The Opening for Beginners - Part #1

Aug 4, 2007, 12:00 AM |
10 | For Beginners

The opening is the first of three sections which a chess game is commonly divided into, the other two being the middlegame and the endgame (If you can't figure out which goes when then please, close this site and find a new hobby. Perhaps rock collecting). The opening has been subject to close, some would say excessive, scrutiny ever since modern chess was invented about 500 years ago. And in that time some basic aims of the opening have been discovered which can guide you through almost any opening, though it should be pointed out know that every principle of strategy in chess has exceptions. These principles are; 1) Developement 2) King Safety and 3) Control of the four central squares e4, e5, d4 and d5.

1) Developement: Developing your forces to active posts is one of the primary aims of the opening, because your pieces (Knights and Bishops, I will speak of the Queen and Rooks later) aren't doing much as they loll about on the back rank. Unfortunately the Bishops are hindered by the pawns in front of them, so before the can move the e, d, b or g-pawns need to move. Thus 1. e4 and 1. d4 are excellent first moves because they both allow the Bishops to develop and they control the centre. But if you move the b or g pawns forward the Bishop can go to b2 or g2 and control the longest diagonals on the board, this is called fianchettoing you Bishops.

However, despite the exotic Italian associated with Bishops, Knights should normally be developed first because Bishops have several good options (The f1 Bishop can be well placed on b5, c4, d3, g2 or sometimes e2) and it is not always immediately clear which is the best. But Knights have only two legitimate options (f3 and e2 for the g1 Knight) and f3 is more favorable because it controls more squares, a part of the center and doesn't hinder other pieces. So you can get your Knight to it's best square and wait (But not for very long) and see where your Bishops should go.

Also pieces should be developed in ways that do not hinder the developement of other pieces which is why after 1. e4 e5 both 2. Bd3 and 2. Ne2 are bad, Bd3 blocks the d-pawn trapping the other Bishop (not to mention it's lack of activety when it's blocked by the e4 pawn) and Ne2 is bad because it blocks the c1 Bishop.




You should avoid moving pieces more than once needlessly because this wastes time and you fall behind in developement, so aim to move each piece only once. Also you should develop your pieces towards the center because the center is the most important part of the board and both Knights and Bishops control more squares when they sit in the center than they do when they're near the side of the board. Knights especially should be moved towards the center because on the edge of the board they control only 4 squares, but in the center they control eight, thus the saying "The Knight on the rim is dim". Thus the moves 1. Nh3 and 1. Na3 are rather bad.

A common beginner's mistake is to bring out the Queen early, to where it can be attacked by opponent pieces, which force you to lose it and make you watse time. So in the beginning of the game, avoid letting the Queen stray beyond the first three ranks. Also you should develop you're entire army before attacking, why attack half a dozen pieces and pawns with a Queen and Bishop, when you've got an entire army to back them up. Now watch this example of how White uses Black's Queen to agin time to develop his army.




One last warning to beginners, don't spend time memorising complex opening lines that go 20 moves deep, knowing a bit about each of the few openings you plan to play and the aims of the opening should be good enough. Practice tactics and learn endings instead of opening lines you'll never use.

More from Akuni
Canada vs America

Canada vs America

How To: Beat Little ChessPartner on Hard

How To: Beat Little ChessPartner on Hard