Jumpstart Your Chess Journey: Proven Tips for Beginners


The biggest reason people struggle in lower-level chess is because of blunders. They make them in almost every game.

A mistake can instantly put you in a bad position, no matter how well you played earlier: if you had great opening knowledge, great positional skills, great endgame skills, whatever; a single mistake can change everything (you lose a piece or get checkmated).

So, how do you avoid blunders? Follow this simple algorithm:

While avoiding blunders is crucial, I also share a few basic principles with my students. These principles help them figure out what to do in each part of the game - the opening, the middlegame, and the endgame. Understanding these simple principles is like having a map for your moves. I provide my students with more advanced algorithms that incorporate these fundamental principles. When you use this knowledge along with being careful about blunders, you're not just getting better at defending. You're also learning a well-rounded approach to chess. Keep in mind, chess is not just about not making mistakes; it's about making smart and planned moves to outsmart your opponent.


Basic opening principles

We must develop the pieces rapidly and castle to get our king to safety, aim our pieces at the central squares and, at the same time, hinder our opponent from achieving either a clear lead in development or complete control of the center.


The value of the pieces

1 knight = 1 bishop = 3 pawns 
1 rook = 4.5 pawns 
1 queen = 3 minor pieces = 2 rooks = 9 pawns

However, the value of the pieces is not an absolute and constant number.

A pawn on the seventh rank can be very strong and perhaps promote to a queen. A knight in the center or a rook on an open file are far more effective than their passively positioned counterparts.

G.Lisitsin described five factors which influence the relative strength of the pieces:
1) The central position of a piece
2) A safe, well protected position
3) The activity of the piece
4) Coordination with other pieces
5) The mobility of the piece


Makes sense


Centralizing the pieces

In the game of chess the center plays an important role. Whoever controls the center can also attack successfully on the flanks. Dominating the center is an important strategic goal in the opening and in the middlegame. But even in the endgame you cannot ignore the center.

The relative value of a piece increases if it is positioned in the center, for example, a knight in the center controls at least twice as many squares as it does on the edge of the board. Also the activity of the pieces is considerably greater when they are in the center. Even if the pieces only control central squares, they are mostly doing useful work and can very quickly be activated or centralized. But a centralized piece can often dominate the whole position.

For the knight especially, it is particularly valuable to have a good position in the center. A knight is a close-quarters fighter and has to be brought near to the enemy. It can intervene rapidly in the action if it has a protected central position. The central squares d4-d5-e4-e5, and c4-c5-f4-f5, are especially suited to that. (But if we get the chance to get a protected post even nearer the enemy position, we should grab it.)


Realizing a material advantage

The side which has an advantage in material can employ one of two basically different strategies to exploit the advantage.
Whenever we have more pieces than our opponent, the best strategy is usually to play for an attack.
Because we have more pieces, our opponent is forced to defend against superior forces. Thus we can often simply attack one point with more pieces than he has available for the defense.

The second method consists of aiming for a simplification of the position. You try to swap off pieces and aim for the endgame. In the endgame you can convert your advantage in material without having to worry too much about counterplay.
In fact, with fewer pieces on the board, the effectiveness of an extra piece is all the greater.

However, it is important to retain at least some pawns, because many endgames with an extra piece, but without pawns, cannot be won.
Thus an important rule is:
The side which has the advantage in material should try to exchange pieces, but avoid exchanging pawns.
One useful method is the transition to a won pawn ending.

Sometimes, in order to simplify our task and eliminate any counterplay, we can return part of our material advantage.

As soon as they have acquired an advantage in material, some players make a great mistake. They think they have already won the game, their concentration lapses and they simply wait for their opponent to resign. Such behaviour is very often punished: you overlook your opponent's threats and sometimes you even lose a game which you had already almost won.
In such situations we must play with even greater care and not allow any counterplay.


Open files and Outposts

The open file is an important strategic element. The major pieces need an open file to get into the game. It is very important to control an open file. Often the struggle for a single open file decides the strategic battle.

Why should you occupy an open file?
In order to invade the 7th (2nd) or 8th (1st) rank! From there, the rook or queen can either attack the opposing king or attack the unprotected pawns from the side.
The pawns are especially susceptible to attacks from the side, because they cannot protect one another. In addition, there are many different points of attack on the back rank.

In the struggle for the open file, the following elements are used:
1) Doubling rooks
2) Outposts
3) Controlling the entry square on the 7th (2nd) or 8th (1st) rank


Very good advices all of them.

When I play against lower rated players they often make many pawn moves in the beginning. Do not do that. Move only pawns that makes it possible to get a piece out. Epawn and or dpawn and perhaps a gpawn. Not more in the beginning.



The aim of a combination need not simply be mate, but it can also be winning material, stalemate or promoting a pawn.
What is most important of all is that your opponent is enticed into a forced exchange of material and has to follow through to the end of the sequence.

In a combination, you normally only use active moves: checks, captures, various attacking moves or threats.

