Chess – Creating a Firm Foundation


My aim with this article is to save you some time when learning to play chess, or if you have been playing a while and you are losing way more often than is fun, to change that .

The ideas presented here work. I have proved them for myself. You just need to be willing to make them a habit in all your games.

The different chess masters repeat this sort of advice to allot players fairly often. The moment you stop employing these foundational principles your game play starts to fall apart. These principles are not to be dropped as you learn more advanced ideas. They are the foundation to build more interesting and advanced ideas on top of.

I was playing chess for years. It was not until I saw the consistent often repeated advice and then read The 3 Illnesses of Chess that I took note. I stopped trying to be fancy. Focused on these key principles and saw an immediate improvement in fun, ability and success. This sounds obvious advice but it’s not. Most players do start off by making mistakes because they didn’t use these foundational ideas. There is a tendency to make a move by reacting in excitement, rather than think it through first.

Problem with Learning Chess in the Beginning

The problem when starting to play chess is that there are so many ideas, and so much information. A foundation of basic understanding needs to be laid. Without this you might know some clever stuff but you will hit problems and possibly won’t even know why.

Out of all the articles I have read on, the one which helped me most was; The 3 Illnesses of Chess. After reading numerous articles, watching videos and all that sort of thing, I still wasn’t doing that great. My confidence and enjoyment of chess grew the moment I focused on not hanging my pieces, and paying more attention to my opponents responses than my own exciting ideas. The planning ahead element is something that is a work in progress for me.

Of course you also need to learn other aspects of chess. Just ensure your always building and improving these key ideas.

Firm Foundation – Key Points

Assuming you know the main objective is to check mate your opponents king, here are the basics elements you need in order to build your firm foundation from. You can then enjoy playing chess that much more.

1. Learn how the pieces move (okay obvious one I know)

2. Understand some basic principles about openings (first moves in a game)

3. Do not hang your material (chess pieces)

4. Think about the moves you can make, AND, the moves that can be made in response.

5. Have fun

Learning new things beyond all this is part of the fun and to be encouraged. Try and do so in a way where priority is given to these key points first. 

How To Move Pieces

This doesn’t need much from me. Please read this article: or watch this youtube video.

It is also important to understand the notation used to describe games and the moves in the games. So please read: Notation

Read also: En Passant – this is something that may not come up much but you should be aware of it.

Understanding Opening Principles and Ideas

The main idea is to get your pieces onto good squares in preparation for the dance of chess. This is known as developing your pieces. The aim in development is to castle (The Importance of Castling) and then connect the rooks, which is when two rooks have no other pieces between them.

Read: Principles of The Opening and Basic Principles of The Opening Part 1

Read: The Center of The Board and Fight for the Center of the Board

Read: The Importance of Development

During the opening period you need to resist the temptation to attack the opponent unless you know what your doing and are using attacking moves in your development. You may be playing a gambit or trying to play strongly during your opening sequence. Avoid these in the beginning until you have your firm foundation.

There are a number of articles about opening at however you may want to read the previously mentioned articles first.

Not Hanging Material

Hanging material is when a piece is undefended by another piece. This can happen when you move it to a new square, or you move the piece which was defending it to another square, thereby abandoning a piece which was once defended. By coordinating your pieces you will avoid hanging pieces. 

Read: Train Yourself to Avoid Hanging Pieces

Sometimes hanging material is an appropriate thing to do. You need to be careful if you do. Only do so when you know when/why its okay to do so. When in doubt do not hang material. Normally it’s only a temporary measure to gain an advantage, and during the time it is hanging you can see no risk.

Sometimes sacrifices are made to gain an advance or to help achieve check mate. Please make sure you know when to do this and don’t accidently sacrifice a piece in error.

Possible Moves and Your Opponents Response

When new to chess it’s easy to fall into the trap to reactively make a move. That’s fine, in fact do it, have some fun. Once you realise how easily you can lose a game you will want a new approach.

The idea is to check the move your going to make against the possible, or likely moves your opponent will make.

I find it best to come up with 5 candidate moves you can make. Then work out what sort of moves your opponent could make in response. This usually weeds out the worst moves and tends to avoid hanging stuff. Whilst doing this I sometimes see some follow up moves and note these as well.

Let me illustrate this with a real game that I am currently playing. At present it looks (to me) as if I should be able to win. The game in question is on, click here. At the time of writing move 20 was complete, and I was waiting for whites next move.

A few moves before 18 I had calculated a number of moves ahead (whilst considering possible responses of course). Initially my plan on move 18 if the Pawn moved to attack the queen, was, to move my queen between the knight and the Pawn (Qb5 in chess notation). However whilst trying to find a 4th candidate move on turn 20, I stumbled across the idea to move the queen back down and right onto square a7 (Qa7). When I looked at possible responses this turned out the best move for me. I don’t know if a grand master would say the same though!

To give you an example of candidate moves here are my notes for move 18. By the way each game has a notes tab only you can see shown next to your chess board. Very handy.

#18 – tricky
c1: Qh5
c2: Qd6
c3: Qc6
c4: Qa7

As you can see its quick and simple technique. On this occasion I didn’t get as far as looking for candidate move 5 because I felt 4 (Qa7) was so good. However this is rare, usually even if I look hard and the moves don’t always look good, I try to come up with 5. Occasionally I get 6,7 or more.

Have Fun and Explore Chess

Having fun is a must so sometimes it’s worth making moves for the curiosity of it. I learnt this from someone on who mentioned it on a forum. This approach is good if your in a tricky situation and confused about what move to play.

Aside from just having fun you do need to broaden your horizons by learning other aspects of chess, which adds to the fun. In time this period of exploration will obviously consume more of your time as the foundational ideas become established as a natural part of your playing style. has helped me allot and has many resources. So although I have no stake in and am not being paid in any way by them. I suggest as a tool to help you learn and play more chess.

Other Articles

During the creation of this article I stumbled across some articles you may find useful.

How to Get Better at Chess

How to Win a Chess Game

The Ten Commandments of Chess

Everything You Need to Know About Chess (Videos)

How to Setup a Chessboard

Chess Tips for Beginners

Avoid Blunders

Improve Your Pieces

What Next after the Rules

Things Not To Do In The Opening

Beginners Should Never Resign

Three Ways to Improve Your Pieces


This website was hacked a few weeks ago so looks a bit different to normal. You will notice some pages look odd, thats because there was plugins installed that added content and these have not yet been re-installed. All the main content is available but the theme and special content will take a bit longer. Thanks in advance for your patience. Obviously having a full time job and other responsibilities means this might take a little while. Meanwhile enjoy all the old posts at least they are saved 🙂


Switching from VCS, DVCS


I originally started to write this for a post in a closed, Open University forum for TT381 (Open Source Development Tools, part of Web Applications Development qualification). I wanted to widen the audience. So apologies if it reads a little odd for a web post. I don’t have time to rewrite it.

I was just wondering what version control system (or systems) you use at work, and if you have thought about how your ways of working, branching and migration of changes would map onto a DVCS, like GIT if your using a VCS like Subversion of CVS. Or maybe how a VCS would be used if you use a DVCS and had to switch back).

Last night I went to bed pondering how we do things at work using Subversion, and how I would be able to use GIT to achieve the same. We have a very prescribed way of managing changes, including when we move them. (Testing and other parts of life cycle need to be synced)

I had to setup the way we use subversion to accomplish the way the company wanted to work. I know it’s the simplest way we could setup Subversion, but it’s slightly unconventional. We don’t merge al changes back to a main trunk, and if I was to spend the time explaining you would see why.We have to use a very targeted management change, so working on a branch and merging it back to main trunk doesn’t work for a few reasons. We have to be able to tailor whats on a branch.

The up shot is, having proved for myself the way we use Subversion at work is probably the only way we could use it. This is based on considering the existing way is simple and effective, and that a better way of doing it would involve more complexity, and therefore more understanding and commitment from the rest of the team.

We could map the same way of working onto a DVCS, in this case GIT, very easily. And it would make migration of change operations allot quicker, simpler and easier. It would be easy to use a main trunk rather than successive branches.

