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Move every piece once...

The grandaddy of all opening principles is "Move every piece once before you move every piece twice unless there is a tactic." In his venerable book Common Sense in Chess, World Champion Emanuel Lasker's rules for development of the pieces #2 is "Do not move any piece twice in the opening, but put it at once upon the right square." I added "...unless there is a tactic", which can be added to almost all "positional" principles, since if you need to move a piece twice to capture a queen that's en prise or avoid capture by a pawn, that's clearly not intended to be a violation of a principle.

As I explain in Strong Principles vs. Important Principles, "Move every piece once..." is a very important but not so strong principle. However, it is almost necessary for inexperienced players to try to consistently follow it; most don't but, if they did so, it would improve their openings greatly. You have to learn how to walk before you can run. The main goal of the opening is to safely, efficiently, and effectively activate all your forces, and following this principle, at least until you are a strong intermediate player, goes a long way towards accomplishing that goal.

By my estimation I have taught about 700 players in private one-on-one sessions who, at least when they first approached me, were inexperienced enough that they would move pieces multiple times unnecessarily instead of trying to activate all their forces. Would a football coach purposely play with less than 11 players or a basketball coach want to play with less than 5? Believe it or not, only one student was able to consistenty follow this advice from the time I suggested it, which shows the strong temptation to do otherwise. Eventually, of course, all the players who became much stronger were able to do safely and efficiently activate their forces in most games, or they would not have made it that far.

For example, many inexperienced players make threats that are easily met, in the hope that the opponent will miss the threat and thus an allow them a quick, easy win (No, I don't call this Hope Chess - see #3 in Novice Nook Quiz). These easily defended threats may work well against beginners, but making them can become a very bad habit that will backfire when playing against stronger players. Most threats are not worth making that early in the game - see The Three Reasonable Types of Threats.

The John Keir story is a great one from which to learn:

John is the father of one of my students from the 1990's, Clayton. About 20 years ago, John decided to become a US Chess Federation tournament director (TD) but, when he decided to move up to the second level, he found that one of the requirements was to have tournament experience. So he played in one event and received a provisional rating of about 1150. For his second event he decided to enter the Under-1200 section of the large National Chess Congress, then held at the Adam's Mark Hotel in Philadelphia. It turned out that section had many promising young players who later would become much stronger.

Nevertheless, John had a fantastic tournament, scoring a perfect 6-0 and winning, if I remember correctly, $583.

So after the event I went up to John and said,

"That was fantastic, congratulations! How did you do it?"

John's reply was memorable. He grinned and told me,

"Well, you know how when you are teaching Clayton how, every game, you have to tell him 'Move every piece once before you move any piece twice, unless there is a tactic?' Well, I resolved that in this event I would do that every game, no matter what.

"So I did, and each game I found myself with seven pieces active, but my opponents all dilly-dallied in one way or another and they usually had only three or four. So naturally I had a good attack, and all I had to do was be careful and avoid falling into an easy tactic. Luckily, I was able to, and thus was able use that attack to win."

My reply was immediate:

"John, if we could take that, bottle it, and sell it, we could make a fortune!" Smile 

Comments


  • 21 months ago

    YoniKer

    Interesting story. This story appeared a few times in your NN i believe.

    What that i do find curious is that you wrote this column even after reading Willy Hendrik's wonderful book Move first think later.

    I understand that you did write that there are exceptions which you should think about only if you are at least a strong intermediate player.

    But why is something which is good for a stronger player is not good for a weaker player? Isn't the best move (or group of best moves) one?

    It might be better to explain the novice why moving the knight twice in a specific position was a bad move,for examlpe,rather than stating a rule which might hinder further progress later on... (Or using your analogy-that person will not be able to ever run until he unlearns  that rule!).

    Seeing how little Hendriks thinks of rules and any generalizations,I wonder what would he think of this column? 

    Probably he would have suggested to throw that bottle to the ocean,hoping that another chess player will one day open and read it,so you can take some rating points from him in a future (international)  FIDE rated tournament lol

  • 21 months ago

    EyeKnows

    isn't the saying, "move every piece once before you move any piece twice unless there is a tactic."?

  • 22 months ago

    GameOverBro

    nice article, check this one too:

    http://www.chess.com/chessopedia/view/all-in-vs-french-defence

    cheers

  • 22 months ago

    ArnesonStidgeley

    "..I have taught about 700 players in private one-on-one sessions who, at least when they first approached me, were inexperienced enough that they would move pieces multiple times unnecessarily...Would a football coach purposely play with less than 11 players or a basketball coach want to play with less than 5? Believe it or not, only one student was able to consistenty follow this advice from the time I suggested it, which shows the strong temptation to do otherwise."

    Why was only one student able to follow this advice? For all of us who coach, that is a great question to ponder.

  • 22 months ago

    Mitochondria12

    Enjoyable and instructive narrative :)

  • 22 months ago

    UnionStationFan

    I've been working on this - thanks for the encouragement to keep it up as it will pay off soon. Several times, I have intentionally made what I felt were "worse" moves at the time (though not unsafe), just to keep developing new pieces. When I've done it, within 3-5 moves my position was much better because of the increased piece activity.

  • 22 months ago

    Englix

    Easy to forget... Good advice Cool

    Keep up the good work Dan!

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