Beginning Chess - Where do I start?

Beginning Chess - Where do I start?

Oct 17, 2009, 2:09 PM |

A Beginners Guide, from a Beginners Perspective

I am pleased to announce that this article has been featured on - You can find it on their website here:


So, I am about 4 or 5 months into this chess stuff.

Chess can be a very intimidating and frusterating game for players just starting out.  I wanted to create a 'beginners guide' from the perspective of a BEGINNER to hopefully help give whoever reads this a jump-start into improving quickly.  This guide is meant for someone who has never really attempted to study chess but wants to;  whether it be a brand new player, or like me, someone who's known how to play but never invested the time to study, train, and improve their game.


First off, you need to identify why you play chess so you can make some goals.

For me, I play chess for 3 reasons only: 

1. Have fun - If you don't enjoy playing chess, you're not going to stay motivated enough to study and improve!  Have the mindset that when you are getting beaten all the time, it is just training.  Look at why you are losing and learn from your blunders, mistakes, errors, etc. and then you will see that it is not about 1 single game that will make or break your chess career, but many many games to improve.  As long as you learn from a mistake - it is not a wasted move!

2. Make friends - You can play against a computer all day long, but the way to really have fun in chess is to make friends. is a great place to start this if you don't know any places you can play in real life.  Making friends and exhibiting good sportsmanship (even when frusterated) is the best way to start your chess career.  For the beginner, I think you can learn more from someone that has more experience than you than from any book or tactic trainer or video, etc.  Someone that played well against you might make a good mentor, try introducing yourself!

3. Improve - Don't just have fun playing people you know you can beat.  Set little goals like trying to beat someone with a rating 50 points higher than you.  Be proud of yourself when you see that you made a move that prevented a past mistake, regardless of the outcome of the game! 

Review your games, especially the ones that you thought you should have won but somehow didn't.  What went wrong?  I don't get paid to say this, but has a lot of great tools to help you improve - game analysis & tactics trainer are very useful when you are trying to coach yourself.  It is only a few bucks a month and well worth the investment!  Consider trying it for a month...

Maybe when you reach a real lofty goal, you can make it your reward to start playing in some tournaments!  I've played in one real-life tournament and have a few more scheduled for the next few months.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Now with those goals in mind, here are some quick ways to accomplish a good introduction to chess quicker than just aimlessly playing games.


Learn the board - learn what is a rank, what is a file.  Know that square a1 is black and the queens reside on their own color square!  If you're practicing with someone in person and don't have it set up properly, it's going to just confuse things.


Learn how the pieces move.  Not just how to move them, but what makes this piece a strong piece.  They all have a # value you can use as a guideline when considering what will be a good swap & what won't.  Queens = 9 points Rooks = 5 points  Knights & Bishops = 3 points  Pawns = 1 point

Pawns are very important!  They are the entire reason why all the other pieces can be good or bad in a game.  A pawn works best in a pawn chain.  It will decide the structure of a game and more games than you know will be decided upon what you did with your pawns.  Do not under-value them!  Remember their special moves - En passant

Knights are best in the middle of the board as opposed to the outer edges.  They become more powerful than a bishop if you can lock up a bishop and keep it a "closed position" (aka, stuff in the way!)  Knights are known as a very tricky weapon because you can fork your opponent (target 2 or more at once) with some killer results if they are not careful.  Learn how to use them early in your chess career!

Bishops are deadly when the board has open diagonals for them to operate.  They are the sniper of all chess pieces and easily become invisible if you plant them in the right area.  They are also deadly when used as a pair.  Open their diagonals early and place them in a good spot if you can!

Rooks were the most powerful piece on the board before the queen got her advanced powers  *(see Shatranj for more info).  Easily neglected on the corners of the board, the rook can be one of those pieces that beginners don't really earn how to use effectively.  Castling your king early is important to get the rooks active.  Learn why getting them to your opponents end ranks is generally a very powerful and important idea.  Lining them up on the same file is also a great way to use these towers!

Queen is the matriarch of all pieces and obviously worth almost double what 1 rook is.  Generally, beginners make the mistake of bringing the queen out and placed in harms way too early on in the game.  Remember she is so powerful that she becomes your opponents biggest target!

King does not have a number value because it is impossible to trade him off.  They are important to protect early and play a key role in many end games and checkmates.  As a general rule, being able to position them in the center of the board to assist your other pieces in an end-game can be the deciding factor.  Just because you need to protect the king, does not mean he should not be used!


Another important aspect about chess is learning the notations.  Sure it can be a burdon to worry about for a beginner, but when you understand how notations work and even practice writing them out on your own, it pays off down the road if you're interested in reading chess books, competing in tournaments, and recording games in person against your friends.  Here is a link to a great beginner's guide to chess notations.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Game Play for the beginner...  where do I start?


• Stick to just 1 opening.  Try playing many games (back-to-back) of blitz chess with the Live Chess feature (3 minutes or so, something uncomfortably fast for your taste).  Be white - play e4 over and over (or whatever move you decide upon, it doesn't matter).  Don't worry about winning or losing, think of it as 'training'  --  After you have a good collection of games under your belt with that one opening, go back and look through them. 

When you do this, you will see what is working, what is not working.  You will get a feel for how your opponent is going to react when you do this or that.  Remember what works to defend your opening as well, and you will have some ideas whenever you are up against someone else playing it against you.

Keep it simple, don't start with a complex line with a lot of moves.  1 or 2 moves, do it the same every game!  (This also works as black).


• After the opening, whether or not you know how to do it, have a goal for the game you are playing regarding what needs to be done to attack your opponent.  Work towards that goal - don't always just react to what your opponent is doing.  This will help you stay agressive & not always be on the defense.  Maybe it is destroying his pawn chain, maybe it is making sure his king can't castle, etc.  Trying to accomplish a goal each game is a great way to not waste your moves.  Think:  "Is this move going to help me accomplish my goal?"  If it's not, then think up a move that will!  Be creative & inventive.  Play out of your comfort zone and you will learn more.


• After your opponent makes his move, ask yourself, "what has changed?  Did they make an obvious mistake?  What is the difference before they moved and after."  Look at what pieces were guarded that aren't anymore.  Look at what squares they were protecting that are now 'safe.'  Hopefully you will not miss an opportunity that has been placed right in front of you.

• Before you make your move, ask yourself, "what is my opponent's next move going to be if I move it here?"  This will eventually lead to eliminating simple blunders and mistakes that you were missing in the past.

• When considering your options, try to keep in mind a key phrase - What is the most forcing line available for me to win?  Always look for check or checkmate when possible.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In closing, I will continue to revise this guide as I think of more things to add.  Please feel free to put in your two cents in the comments, as they will help anyone who reads the article.  Whether it be questions, ideas of your own, comments, etc... it is all welcomed! 

I hope the guide above is helpful and will bring a fresh approach to the game for those of you who are struggling along.

Good luck with your chess game!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


Chess News website:
Recommended Reading:   the 'Winning Chess' series by Yasser Seirawan
Recommended Online Chess Store: