giuoco Pianissimo type early castling should be avoided. You don't want your opponent to know for certain where your King is going to be. But when, as White, you have sacrificed your d-pawn (as in the Scotch or Danish Gambit), early castling is permissible as an attacking move. You have gained time, and therefore have no counter-attack to fear.

24. Developing the King's Knight to ...Nf6 is usually Black's best move in all openings, and as soon as possible, whenever his e-pawn is not attacked.

25. Having got it there, always be on the look-out for a chance of playing ...Nxe4 and, if NxN, then ...d5, recovering the piece if the opponent has a Bishop at c4.

26. When your Knight at f6 is attacked by an e-pawn which cannot be taken, the best reply is nearly always ...Nd5, if that move attacks a Bishop. Occasionally ...Ng4 (or ...Nd7) will win the e-pawn.

27. The d-pawn should always be moved in the first seven moves or so. Never be caught with it unmoved. It often pays to sacrifice a pawn by d5-d6 in order to prevent it from moving.

28. Be careful about moving any pawns except the two in the center. They cannot retrace their steps. Two pawns in the center are strongest side by side. Advancing one of them may leave the other weak.

29. The moving of any of the three pawns in front of the castled King may lead to weakness. If one is already moved, be very chary of moving another.

30. When your d-pawn is gone, castling on the Queenside is often good, since the Rook gets the open file at the same time. Moreover the King is nearer the center of the board for the endgame. The disadvantages of castling on the Queenside are: 1) The a-pawn is not defended by the King; 2) The King is exposed to a check on the diagonal.

31. When your b-pawn has made a capture on c3, the Queen's Bishop need not be developed, since it threatens to come out in either direction, and this option should often be retained. The Queen's Rook may take the open b-file.

32. The following device should be known, since it may occur in more than one opening. 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.Re1 d5 7.Bxd5 Qxd5 8.Nc3, recovering the piece and eventually the second pawn.

33. If Black has made two non-developing moves in defending a gambit, and White none, White has the better game, even though he cannot recover the gambit pawn. Example: 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 c5(?). Here Black's second and third moves are both non-developing, and White should get the best of it by 4.c3.

34. The pawn advance to d4 is often an effective reply to ...c6, since if ...exd4 the Queen can retake without fear of being attacked by the Queen's Knight.

35. Chances similar to this and the next occur fairly often. In the Center Game, after 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Qxd4 Nc6 4.Qe3 Nf6 5 e5 Ng4 6.Qe4 d5 7.exd6+ Be6 8.dxc7 Black recovers both the pawns by playing 8...Qd1+, with the better game.

36. Again with the d-pawns gone, a White Queen at c3, and a Black Knight at d4; Black wins the Queen by the ...Bb4 pin.

III. The Middlegame

37. The object of the game is to mate, and as quickly as possible. Captures are made only to deprive the King of his defenses.

38. An attack on a well defended castled King must usually conclude with the sacrifice of a piece.

39. All pieces, if possible, should be defended, and not by Knights. A Knight which is the sole defense of an attacked piece is virtually pinned, for his misfortune is that he cannot move without undefending it.

40. Beginners are especially fond of playing a Bishop to g5, defended by a Knight at f3, and attacking a Queen at f6. The reply ...Qg6 is usually feasible, and leaves the Knight immovable.

41. The Queen should usually be kept in the background till a promising attack is established. Avoid using her for hunting distant pawns, such as the b-pawn. It takes two moves for the Queen to take it and get home again - if she can.

42. Before playing Qxg7, attacking the King's Rook, see that the opponent cannot reply with ...Bf6, defending the Rook, and attacking the Queen and perhaps something else on the Queenside.

43. Beware of capturing the g-pawn or h-pawn in front of your castled King, unless your opponent has also castled on the same side.

44. The Queen may sometimes pin one of two minor pieces. Thus, after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.d4 exd4 6.Nxd4 Nf6 7.Nxc6, Black can save loss of the Exchange, by 7...Qd7, a device which is frequently overlooked.

