Top Five Chess Strategies

The following tips are excerpted from Grandmaster Arthur Bisguier’s article, “Play Chess – Tips for Winning Chess Strategy.”

TIP 1: Look at your opponent’s move.

Every time your opponent makes a move, you should stop and think: Why was that move chosen? Is a piece in danger? Are there any other threats I should watch out for? What sort of plan does my opponent have in mind? Only by defending against your opponent’s threats will you be able to successfully carry out your own strategies. Once you figure out what your opponent is attempting to do, you can play to nip those plans in the bud.

TIP 2: Make the best possible move.

When you’re considering a move, ask yourself these questions:

a. Will the piece I’m moving go to a better square than the one it’s on now?
b. Can I improve my position even more by increasing the effectiveness of a different piece?
c. Does this move help to defend against my opponent’s threats?
d. Will the piece I move be safe on its new square?

– If it’s a Pawn, consider: Can I keep it protected from attack?
– If it’s another piece, consider: Can the enemy drive it away, thus making me lose valuable time?

Even if your intended move has good points, it may not be the best move at that moment. Emanuel Lasker, a former world champion, said: “When you see a good move, wait – look for a better one!” Following this advice is bound to improve your chess.

TIP 3: Have a plan.

If you threaten something here in one move, something over there in the next move, and so forth, your opponent will have an easy time defending. Your pieces have to work together to be effective. Just imagine each instrument in an orchestra playing a different tune!

When you develop a plan, your men can work in harmony. For example, you might plan to attack your opponent’s king, one piece alone probably wouldn’t be able to do much, but the combined strength of several pieces makes a powerful attacking force. Another plan could be taking control of all the squares in a particular area of the board. The chess men are your “team”; to be a good “coach,” you have to use all of their strengths together.

TIP 4: Know what the pieces are worth.

When you are considering giving up some of your pieces for some of your opponent’s, you should think about the values of the men, and not just how many each player possesses. The player whose men add up to a greater value will usually have the advantage. So a crucial step in making decisions is to add up the material, or value, of each player’s men.

The pawn is the least valuable piece, so it is a convenient unit of measure. It moves slowly and can never go backward. Knights and bishops are approximately equal, worth about three pawns each. The knight is the only piece that can jump over other men. The bishops are speedier, but each one can reach only half the squares. A rook moves quickly and can reach every square; its value is five pawns. A combination of two minor pieces (knights and bishops) can often subdue a rook. A queen is worth nine pawns, almost as much as two rooks. It can move to the greatest number of squares in most positions. The king can be a valuable fighter too, but we do not evaluate its strength because it cannot be traded.

TIP 5: Develop quickly and well.

Time is a very important element of chess. The player whose men are ready for action sooner will be able to control the course of the game. If you want to be that player, you have to develop your men efficiently to powerful posts. Many inexperienced players like to move a lot of pawns at the beginning of the game to control space on the chessboard, but you can’t win with pawns alone! Since knights, bishops, rooks, and queens can move farther than pawns and threaten more distant targets, it’s a good idea to bring them out soon, after you’ve moved enough pawns to guarantee that your stronger pieces won’t be chased back by your opponent’s pawns.

After all the other pieces are developed, it’s easier to see what pawns you should move to fit in with your plans. It’s tempting to bring the queen out very early, because it’s the most powerful piece. But your opponent can chase your queen back by threatening it with less valuable pieces. Look at Example A: after 1…Nf6, Black threatens to drive the white queen away with either 2…Nd4 or 2….d6 and 3…Bg4. Instead of just moving pieces out, try to determine the best square for each piece and bring it there in as few moves as possible. This may save you from wasting moves later in the game.
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