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Basic Strategies

So you know the basic rules, but you might be wondering how you can improve your play.  Here are some basic tips that might help you beat your opponents!

Attack the center

The four central squares of the board are e4, e5, d4, and d5.

As we play, we want to attack and control these strategically valuable squares.  Attacking the center will deprive your opponent the use of these critical points, and controlling them for yourself will give you pieces improved maneuverability and flexibility!

Develop your pieces

When your knights, bishops, rooks, and queen are on the back row in their starting position, they are not able to contribute much to the game.  You should use them and improve their power!  You can do this by developing your pieces.

Simply put, you develop a piece by moving it.  This is critically important to do with your knights and bishops early in the game by moving them off of the back rank.  Developing all of your pieces will require at least a couple of pawn moves.  Rooks can develop with castling and by moving towards the center of the back rank.

You can see that developing your pieces can help you attack the center and castle your king to safety.

But try not to move too many pawns, move pieces more than once at the beginning of the game, or use the queen to attack too early!


Know piece value

As you know, the various chess pieces all move differently.  Accordingly, you must understand that they have different values based on their movement and abilities.

  • Pawn (♙ or ♟) = 1

  • Knight (♘ or ♞) = 3

  • Bishop (♗ or ♝) = 3

  • Rook (♖ or ♜) = 5

  • Queen (♕ or ♛) = 9

  • King (♔ or ♚) = game (sometimes 0 or ∞)

Capturing points from your opponent is sometimes called winning material and losing points is losing material.  If your army adds up to more points than that of your opponent’s army, you are most likely winning!

Usually, losing a single pawn will not make a huge difference in the outcome of the game, but losing a knight or bishop can give your opponent a critical edge!

Try to keep your pieces safe by guarding and only allow your opponent to capture when you can recapture an equal or greater amount of material.

Basic tactics

Tactics are themes or motifs we notice in a game that allow us to win material from our opponent.

Fork

A fork occurs when one piece attacks more than one of your opponent’s pieces. All chess pieces can make forks, but the most common forking piece is the knight.  The knight’s jumping ability and tricky move shape often leads players to miss their opponent’s devastating forks!

Pin

Pins are long range tactics performed by bishops, rooks, and queens.  A piece is pinned and cannot move when it is attacked by a long range piece but cannot move without exposing a more valuable piece behind it.

We call pins against a king absolute pins, because the piece pinned to the king is not allowed to move, as it would put the king into check.

Pins against other pieces are relative pins, based on the respective value of the pieces.  While pieces pinned to a queen, rook, or other piece may legally move, those moves will lose material.

When you pin your opponent's piece, you want to attack it as many times as possible until you overwhelm your opponent’s defense!

Skewer

A skewer is like the reverse of the pin, instead of stopping a piece from moving, it forces a move, thus exposing the material to be captured.  Two pieces may be skewered when the more valuable piece is attacked, but moving it will expose material to the same long-range attack.  

Like the pin, the skewer is performed only by bishops, rooks, and queens.

An absolute skewer occurs when a king is checked and must move, after which the piece behind it can be captured.

A relative skewer occurs when a more valuable piece is attacked and may move, but doing so will expose a piece that can be captured.