Three Principles for Chess Openings

Chess is a most exceptional game, which has remained popular for no less than thirteen hundred years or slightly longer than the shelf life of a Twinkie.

So what is it that contributes to chess’ staying power?

First, although it has a reputation for being somewhat cerebral, even a small child or your author can enjoy the game when matched against a player of similar skill and experience. In fact, I have played some of my best games against children and potted plants, deriving as much of a thrill from the exchanges as would a grandmaster at the championship level. And hey, children can be pretty challenging. My two-year-old son, for example, not only captures my pieces, but then attempts to eat them.

Next, chess is one of those few games which eliminate the element of chance. It is not like Monopoly where a roll of the dice can send you to the Boardwalk or just as likely land you in jail. Instead, either player has just about an equal chance of winning and most often the player that doesn’t make a mistake, wins.

It is true that White, which moves first, may have a slight advantage in tempo (I read that in a book once), but having tried, I can tell you dancing seems to have no measurable impact on the outcome of the game. Although once, when I was testing this theory, my friend John starting laughing real hard and shot chocolate milk out of his nose.

There are, however, a few things which a clever and well educated player can do to improve his or her chances of winning, for example, cheat. My daughter does this well. She diverts her opponent’s attention and then quickly repositions pieces to her advantage. This is, however, generally considered poor form and is ineffective during correspondence chess or online matches. Instead, I suggest become familiar with several important chess principles and then applying those principles to the game as you play.

For example, as a game, chess is generally divided in to three parts, which each have a distinct objective. These parts are the opening, the middle game, and the end game. At the start of a chess match, both armies are pretty much helpless, sort of like the French. The object, if you will allow me to over simplify, in the open is to move your pieces into better positions as fast as you can.

Since it is really hard to get to the middle game or the end game without first playing the opening, I am going to share with you some winning principles (to guide you regarding how to move your pieces into better positions as fast as you can) which you can apply during this initial game phase.

While I realize that having me share principles about chess openings is akin to having Donald Trump discuss attractive hair pieces, we will muddle through together.

Okay, here are the three general principles you can try to improve your chess open: Be Mobile, Control the Center, and Hide.

Be mobile. In chess all of your really powerful pieces, rooks (sometimes called castles), knights, bishops, and the queen, are trapped behind a row of middle managers, called pawns. So you need to mobilize these more powerful pieces. You want to do so in way that allows them to be as mobile as possible. Bishops, for example, positioned on a long open diagonal, exert power over the entire length of that diagonal. A rook, on an open file, threatens distant foes all the way across the board. Knights, slower than bishops or rocks, are best positioned near the center of the board where they are mobile and can reach the greatest number of squares. A mobile knight is also capable of a forked attack. This is when the knight attacks two pieces simultaneously, and puts your opponent in between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Sort of like when your wife or girlfriend asks if you think she’s fat. There is no right answer to a forked attack. To have successfully opened, you should have moved your bishops, knights and queen off of the last rank of the board and positioned them so that can move freely about the board.

Control the Center. The squares in the center of the board are like a major intersection. If you control these central squares you control the movement of most of the pieces on the board. Also, from the center you can threaten your opponent, force his or her troops to waste time moving around you, and generally control the game. So try to position your forces so that the attack the middle of the board.

Now Hide. Remember, the object of the game is to checkmate your opponent’s king while protecting your own king. To do this you should try to castle, this is a really complicated move wherein your king and one of your rooks do a sort of square dance, take each other by the hand and spin around. Successfully executed your king should be hidden safely behind a row of pawns and with powerful rock protecting him on one side. For beginners, it is generally better to castle on the king’s side of the board, but there is a lot to be said for the queen’s side or even castling opposite of your opponent.

Thank you for reading.

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