Opening Principles

Now it is time to learn what you should be doing in the beginning of every chess game you play. The opening, moves used in the beginning to establish your pieces’ presence, will often determine how well you do for the rest of the match. Although I can’t promise you’ll win every time using these principles, you will definitely play better, and will win more.

1. Control the center.

As you may have already noticed, pieces can move to more spaces when they are placed towards the middle of the board. Because you want your pieces to have the most maneuverability possible, it is a good idea to have control over these center squares: e4, e5, d4, and d5.

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Most likely, the person with the greater control over these four squares will win the game.

2. Develop your minor pieces.

The minor pieces are the bishops and knights, because they are considered to be worth the least (besides the pawns). These are good pieces to move first for many reasons. They are good for testing your opponent’s defense, for being at the front of your attack, and for sacrificing. In addition, they also tend to be more maneuverable when there are lots of pawns in the game. The major pieces (queen and rooks) should not be moved in the beginning of the game. They are easily attacked by knights and bishops, and usually end up getting captured.

3. Protect your king (preferably by castling)

While it seems obvious that protecting the king is key, it is not enough to just station a rook to “guard” your king. You must actively seek to protect your king if you want him to be safe.  Castling is a great move because it puts your king behind three pawns with a solid rook defender. However, there are other ways to protect your king, as well. Some players rely on a heavy attack that gives their opponent no room to retaliate. Others take their chances in the middle of the board, and rely on maneuvering out of attacks with their king. In my opinion, castling is the best move for protecting your king and prolonging his survival.

So we have three things that we should do every game. What is the best way to achieve these goals? A good opening to consider is moving one of your two center pawns on the first move of the game. These are the e and d square pawns. Here’s why:

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Assume you are white. You consider moving your pawn to e4. Before you move, you should ask yourself, “Does this move help me reach my goals?” This applies to any stage of the game, not just the beginning. In the opening, the three things you want to do: 1. Control the center, 2. Develop your minor pieces, 3. Protect your king.

Does 1.e4 help you achieve these goals?

1. Control the center: Yes. It puts a pawn directly onto one of the four spaces that you want to control.

2. Develop minor pieces: Yes. While not directly developing pieces, you may now move your bishop on f1 into the game, and both of your knights are still able to jump to the center.

3. Protect the king: Yes! Although not immediately obvious, we have already noted that moving this pawn allows you to move your bishop on f1 out, and your knight on g1 out, leaving the spaces between the king and rook free. This means that you can castle eventually.

All three goals have been met, so this is one example of a good move to play on your first turn. There are many others, of course, and you should experiment with several to observe the pros and cons of each.

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