How To: Win At Chess

How To: Win At Chess

Aug 22, 2014, 1:36 AM |

When the evidence around us suggests human intelligence is on the decline, we’ll always have chess. It’s the great guardian of human creativity and imagination — the unfailing marker of our higher intelligence.  

The game itself is incredibly flexible and democratic; you don’t need to buy expensive equipment or make any sort of heavy financial investment to play. All you need is a chess board, pieces and an understanding of the rules of the game.  

For the purposes of this piece, we’re assuming that the reader knows how to play the game, but knows or understands little in the way of strategy. We’ll focus on some basic strategies to apply during the opening of a match. We do this for at least two reasons: Strategies for the middle and end stages are contingent upon moves made up to those points, and mapping out late-game scenarios is beyond the scope of this piece.

the chess opening

The chess opening generally refers to the first 10 to 20 moves of the game, and they are the subject of endless research and theory. Beginners are naturally very susceptible to making major mistakes during the opening, mistakes that can cost them the match. Your early strategies should, like those below, seek to fully develop your forces and put them in the optimum positions for battle in the middle game. 

Don’t move the same chess piece twice

One of the primary goals during the opening is development; meaning you’re trying to move your pieces onto the squares where they can best be utilized. Thus, if you can avoid it, once you have developed a piece, try to focus on developing other pieces. If a piece is under attack, you may have little choice but to move it twice; otherwise let this be a general rule.

Play pieces only on your side of the board

In other words, try not to play any pieces past the fourth square until you have sufficiently developed your field. Not doing so means you run the risk of sending a piece into enemy territory without providing any reasonable support for it.

Develop your pieces broadly across the board

Since it’s impossible to know during the opening what areas will be crucial, paying equal attention to developing pieces broadly across the board is a safe way to go. It’s also one manner in which you can try to gain control of the center squares — another goal during the opening.  

Avoid exchanging bishops for knights

This is somewhat controversial (in fact some believe you should do exactly the opposite), however, bishops have a longer range at this stage of the game and are worth more than the knights, while the knights can be regarded as being worth more in the end game because their movement is not as limited.


Refrain from making any premature attacks

Resist the urge to make attacks on your opponent until you can handle losing the attack. The only way you can do that is to fully develop your pieces. In other words, set about applying strategies geared toward development without too much concern for launching an offensive.

Don’t overlook the pawns

Pawns might seem like weak throwaways in the face of the more powerful and mobile pieces, but it is a strategic mistake to overlook their potential. When together, pawns have a substantial bit of power and, provided they aren’t advanced past their sixth square and generally occupy the middle of the board, they can impede your opponent’s mobility. All that said, a pawn is not as valuable as the other pieces, so it’s advantageous to use them to defend the more important pieces as well as to protect other pawns.

king me

The game of chess has hardly changed in centuries, but how it’s played is always changing. This is one of the game’s great virtues, nicely illustrated by the increasing involvement of computers.  

As technology improved, computers were programmed to try and defeat a human player, and finally in 1997 one did. For a while the computers couldn’t seem to lose, but chess proved its pliability when players learned to take advantage of weaknesses within the computer programs. Programmers responded… with smarter computers. Then players developed “anti-computer chess” to exploit new weaknesses, and programmers responded with anti-anti-computer chess.