Starting Out

Starting Out

Oct 16, 2013, 4:49 AM |

Chess is a brutal game. Believe me when I say that nobody is good at it from the start. Even the strongest chess players were once beginners and everyone gets the same bruises. I like to think about chess development like an RPG character. Losing a game is additional exp points. Wins are like exp and loot too. Overtime you'll level up and gain newfound skills. You'll even begin making stylistic decisions later that one could say defines your "class".

Chess players have many different styles but if I had to generalize it into 3 categories I'd say:
1. Aggressive - swashbuckling rogues, they love to go toe-to-toe in wild complications, they use wild gambit openings to throw off opponents

2. Balanced - dynamic fighters, they use a bit of everything from solid tactics to good overall strategies, often they weild well prepared and solid openings

3. Defensive - sturdy tanks, prophylactic strategists who thrive on small advantages, seen using modest and defensive openings aiming for long technical endgames where they can wear out their opponent

Which one sounds most like you? No matter style you chose you'll need to have a good foundation in tactics to succeed. That is what I want to discuss in this article.

"En prise" (aka beginners are bad at chess)

Let's get real for a second. Most wins or losses during your first 500-1000 or so games will be determined by somebody winning/losing a piece that was simply not defended. Oops! That army now has superior force and it's much easier to create/find a win. When a piece is under attack you might hear it referred to as "en prise". Don't beat yourself up too badly if you fall victim to this time and time again. It's part of your natural development. Just take note and do better not to make the same type of mistake next time! Here are some basic examples of en prise wins.



 So when you win or lose a game be sure to look out for these kinds of mistakes. Overtime you'll stop putting your metaphorical hand on the metaphorical chess stove because of all the times you've been burned in the past.

Now that you've gotten some wins and losses under your belt you've stopped giving up your pieces! But your opponents have stopped giving up theirs too. This is where basic tactics come into play. Tactics are moves that have concrete results to win material, a better position, or sometimes even the game! Let's look at a few types of tactics.

Fork ("Mother forker!")

Forks are a simple, yet terrifying tactic for a beginner to face on the board. Simply put, a fork is when one piece attacks two enemy pieces. Knights are especially good at this because of their strange pattern of movement and ability to "hop" over other pieces.





Pins are useful for restricting enemy movement or sometimes even winning a piece! A pin is when your long range pieces (bishop, queen, or rook) attack a piece that cannot move because it would expose a piece of higher value (if the values are reversed it is known as a skewer which I will get into next). The strongest pin is when a piece is pinned in front of a king because it absolutely cannot move! The old saying goes "pile up on a pinned piece".

Skewers are like pins except the value of the pieces are flipped. They occur when a queen, bishop, or rook attack a piece of higher value, and when it moves it reveals a piece of lower value behind it.
I hope these basic tactical ideas will help you in your games. Overtime you'll see these pop up. Sometimes they even pop up in combination with each other! Keep an eye out for more articles going deeper into each tactical motif. :P