Chess Merit Badge Tips: Opening Principles

Chess Merit Badge Tips: Opening Principles

Mar 12, 2016, 2:58 AM |

Once scouts have learned how the pieces move and capture, they will want to play a game of chess.

A game of chess is normally divided into the opening, the middlegame, and the endgame. The following tips are provided to help your scouts navigate the opening.

Needless to say, many books have been written on each phase of the game but these tips illustrate how players can get a good start to their games without being overwhelmed by too much information. As players gain experience, they may want to consult books or coaches for help in improving each phase of their game.


Here are three tips for the opening. 

  1. Develop your pieces from the back rank.
  2. Control the center of the board.
  3. Attack and defend.

Develop your pieces from the back rank with as few pawn moves as necessary. When possible, attack or defend while you are developing.

In the diagram below, White moved his knight on the second move – developing a piece on the back rank and attacking Black’s pawn on e5. Black’s second move was Nc6 – developing a piece and defending at the same time.


Control the center of the board – particularly the squares e4, d4, e5, and d5 – with pawns and pieces. By the way, chess players differentiate between pawns and pieces when they discuss chess even though technically a pawn is a chess piece.

Below, which side has greater control of the center?


Answer: Black’s pieces and pawns have greater control of the center squares. They attack those squares more than once so any white piece that landed on one of those squares would likely be taken. White has wasted time and effort on moving pawns on each wing and putting the knights at the edge of the board.

Below, it is Black’s move. Can you think of some possible moves that improve Black’s position?


Sample answer: Bc5 or Nf6 both develop pieces toward the center and prepare the king for castling.


  • Demonstrate one element of good opening play using a chessboard or demonstration board.
  • Illustrate good opening play from one of your games – or show how poor opening play got you into trouble!
  • Prepare a poster or bulletin board with tips for opening play.
  • Teach another scout or friend an opening tip and then watch them play someone else. After the game, discuss what they learned about opening play.