IMBacon
Diamond Member

No longer an active, casual, tournament player.  I study now for the mental benefit,  My passion is the gym, ketogenic diet, and eating real, whole food.  If you cant pronounce the chemicals on the label, its not real food.  I love to read and educate myself on the benefits of real food.  Keeping myself young and active physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. 

These are my cheat sheets. 

Opening Principles:

  1. Control the center squares – d4-e4-d5-e5
  2. Develop your minor pieces toward the center – piece activity is the key
  3. Castle
  4. Connect your rooks

Tactics...tactics...tactics...

The objective of development is about improving the value of your pieces by increasing the importance of their roles. Well-developed pieces have more fire-power than undeveloped pieces and they do more in helping you gain control.

Now we will look at 5 practical things you can do to help you achieve your development objective.

They are:

  1. Give priority to your least active pieces.
  • Which piece needs to be developed (which piece is the least active)
  • Where should it go (where can its role be maximized)
  1. Exchange your least active pieces for your opponent’s active pieces.
  2. Restrict the development of your opponent’s pieces.
  3. Neutralize your opponent’s best piece.
  4. Secure strong squares for your pieces.

 

Don’t help your opponent develop.

There are 2 common mistakes whereby you will simply be helping your opponent to develop:

  1. Making a weak threat that can easily be blocked
  2. Making an exchange that helps your opponent to develop a piece

 

Pre Move Checklist:

  1. Make sure all your pieces are safe.
  2. Look for forcing moves: Checks, captures, threats. You want to look at ALL forcing moves (even the bad ones) as this will force you look at, and see the entire board.
  3. If there are no forcing moves, you then want to remove any of your opponent’s pieces from your side of the board.
  4. If your opponent doesn’t have any of his pieces on your side of the board, then you want to improve the position of your least active piece.
  5. After each move by your opponent, ask yourself: "What is my opponent trying to do?"

 

Middlegame Planning:

  1. Expand your position:
  2. Gain more space.
  3. Improve the position of your pieces.
  4. Decide on what side of the board to play.
  5. Queenside: a-c files.
  6. Center: d-e files.
  7. Kingside: f-h files.

            Compare, space, material, and weakness(es)

            Play where you have the advantage.

  1. DO NOT HURRY. Regroup your pieces, and be patient.

General Ideas.

  1. Stop playing blitz, and bullet.  Play longer time controls of at least G45, or longer.  
  2. Follow Opening Principles:
  • Control the center.
  • Develop minor pieces toward the center.
  • Castle.
  • Connect your rooks.
  1. Study tactics...tactics...tactics.  One of my favorite quotes is this: "Until you reach Master, your first name is tactics, your middle name is tactics, and your last name is tactics”.
  2. Double Check your moves.  Before making a move, ask yourself: "Are my pieces safe?"
  3. After your opponent moves, ask yourself: "What is my opponent trying to do?"
  4. Analyze your games WITHOUT a chess engine, then have someone stronger go over the games, or post them online for review.
  5. DO NOT memorize openings. Learn and understand the pawn structure, and piece placement for the opening you wish to learn.
  6. Learn Basics Mates:
  • K vs. KQ
  • K vs. KR
  • K vs. KRR
  1. Learn Basic King and Pawn endings.
  • KP vs. K
  • Opposition
  1. Have Fun!

Let’s take a look at when it makes sense to castle opposite sides and when it doesn't.

You should castle on the opposite side when at least one of the following factors is true:

  1. When you are up in development and your opponent has already castled, you should consider castling in the opposite side. That way you will have a clear game plan and will also be able to capitalize on your development advantage.
  2. When you have a damaged pawn structure (doubled paws, missing pawns, far advanced pawns, etc.) on one of the sides you should consider castling on the other side.
  3. When opponent’s pieces are especially active on one side of the board, it is usually best to castle on the opposite side.
  4. If you want to complicate the game you may consider this option. That may be true if you must play for a win due to a tournament situation, when the draw is not enough. Also that maybe done when you're playing against a stronger opponent, who is much better in simple/technical positions. That maybe your best bet.

