Chess Strategy and Chess Tactics in a nutshell: A beginner’s game plan – Part 1

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Like in any other game, chess also offers some ‘tricks of the trade’. The beginners in chess often keep looking for tips in a capsule to help them win against more experienced players. But they are likely to find that even after learning such ‘tips and tricks’, they are unable to progress beyond a certain level.

The reason for such frustration is mainly because of their inability to apply their information effectively during a chess game. They forget that a chess game is comprised of certain stages which cannot be tackled in isolation. Those stages are part of a whole process from start to finish and each of these stages need to be handled in the right way for interlacing smoothly with one another.

In life, people choose their right ways in terms of their resources for reaching their destination. In chess, every player has only one target – to deliver checkmate to the opponent’s King. Problem is that the number of ways to the target are too numerous, even though each way has certain milestones. If you can keep in view the milestones on the chosen path that will take you to your destination, you are less likely to wander around and lose your way!

But you also know that your opponent will try to prevent you from getting to your targets while achieving his own. If you know the milestones on the alternative tracks available to you, it will be easier to bypass your opponent’s efforts and wrong steps on his part may open new paths for you.

So what do you need to do? You know that a chess game can be broadly divided into three phases: the opening phase, the middle game and finally the endings or the end game. But all these three phases may not occur in all games. Sometimes you may be able to reach your target in the middle game or even in the first phase itself if your opponent plays indifferently.

We are giving here the tracks to choose from while passing through the different phases of your game.

Opening Phase : targets to achieve

  • controlling center (d4, d5, e4, e5 squares) with pawns advanced to form an wedge into enemy territory
  • pawns not blocking the movement of your Bishops
  • occupying strategic positions for your pieces (e.g., a Knight on the 5th or 6th rank)
  • development of minor pieces and facilitating free movement of heavy pieces
  • more space, normally gained through well-supported advanced pawns
  • opening files and diagonals and occupying those with Rooks and Bishops
  • achieving and maintaining tempo in development
  • safe-guarding your King by castling (or otherwise – early exchange of heavy pieces, particularly Queens, may remove the need for castling)

Achieving all your targets is rarely possible unless your opponent was somnolent! Normally, you gain in some areas while surrendering others. You should be aware of the likely end results for the kind of opening you choose – each has some thematic issues – and aim to reach its targets.

You try to utilize these gains to launch your attack (you cannot win without it, can you?) in the next phase while taking defensive measures on the weaknesses you have conceded.

For chess strategy and chess tactics during middle and end games, proceed to Beginners’ chess game plan Part 2.