So, my question is, would using a DVCS like GIT (pick your own poison here, Mercurial etc), improve your way of software development?

The only problem we would have is, that we have to have a custom made interface for our version control system, and switching is an effort. Creation of a new front end would take too much development time out and we have too many real world projects. Then the planning and switch over would incurr another over head and affect the whole team. So at least whilst writing the new GUI it’s just me offline for projects. Then there is the bedding in and ironing out of issues once we have switched. Of course not forgetting all that training.



2012 Goals

It’s August 11th 2011 and already I am starting to see what I want from 2012. Although personal priorities are not included!

  1. Open University
    1. Sign up and complete TT381
    2. Sign up and complete TT382
  2. Yoga Teaching
    1. British Wheel of Yoga – 15 CPD points – possibly from following list
      1. Vinyasa Course – bwy web
      2. Chakra and Teaching – bwy web
      3. Wisdom of the Heart (Mandala Yoga Ashram)
      4. Ongoing Training for MYA-Graduate Yoga Teachers (Mandala Yoga Ashram)
    2. Continue to Teach yoga classes, at least one class a week.
    3. Organise YTTC notes  (inc. recordings) for ongoing study and revision
  3. House – Clear out old stuff
  4. Visit friends in Spain
  5. If possible; Save towards India trip in 2013 for the World Yoga Convention will be held at Bihar School of Yoga in Munger September 7-13
  6. Theme for Year – Tidy and Focussed
  7. Spirit of the year – Simple and Spacious
  8. Continue with guitar and singing lessons
  9. Try and jam with friend
  10. Have fun

When I became the yoga teacher I wanted to be!

In April of 2010 I started teaching yoga as part of a yoga teaching course at the Mandala Yoga Ashram. In July of 2011 I completed that yoga teacher training course. However more important than that is that on November 9th 2011 my image of how I wanted to teach yoga came together extremely well.

How do I know that? First was that the key elements of my ideal way of teaching were in place, and also that at the end of the yoga class, and without me asking anyone, a yoga student came up to me and said “you were on fire tonight”, I said back “well it did feel really good for me, so it’s good you felt the same.”

What was my ideal way of teaching? The ability to have a well balanced and themed class planned, followed by an excellent delivery of instructions whilst maintaining a good flow for the students practising. In addition adding useful information between instructions about the postures and why we are doing them in the class, whilst using observation to adjust students (verbally) to help them with alignment or prevent them from getting an injury.

So it was on November 9th that I became the yoga teacher I always wanted to be. And now it’s to quote one of my teachers from the ashram, “Onwards and Upwards”.

Would you like to attend a yoga class with me? Then please visit for more information of yoga classes in Nantwich (Cheshire) and Whitchurch (Shropshire).

2011 Goals

As 2010 nears to an end its a good time to workout what I want from 2011. I could drift through the year, but then I would look back and think what have achieved! Time, it’s precious, so I will focus on a few things that are important!

These are my aims for 2011. They are listed in level of importance to me looking at the year as a whole. As with everything, keeping a balance in the time I spend on these activities is key;

  1. Complete the yoga teacher training course, and PASS IT! – COMPLETED 🙂
  2. Establish and maintain the teaching of regular yoga classes (building on my teaching from 2010) – ON COURSE
  3. Cultivate existing relationships – EASY AND ON COURSE
  4. Complete the last presentation of TT380 and plan for TT381 and TT382 (Open University) – SIGNED UP for TT380
  5. Attend regular yoga classes as a student – ONGOING
  6. Sort out the TV situation – No Need!
  7. Have fun – Friends and holidays happening 🙂

Sharing the Joy

“If you can develop joy in the wonders of life and where your talents lay,
if you can cultivate attitudes of love and caring towards yoursef and others whilst single,
If you can remain accepting of how things are and work with, rather than against what is.

my friend,
you will know how to foster a loving relationship with another,
and have strong foundations for a happy future together.
“, – Russell Smithers

"Experience is the only teacher we have" – Swami Vivekananda