You should not castle on the opposite sides when at least one of the following factors in true:

  1. When you are behind in development and you need extra time to develop your pieces, it is usually not a good idea to give your opponent a straight forward way of launching an attack.
  2. When the opponent’s pawns are advanced towards the side you’re about to castle, it is not a good idea to castle there (especially if the opponent’s king is castled on the opposite side). It will just give him a positional edge in the attack.
  3. When there are open/semi-open files in-front of the side you’re about to castle, you should probably reconsider your decision to castle there (especially if your opponent has castled on the other side). That will give him more attacking possibilities, such as rook lifts, various sacrifices, doubling of pieces on the file, etc.
  4. If you playing against a weaker opponent you may want to avoid castling opposite sides, in order to avoid sharp game and keep everything under control.

Note: These are general rules, not laws, meaning that there are always exceptions to them. When you’re making a decision what side to castle you should always take your time and evaluate all “pros” and “cons” and base your decision upon your own analysis. This is a very important decision. It pretty much dictates which way the game will continue. Take your time and think twice.

Why your openings fail.

 

Before you blame your losses on your choice of opening, you should first understand 2 of the main reasons why your opening could fail:

  1. You expect too much from your opening
  2. You don’t understand the opening well enough

Here’s the important details:

  1. You expect too much from your opening

The opening is just the start of the game. The purpose is to develop your pieces and achieve a decent middle-game position. Accept that you cannot always get an advantage from the opening – and if you do – that’s a bonus.

A typical example to further illustrate the point

Picture this. A chess player achieves a good middle-game position against a stronger player. However, since his opponent is a stronger player, over the course of the game his position gets worse. He eventually loses and isn’t even sure why he lost. Should he blame the opening for his loss? Of course not.

You cannot expect your choice of opening to compensate for a lack in other important middle- or endgame skills

More often than not, in games below master level, it’s not your choice of opening that fails you. Rather, it’s your (lack of) knowledge and understanding of how that opening should be played that fails you.

Which brings us to the 2nd reason why your opening may fail you:

  1. You don’t understand the opening well enough

Memorizing the main variations of the opening you play can be useful – as long as your opponent plays the moves you know or expect. But what happens when they deviate from the moves you memorized?

The moment an opening deviate from the main lines, your true understanding of the opening will be tested.

Magnus Carlsen often makes effective use of such opening deviations. He avoids his opponent’s opening preparation by occasionally choosing a move that – even if it may theoretically be an inferior move – neutralizes his opponent’s opening preparation. He does this because he believes his strength lies in his understanding of the game. Naturally he wants to play to his strengths, so he is willing to make a small compromise if that will steer the game into a direction where his strengths come into play.

 

 

How well do you understand your opening?

You can test your understanding of your opening by checking how well you can answer the questions below:

  1. Where do each of the individual pieces go in my opening and why are those the best squares for them?
  2. Which side will my king castle and is this always the case? When do exceptions come into play?
  3. Which are the typical traps and tactics that occur in my opening?
  4. What typically happens to the pawn-structure in the center and what are the middle-game ideas that flow from it? (Because middle-game plans depend mostly on the situation in the center.)
  5. Which piece-exchanges are usually to my advantage in this opening? Which exchanges should I avoid, and why?
  6. Which are the key positions that I need to know if I play this opening?

That said, what can you do to improve your understanding the opening you choose to play?

If you couldn’t answer the above questions as well as you would like to, I recommend you check out a openings database and select a number of games (say 20-50 games), where your choice of opening was played by masters. Go through these games and keep the above questions in mind. You will soon start to notice the typical patterns in that opening. By studying a whole number of games in this way (and whilst referring to the list of questions above) you will get a much better understanding of the opening.

Tip: When you’re looking for an opening to learn – go for main-line openings. There is a good reason why they are called “main-line”. They are time-tested and over the course of your chess development, you will be glad you studied them. “Sideline-openings” have their place and require much less study but if you are serious about improving your chess–sideline openings will not give you a solid enough foundation.

Middlegame Planning:

  1. Expand your position:
  2. Gain more space.
  3. Improve the position of your pieces.
  4. Decide on what side of the board to play.
  5. Queenside: a-c files.
  6. Center: d-e files.
  7. Kingside: f-h files.

            Compare, space, material, and weakness(es)

            Play where you have the advantage.

  1. DO NOT HURRY. Regroup your pieces, and be patient.