Why Didn't Somebody Tell Me These Things?
Collected & Organized by Kelly Atkins
"Play the opening like a book, the middlegame like a magician, and the endgame like a machine."
When you see a good move, sit on your hands and see if you can find a better one. – Siegbert Tarrasch
There are exceptions to every general principle and law in chess. Knowing when you can violate them is one of the hallmarks of a strong player.
Memory should never be a substitute for thought.
Even when a move seems forced, it is worth taking a few moments to see if there might be a better alternative.
If a move is absolutely forced, don't waste time calculating it. Make the move and calculate the ramifications on your opponent's time.
Given the choice of two moves, if you calculate that the first move is clearly losing, and the other is vague and complex, the second move should be played without prolonged calculation. You can calculate the consequences on your opponent's time.
Don't play a game or even a move if you don't feel like trying your best.
Attack pinned pieces with pieces worth less than them; never take a pinned piece unless it leads to some sort of tactic or advantage, or you cannot maintain the pin.
Putting out your hand when you offer a draw is presumptuous; always put it out after the draw is agreed upon, not before.
Rooks need open and semi-open files. Don't let your opponent control open files with his Rooks.
When capturing with pawns, it is correct most of the time to capture toward the center. If the result is doubled pawns, this is correct even a higher percentage of the time.
If you worry about your opponent's rating or play to the level of your competition, then don't look at his rating until after the game.
If something is happening on your board that is strange or you don't understand, stop the clock and get the tournament director.
In a Swiss tournament, the most important rounds are the first and the last.
In chess, if you learn to consistently (each move) do the little things: take your time, count the material effect of your move, and check for basic tactics, you will soon find that these are not so little!
Move every piece once before you move every piece twice unless there is a clear reason to do so.
In the opening, if you can drive a Knight out of the center by attacking it with a pawn, it is usually correct to do so.
If you get way ahead in material, it is more important to use all your pieces, kill your opponent's counterplay, and safeguard your King, than it is to try and get further ahead.
Having the 'Bishop Pair' - two Bishops when your opponent does not - is worth about half a pawn.
Don't put your Knight in front of your c-pawn in double d-pawn openings.
Don't move your f-pawn until you have castled or your opponent's Queen is off the board.
Don't pin the opponent's King's Knight to the Queen before the opponent has castled.
Develop the Bishop on the side you wish to castle before the other Bishop.
When looking for tactics - for either player - look for Checks, Captures, and Threats, in that order - for both players.
Stay flexible. Always be ready to transform one type of advantage to another, or to switch from tactical to positional play.
Be especially careful after you've made a mistake. It often happens that one mistake soon leads to another. The realization that something has gone wrong can be a big distraction and lead to a loss of concentration.
Never, ever assume that your opponent has no threats, even in the most lopsided positions.
Bold, imaginative play, presenting your opponent all sorts of continuous problems, is likely to be well rewarded.
Short-term solutions to long-term problems on the chessboard rarely succeed.
Presenting your opponent with practical difficulties in over the board play, is just as important as obtaining an objective advantage.
Concentrate. Keep your attention on the board. Don’t let your mind wander and don’t you wander either. Don’t leave the board unless necessary.
Use your time to think of specifics and to find the best move. Use your opponent’s time to think in generalities and of future possibilities. Always make sure you use your opponent’s time productively.
Play to win in as few moves as necessary. Don’t waste time gobbling up your opponent’s pawns when you’re well ahead. Go for the safest and most efficient mate.
If you blunder, don’t resign. Sit back and figure out how to give your opponent trouble. Go down fighting.
Respect all opponents, but fear none.
What distinguishes masters and experts from intermediates and novices, is their specialized ability to think effectively about chess positions.