45. Always be on the look-out for mates to follow a Queen sacrifice. "Philidor's Legacy" is perhaps the commonest, the smothered mate. Another is to play Qh6 when you have a Knight at f5 and a Bishop at b2, Black having castled on the Kingside.

46. When you have a pawn at g6, the opponent's King and King's Rook being unmoved, look out for a chance of playing Qxh7, attacking the Rook. For if ...Rxh7, then gxh7 often secures a Queen next move.

47. Rooks should be played to the open files. If no files are open, positions on the back row opposite the opponent's King and Queen are generally useful, whatever may intervene. Rooks should protect each other as soon as possible.

48. Rooks are strongest when they are doubled on an open file or on the seventh rank; the latter usually means a winning position. A Rook is dangerously placed in the middle of a crowded board. A line of retreat should be left open. Taking Rxb7 is often a dangerous capture; the Rook may be bottled up by Bishop or Knight playing to b6.

49. "Don't begin your final attack till your Queen's Rook is in play" (Blackburne). Since there are obvious exceptions, the precept must be taken as referring to attacks of a speculative nature.

50. When Queens have been exchanged, castling, especially on the Kingside should be avoided if possible, since it removes the King further from the center of the board. Instead, Ke2 is usually safe and better.

51. When you have played your Queen's Rook past c1, retiring the Queen's Bishop to its original square is often good. It clears the file for the Rooks and defends the b-pawn.

52. When your opponent has castled on the Queenside his a-pawn is often left undefended. It is dangerous to take it with a Bishop, owing to the reply ...b7-b6, followed by ...Kb7. The capture may be safe if you can check at once at a6; or if you can at once play a4-a5, with a Rook behind it.

53. If in doubt as to which Rook should move to e1, to oppose a hostile Rook, move the one with which you have not castled. For 1) If you exchange Rooks your other Rook will remain protected by the King; 2) If your opponent exchanges at some later stage, you may not wish his move to be a check.

54. A fianchetto Bishop (at g2, behind a pawn at g3) owes its great strength to its being unapproachable by a Knight. It also fills the "holes" caused by g2-g3 (see No. 72), and provides a strong defense for the castled King. Altogether it is well worth the extra move expended.

55. When your opponent has a fianchetto Bishop, and you cannot shut it out by pawns, you should usually try to oppose it with your own Bishop.

56. Bishops of opposite colors usually lead to a draw, even though one side be a pawn, or even two pawns ahead.

57. There is one very important exception to the above. When the Queens are still on the board the better Bishop of the two is not the one which can attack the opposing pawns, but the one which can wander unobstructed among them, holding the open diagonals without fear of opposition. Such a Bishop will usually win.

58. In reply to premature pinning of the King's Knight there are sometimes more drastic replies than those mentioned in No. 15. These are 1) Bxf7+, followed by Ne5+, or by Ng5+, if the pinning Bishop be undefended, and g5 unguarded. Or 2) A sacrifice of the Queen by Nxe5 Bxd1; White mates in two moves: 1.Bxf7+ Ke7 2.Nd5 mate.

59. A Knight at the side of the board is only half a Knight. The King's Knight should not play to h3 except when necessary to answer ...Ng4. Knights at h3 and a3 are also exposed to capture by Bishops, resulting in weak doubled pawns.

60. When your opponent has castled on the Kingside try to get a Knight established at f5. This in itself is often sufficient to win, especially if the f-file is open.

61. The King's Knight usually reaches f5 via h4. It should be noticed that Nh4 may often lose a pawn if the opponent plays ...N(f6)xe4, attacking the Knight (h4) with the Queen (d8). This may often be provided for by first playing Qe2, when the Queen will be able to capture the Knight (e4), thus defending her own Knight (h4).

62. The Queen's Knight can be maneuvered from c3 to f5 in three moves, via g3 or e3. In the latter position it is exceedingly strong, controlling f5, d5 and g4.

