Chess is undoubtedly one of the most challenging board games around. However, beginners often find the game daunting, not to mention headache-inducing. So, we have compiled some of the best tips to get you started right when pushing chess pieces.
- Know what each piece is worth
Aside from simply learning how each piece moves and captures the opposing pieces, you also need to be aware of what each one is worth. This is important as it will serve as one of the foundations of your strategy later in the match.
The pawn is obviously the weakest piece as it can only move one square forward. As such, it is often treated as being expendable. However, don’t go sacrificing all your pawns for position. As you already know, a pawn can be promoted to a higher piece once it reaches the opposite end of the board. This can be very handy during the match’s end game.
Moving on, the knight and the bishop can be considered equal to each other in worth. The most important feature of the knight is its ability to jump over other pieces. On the other hand, the bishop can move very quickly around the board, though only along the diagonals.
Next to the queen, the rook is often considered as one of the most powerful pieces, as it can reach every square in its rank and file. However, a combination of a knight and a bishop can outmanoeuvre and capture a rook. And of course, the queen can cover the entirety of the board easily and is thus the most valuable attacking piece.
- Come up with a plan
Much like real warfare, having a plan of attack before going to “battle” is a must for any chess player. One of the most notable things about chess is that there is a wide variety of game plans devised by players throughout the centuries, which you can use. However don’t just stick to these. Devise your own strategy, deciding how you will use each piece to effectively halt the movement of your opponent’s and capture them.
An important factor of developing an effective chess game plan is to look ahead to the possible endgames. This will help you decide which pieces to sacrifice and which ones to keep during the course of the match. Of particular note are the pawns. As have been said earlier, pawns can play a big role during the endgame. Thus, you need to come up with an effective pawn structure early to block the movement of your opponent later on.
- Develop your pieces well
When implementing your game plan, you need to get your pieces to the desired position as early as possible to gain good control of the board. Here, a common mistake of many beginners is to move out most of their pawns first, saving the stronger pieces for later. Instead, bring these stronger pieces early for them to throw their weight into the match. Bishops and rooks, for instance, can be used to threaten pieces from a distance, while knights can be used to push opposing pieces into a tight spot.
However, you need to carefully decide when you will actually bring out the queen. Bring it out too early in the game and it can be easily threatened with less valuable pieces and chased back. Only advance the queen when it can effectively support the other pieces and vice versa.
It is also important to pay attention to the four squares in the center of the board early. Gaining control of these will allow you to direct your attacks to almost anywhere on the board. On the other hand, it can also bolster your defence, as you can provide protection for other pieces moving across the board.
- Analyze your opponent’s moves carefully
Even the best laid out game plans can’t guarantee a sure win. Your opponent has a strategy of his own that can break through your defences. Thus, you need to adapt and move accordingly. This is, in fact, where the true beauty of chess lies in.
One of the important cornerstones here is analyzing and understanding your opponent’s each move. Ask yourself: why did he make that particular move? Does he intend to capture any of my pieces or is he planning something else? Often, this would include looking ahead several moves from the current one to get a clearer picture of where the move will lead to. Also, scan around the board to get an idea of how that particular piece moved relates to his other pieces.
- Pick the best move to make
When advancing your offense or countering your opponent’s threats, it is important to pick out the best move that you can make. For that, ask yourself the following questions:
- Will this piece be moving to a better square?
- Will it be safe in the new square?
- Can a different piece offer a more effective result?
You also need to take into account how your opponent will respond to each possible move you make. The most common response is to threaten your advancing piece and force it back to a safer position. However, experienced players would actually divert their attack to another part of the board and force you to abandon whatever follow-up moves you have planned. Again, think several moves ahead and get a picture of the exchanges you and your opponent are likely to make based on the current move you have.
- Know when to give up pieces
One of the most important factors in determining when to give up pieces is the outcome that will result from such a sacrifice. Usually, players give up pieces when they know they will be able to capture opposing pieces equivalent to the ones given up.
However, there are also situations where you may want to let a piece get captured without gaining an opposing piece. Instead, these situations might give you more room to manoeuvre your remaining pieces into better tactical positions. Be aware, such moves will result in you having less material against your opponent.
On the other hand, you definitely would not want to trade any piece if you have already set up a stronger defensive line.
- Set the right pace
One of the common mistakes many inexperienced players make is trying to win the game as fast as they can the moment they have one opening. On the other hand, there are those players who squander off too many moves trying to capture a particular piece.
Keep in mind that chess is not about speed (unless you are playing speed chess). Instead, set the right pace when you can comfortably defend and advance e your position, preparing for the endgame. In particular, you don’t want to go and move your pawns too much, as this wastes precious moves which should be instead used for developing more important pieces. Also, note that a well-paced game means you do not need a lot of moves to trap and capture the opponent’s pieces.
- Play the king well
The king is at its most vulnerable when it is in its initial position, where it is open to attack from all directions. Thus, you should move it away from the center as early as possible. Castling early is one sure way to guarantee the safety of the king for the entirety of the match. Do note, however, that once you castle the king, you need to be careful in moving the pawns in front of it, as these act as the king’s primary line of defence.
That does not mean though that the king should always be kept far from the heat of battle. This is especially the case during the endgame, where there are only a few pieces left. Here, a well-supported king can finally throw its weight around and capture pieces, forcing the opponent to back off from trying to capture it.
- Do a post-mortem of the match
This where knowing chess notation and keeping records of your match will really come in handy. Study each move you make and where you falter. You don’t need to obsess with this, though. Instead use it as a guide in refining your strategies during your next matches.
One particular area you would want to take a look at is your endgame. This is often where novices fall short. Here, you can ask more experienced players for help in understanding why your endgame turned out good or weak.
- Play against yourself
This might seem an odd one at first, as chess is a two-person game. However, this method actually helps you discover weak spots in your strategies, as well as devise new ones. As you gain more experience as a player, the activity will also help you assess your current skill level, as well as jog up your memory. To make it more engaging, you can set up challenges to complete for it.