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 chess.com, 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: www.chess.com/blog/BeepBeep9/how-chess-pieces-move 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.
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 www.chess.com/article/opening+theory 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.
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 chess.com, 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 chess.com game has a notes tab only you can see shown next to your chess board. Very handy.
#18 – tricky
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 chess.com 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.
Chess.com has helped me allot and has many resources. So although I have no stake in chess.com and am not being paid in any way by them. I suggest chess.com as a tool to help you learn and play more chess.
During the creation of this article I stumbled across some articles you may find useful.