63. A Knight on the e-file attacked by a Queen is often best defended by castling, when the Rook can pin the Queen if she takes the Knight.

64. A Knight on f3, attacked by the e-pawn and pinned by an undefended Bishop at g4, may sometimes be saved by Qd4 or Qa4, so as to take the Bishop if the Knight be taken by the pawn. If this resource is not available (e.g., if the Bishop be defended by a Knight), h3 Bh5; g4 may save the piece; but in such positions the sacrifice Nxg4 often wins for the opponent.

65. A Knight at g5 attacked by a pawn at h6 may often be defended by h2-h4, when your opponent has castled on the Kingside and you have not, especially if he has a Knight at f6. For if then he takes the Knight, your reply hxg5 attacks his Knight and threatens Qh5 if the Knight moves, with a probable mate.

66. Don't take a pinned Rook till you must; crowd more force on to it if you can. If he can only get out of the pin by moving his King, wait till he does, and then take.

67. "It is always too early for f2-f4" (maxim by a well-known foreign Master). This favorite attacking move breaks the rule of moving as few pawns as possible in the earlier stages, and may expose the King to a dangerous check. It becomes especially doubtful when the h-pawn or g-pawn has already been moved in front of the castled King (see No. 29).

68. Usually attack an opponent's pawn at b5 by means of a2-a4. If he takes, you have the open file. If he pushes the pawn, consider a4-a5 (to prevent ...a5). After shutting off the supporting pawn you can attack the b-pawn at your leisure.

69. If you can take a piece at g3 with the h-pawn or the f-pawn, the former is nearly always the better. There are three reasons for this: 1) The open file for your Rook; 2) The h-pawn is difficult to promote in the end-game; 3) More squares are now guarded by pawns, and control of e3 is not given up. The rule usually holds good even though you have castled on the Kingside and taking with the f-pawn would give an open file for your King's Rook.

70. Doubled pawns are often an advantage in the middlegame, since they provide open files for the Rooks. In the endgame they are usually disadvantageous.

71. Failing a direct attack on the King, or other obvious attacks, concentrate on any weakness in the opponent's position, such as isolated pawns, or "holes." An isolated pawn is one that has no companion on an adjacent file, and cannot therefore be defended by another pawn.

72. A "hole" is a square immediately in front of a pawn, such square being incapable of being guarded by another pawn of the same side. Thus, if your e-pawn and g-pawn have both been moved, you have "holes" at f3 and h3.
73. Concentrate your Rooks and Queen on such a hole in the opponent's position, and if you fill it at all let it be with a piece rather than with a pawn. If you fill it with a pawn you lose your frontal attack on the weak pawn at the back of the hole.

74. Pawn formations that are "V" shaped should be avoided, even when there is no hole, since the base is weak, and if this falls two other pawns become weak. The inverted "V" is preferable, and gives more space in the center.

75. Don't drive away an advanced piece which is not hurting you; it will probably retire unassisted. If not it may serve as a point of attack.

76. When you are threatening a certain move it is often better to make another threat instead of carrying out the first. Especially look out for moves which threaten both wings simultaneously.

77. Counterattack is often the best - sometimes the only defense. When your Kingside position is bad, try, if you have time, to break through on the other wing.

IV. The Endgame

78. When you are left with a single pawn against nothing, and it cannot Queen unassisted, get your King in front of it as soon as possible. If you have your King on the sixth rank, with the pawn anywhere behind it, on the same or an adjacent file, you win either with or without the move.

79. If your pawn gives check when played to the seventh rank you cannot win; if it does not give check, you win.

80. When the King and pawn are both on the sixth rank the win depends on the "opposition." If the opposing King can play to the square on the eighth rank which is opposite your own King, the game must be drawn.

81. With King on e5, pawn on e4, and Black King on e7, the game is drawn, unless it is Black's turn to move.

82. A Rook's pawn cannot win if the opponent's King can reach g8 or h8, not even if you have a Bishop too, unless that Bishop is the same color as the Queening square. Nor can you win if the other King can shut in your own in front of the pawn.

