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Intermediate: Strategy

NM Alexander King & IM Danny Rensch Avg Rating: 1040 Intermediate

This course is a break from the move-to-move tactics that we've been covering so far with the Beginner level courses. Now we're going to cover STRATEGY - the long-term structural considerations that reveal the depth and inner logic of chess! To clearly define strategy in chess: Strategy is any move that doesn't create the clear threat of a tactic or capture of an enemy piece. Strategy is every maneuver, minor improvement of a piece to a better square, and every long term plan developed in a game. On that note, strategy is closely linked to planning, so we will also talk a lot about PLANNING in this course, and why it is so important to never make moves without a plan.

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  • Introduction to Strategical Thinking

    To start off on our journey towards learning how to think strategically, we will review a very basic position, set right at the transition from opening to middlegame: Where, assuming no catastrophes for either side have taken place yet, both players must develop a basic plan.
  • Good vs. Bad Pieces

    Let's continue with more basic strategical concepts. Though there are exceptions, you will learn as you improve that by classical chess terms a "good bishop" is a bishop that is not restricted by its own pawns, and a "bad bishop" is one that is restricted by its own pawns. All other things being equal, it is an advantage to have a good bishop vs. a bad bishop.
  • Using Knights

    Let's face it, knights are slow pieces. It takes a while for them to move across the board, and for that reason it's good to keep them as close to the action as possible. The perfect square for a knight is an OUTPOST. An Outpost Square is a square that, due to trades, is no longer able to be attacked / protected by enemy pawns. If you can place a piece on an outpost, and have it supported by a pawn, it is often a great and lasting advantage.
  • Using Bishops

    All other things being equal, a good bishop is generally better than a knight, especially in an endgame. There are some exceptions, but as long as you can make your bishop as free as possible, and your opponent's knight as restricted as possible, you should have the advantage.
  • Using Rooks

    Rooks are best on OPEN FILES, with no pawns in the way. They are also especially powerful when used together - "doubled" on a rank or file.
  • Rooks on the 7th Rank

    Doubled rooks work well on a rank, too - especially the 7th rank! (For White, that is. Black wants doubled rooks on the 2nd rank.)
  • Using the Queen

    The queen, of course, is the most powerful piece. She works best when she can move freely without being cramped by any of her own pieces. Although you always have to be careful not to get her trapped, you should always look for opportunities to transfer her quickly from one side of the board to the other...
  • Pawn Structures

    Learning to play with the "little guys" is one of the most critical steps towards improving your overall understanding of chess strategy. You must first learn to recognize pawn weaknesses when you see them. Some pawn structures are better than others. The ideal pawn structure is the one at the beginning of the game! Of course, you cannot maintain this structure, but the principle is still the same: pawns are best when directly next to each other. Any other structure is weaker. Lets see a made...
  • Making a Plan

    Playing chess at a high level is all about finding the right plans, both short-term and long-term. Figuring out what are the important features of a position, and how to use them to your advantage, requires experience and study. Let's start by looking at an example.
  • Making a Plan 2: Kingside or Queenside?

    In our previous lesson we learned that a plan can be as simple as thinking just a couple moves ahead, and looking to attack your opponent's obvious weaknesses. However, there may not always be an obvious target to attack. What then? What part of the board should you try to control? Where and how should your pieces work together? Often, you should develop a plan on a specific side of the board (kingside or queenside), depending on how you developed your pieces and where your pawns are furthest advanced...

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