In order to achieve the goal of the combination, you often have to accept temporary material losses. When this is the case, you should not break off your calculation of lines too soon. The position can only be evaluated when there are no more active moves left.


Weak points

Normally, a square is only weak if your own pawns cannot protect it. But if your opponent is not in a position to exploit this potential weakness, then it is of no practical importance, and we do not call it a weak square.
The concept of a weak point is somewhat wider than that of a weak square. The term is used to describe not only a square, but also a pawn, which can get no support from its fellow pawns and is under attack by your opponent.

Sometimes several squares of the same color are weak. This often happens after the exchange of the bishop which was responsible for defending them. Weak squares in a castled position are especially alarming.

You should find the weak points in your opponent's position and attack them. Weak squares, which often lie deep in your opponent's half of the board, offer ideal and safe posts for your pieces. From these excellent positions, your pieces can mount active operations and attack the opposing pieces and pawns.

You should also try not to allow weaknesses to occur in your own camp, and to protect your weak points adequately.


Two connected passed pawns are much stronger than a single passed pawn, because they can offer each other mutual support. In the endgame a rook cannot stop two connected passed pawns on the 6th (or 3rd) rank (or one on the 7th and the other on the 5th rank).



One of the advantages that is often gained by gambit play is rapid development, and we already know how important that is. For this reason, a gambit in the skilled hands of a tactical player is a powerful weapon. He ought to try to open up the game, to develop his pieces swiftly, and to prepare an attack against the opposing king. Further sacrifices should also be considered, if they strengthen the attack.

How should you defend against a gambit?
Should you accept your opponent's sacrifice, or is it more advisable to decline it?
There is no universal answer to this question. But here are some guidelines to help you make a correct decision:
1) You must generally be prepared to return any material you have won, in order to complete your development.
2) Capablanca's rule: do not win a pawn if it costs you more than two tempi!
3) Central pawns are generally more valuable than wing pawns, so accepting the sacrifice of a central pawn is usually the best option. Also, it is often not possible to decline the sacrifice of a central pawn without it working out to your disadvantage.
4) It is even more important than in other openings to bring your pieces into the game rapidly and to be thinking about the safety of your king.
5) Be on the lookout for chances for a counterattack.


I have heard that a rook is 5

These advices are really insightful. thank you to everyone who posted. I felt like I learned a lot by reading through them.

Pawn weaknesses

If we advance our pawns and these pawns are able to offer each other mutual support, then what we have are strong and mobile pawns. Without the support of other pawns, a single pawn can become very weak, since the opponent is in a position to attack it effectively with his pieces. The superior pawn structure is an important and long-term strategic 
There are many situations in which a pawn structure is to some extent damaged: doubled or backward pawns, isolated or hanging pawns. Frequently it is simply impossible to hang on to the ideal compact structure. The pawn structure of the two sides can be evaluated rapidly by comparing the number of so-called pawn islands.

It has to be understood that, when evaluating a position, it is not only the pawn structure which is important, but also other elements of the position (e.g. piece activity, the presence of an open file or the open position of the opposing king). Sometimes these factors can even play a greater part and more than compensate for a weakened pawn structure!




Would it be possible to show an example game where these tips are shown?

Konai_aj wrote:

Would it be possible to show an example game where these tips are shown?

This post is meant to be only informational. I made others with practical examples.


Exploiting weaknesses

By a weakness (or a weak point) we mean a square, or a pawn, which is not protected by a pawn. 
Such weaknesses often arise when a pawn is moved forward. However, they are only relevant if you (or your opponent) can exploit them. 
Weak squares constitute ideal positions for pieces. You should attempt to occupy such squares with your pieces. They are especially suitable for knights. But other pieces can also make successful use of these squares. You can attack other points in your opponent's position from these outposts.

Basic rules 
1) Provoke weak squares and try to occupy them with your own pieces! 
2) Exploit any weaknesses in the castled position for an attack on the king! 
3) As well as the king or unprotected pieces, pawns can also be objects to be attacked. Look for a weak point (weak pawn) in your opponent's position and attack it.

Attacking weaknesses 
Even though a direct attack does not always mean the gain of a pawn, an attack does however present you with certain advantages. 
1) Your opponent has to defend and is often forced to put his pieces in passive positions. Then you may employ other resources in order to crank up the pressure on the weakness. You will often find that manoeuvring (alternating attacks on the weakness or attacking from different sides or with different pieces) brings about the desired success. 
2) We enjoy greater freedom and we can also seek out other objects to attack. If we manage to provoke a second weakness and then alternate attacks on these weaknesses, then the defender is often stretched to breaking point.


The 7th rank

The position of a major piece on the 7th rank brings a large number of tactical advantages. You just have to be able to exploit them! It is very important - according to the Nimzowitsch system - to concentrate on one object of attack. Try to support such attacks with all your available forces.

An attack on the 7th rank can often be combined with operations on the 8th rank.