83. If Black has a pawn on the seventh rank, protected by the King, then White, with the move, wins, however remote his King and Queen may be, if the Black pawn is one of the two central pawns, or a b-pawn or g-pawn. If the Queen has no check she first pins the pawn. This is followed by checking, with occasional pinning, until the Black King is forced in front of his pawn. The White King then comes a step nearer, and the process is repeated till mate or the gain of the pawn is forced.

84. But if the pawn is a c-pawn (or f-pawn) or an a-pawn (or h-pawn), the game is drawn. As soon as the Queen checks at b3 the King plays into the a1 corner, and stalemate must eventually follow.

85. When you have a winning pawn position, pin your opponent's last piece, and then take it, even though you sacrifice your Queen.

86. A Queen can easily shepherd a passed pawn to the eighth rank against another Queen, provided the Kings are both hidden away.

87. In an endgame where the pawns are equal in number, the advantage lies with the player who has the majority of pawns on the side of the board remote from the two Kings. These pawns, with no King to stop them, can usually force their way past the minority.

88. Even when there is no majority, three adjacent pawns on the fourth rank will win against three pawns opposite them on the third rank. Advance the central pawn of the three. When this is taken, advance the pawn opposite the non-capturing pawn. By thus sacrificing two pawns the third breaks through and Queens first.

89. A single pawn, well placed, may hold back two or even three. Thus a White pawn at b4 neutralizes three Black pawns at a6, b5 and c6. Play it there at once.

90. Endgames apparently lost may sometimes be saved by some "cheesy" move. A sudden fork or similar feat may be performed, such as pinning the Queen with a Bishop.

91. A Rook is best behind a passed pawn, whether such pawn be your own or your opponent's.

V. Exchanging

92. Exchanging is not loss of time; beginners usually think it is. Remember that after the exchange it is still your move. If you leave it to your opponent to exchange when it suits him, it will then become his move.

93. Sometimes, however, what looks like a simple exchange really loses a move. Thus if White plays Bb5+ Bd7, then Bxd7+ Nxd7, none of the pieces in question having previously moved - White has lost a move. If his King's Bishop had moved previously, he has lost two moves.

94. When you have the superior force, whether receiving odds or not, exchange freely and play for exchanges.

95. When playing a superior player level, remember that his Queen (and other pieces) are worth more than yours. By exchanging you will at least prolong the game.

96. When you have the inferior forces, usually avoid exchanges and try to complicate the game. Especially keep your Queen for the chance of a "perpetual check." Occasionally, if you have a Queen or a Rook, you may bring off a stalemate by sacrificing them.

97. When you are only a pawn behind you may often draw by exchanging so as to leave either 1) Bishops of opposite colors, or 2) a "Rook against Rook and pawn" ending, which usually results in a draw, or 3) insufficient force for your opponent to mate with, such as two Knights.

VI. How to Improve

98. Play, if possible, with players rather better than yourself. Write down your games and play them over afterwards, preferably with your opponent, and try to find out how your play could have been improved. Play consultation games when you get the chance.

99. Play through the games (beginning with 1.e4) in the newspapers, taking the winning side and trying to guess every move made. You should take on the average, a minute or two for each move. When you can guess 60 per cent of the moves actually made, you will be well on the road to improvement.

100. When receiving odds always play an attacking game. If the odds are large, play d2-d4 early, even if it loses a pawn. It will often pay you to sacrifice a piece for two pawns in order to break up the opponent's position.

101. Especially when you have a winning game, remember the proverb, "More haste, less speed." Missing the best move will often necessitate dozens more. Having found what seems the best move, look for a better.

102. Don't "hover." It hinders your own view of the board, and is not fair to your opponent. Accustom yourself to playing "touch and move," since in match games this is compulsory.

103. Always know at every stage of the game exactly how much you are ahead or behind in material. You will improve more quickly by resigning a lost game and starting another, than by going on till you are mated.