Top 10 Tips to Win at Chess

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Chess looks interesting, gets a lot of good press, and makes people look smart when they play. That’s the general impression anyway. But it turns out to be a complete mystery when you try to play for the first time. The truth is that to win in chess you have to see as far into the game as possible, know what you opponent will do next, and what he will do after that as well. This type of intuition comes from clear thinking, practice, and long experience. But how are you meant to practice when you keep getting beaten in 5 moves? That’s what these tips are for, they might not make you a Grandmaster, (a title only people who are good at chess could ever have come out with), but they might get you on the right track.

Some of these are literally ‘tricks’ you will probably never get the chance to use, like two move check-mate, others are more a general way to play the game. Hopefully they will be as useful to intermediate players as well as beginners. So here we go:

10. A Fools Mate – Two Move Checkmate

Fools Mate

Lets get this one out the way. There is a three and four move checkmate that will happen more often, but most people get so dizzy when they hear about a two-move checkmate, (if you can imagine anyone getting that excited over a board game), that I thought I’d share this one first. In order for it to work your opponent either has to make a mistake. But then again, mistakes are probably the best way to win at chess, that, and making sure you take advantage of them.

You can only do this if you are playing black and it goes a little something like this:

White 1: Your opponent moves the Pawn in front his bishop; it does not matter if it is one or two spaces. (This is the bishop closest to their King)

Black 1: You move the Pawn in front of your King, again either one or two spaces.

White 2: The other guy moves the Pawn in front of his Knight, the next one down the line. (This move has to be two spaces.)

Black 2: you move your Queen as far as it can go diagonally, as in the picture, and say ‘check mate,’ sweetly.

9. Control the Center of the Board

Chess - Control the center of the board

This has to be one of the best pieces of information you can get about winning at chess. We all know that most warfare can be demonstrated as a development of flank tactics. (Don’t we?). Sure. But in chess the best way of winning is to fight for, and win, the center. It doesn’t seem to offer you much in the way of actual strategy, and that’s probably for the best, if you had to remember a bunch of moves and board codes then you probably wouldn’t learn as you played. But keeping that in mind it is best to move the Pawns in front of your King and Queen first and bring the Knights and Bishops out to support them in a tight square. Most often you will not be able to complete this square before you are already responding to the other player, and of course there are other ways to fight for the center. But trying to control this area early brings the focus of the game where you are and gives you a chance to fight on your chosen ground.

8. Castling


Castling is the only instance in which the King can move two spaces. The King does this by moving towards his Castle, either left or right, when there is no other piece between them. The King cannot move through check, (through a space covered by an opponent’s piece), and only if neither the castle nor the King has moved before. The King cannot castle to get out of check, or checkmate. The King moves two spaces, either left or right, and the Castle he moves towards ‘jumps’ over him and lands in the next space. It is worth mentioning because sometimes you might not be sure when to castle. It is best to castle as early as possible, as a general rule, because there are so many provisions for the move and it ties up the Rook while you wait. Castling early also puts you in a strong position because it leaves your King in relative safety and lets you move ahead with the game. Also it is often a good idea to move a Pawn out one space after Castling because this can make it more difficult to break the security of the King’s defense.

7. Develop your Pieces Early

Chess pieces

The best way to plan a victory is to develop your best pieces as quickly as possible. You can do this by bringing out your Knights before the bishops on the same flank, and always try to develop your central Pawn’s first. (See tip 9.) It is important in chess to take note of the other person’s moves, a lot of beginners get to focused on the opening and miss things. Try to ask yourself if a particular Pawn is worth saving, or taking, in regards to the over all game. Try not to move a piece twice in the opening, but keep an eye out for what the opponent might be trying to do. Don’t get caught in two/tree/four move checkmate!

6. Four Move Checkmate

Four move Checkmate

Okay, it’s time for another ‘move’ check mate. You can do this as either color. Most beginner’s benefit from learning the four-move checkmate because they will be able to get something like it further into the game. But again the chances of you getting four-move checkmate are slim. The thing about four-move checkmate is that your opponent can make any number of moves to let you in. In fact the only necessities are that they move the Pawn in front of their King, and they don’t move the Pawn in front of their Queen. You might also want to make sure they don’t bring the King’s Knight out to cover the Bishops Pawn. But these are the moves you will need to make four-move checkmate like the picture:

White move1: You move the Pawn in front of your King forward any number of spaces.

Black move 1: Brings the Kings Pawn out, any number of spaces.

White move 2: Bring the bishop next to your King out three spaces.

Black Move 2: Moves the Queens Knight out in front of the Queens Bishop.

White move 3: Bring the Queen out four spaces diagonally.

Black Move 3: Bring the King’s Knight out in front of the Bishop.

White move 4: Bring the Queen in to take Pawn in front of King’s bishop.
Say ‘check mate,’ to wake the person up.

For this checkmate black could do these moves in any order. The main thing to see is that you can get checkmate by using a piece, the bishop in this case, to hold a square next to the King. Then you just have to let the King get trapped.

5. Sending a scout – what to do with him

Sending a scout

Often players will test each other by sending a piece over the middle of the chess bored to see what they will do. The best advice in this situation is to threaten the adventurous piece. For one thing it is not a good idea to leave your opponent with an attacking piece to build around in the future, even if they don’t have a plan for it now. For another thing it means that if they want to save the piece they will have to retreat or play a holding move. In either case you have helped develop your own position and they have lost the momentum. If they choose to trade the pieces the worst that can happen is that they lose an active and threatening piece. So try to threaten them with pieces you wouldn’t mind trading. Equally you might want to keep you pieces from going across the center of the board in the beginning of the game so as not to lose the momentum yourself.

4. Leave your Queen Behind


I know a lot of these tips are focusing on the opening part of the game, and there’s a reason for that. To start with it is hard to give advise about the middle of the game, past tip 9, because without delving into gambits and time honored moves it is hard to predict with any certainty what you might face. But there is also some truth in the idea that a good start will most often lead to a good end. While a game of chess can see the balance of power sift several times, the essential thrust of a victory is to gain the momentum, and keep it! To start strong then, is an obvious advantage, and it will become clear that many of the tips here will also help out in the middle and end games the more you play. To this end it is important to keep the Queen at home. Most openings last around 6 moves, and for this time the Queen, often considered the most valuable piece by beginner, is more of a liability then an advantage. Okay, you can get two-move checkmate, but it is extremely rare and in the mean time a threat on the Queen can take your attention away form anything else, often causing you to break with your plan and start moving pieces more then once, which stunts your opening.

3. When to Exchange

Exchange Pieces

By and large it is a good idea to keep your pieces safe, right? Yes. And to every rule there is an exception. In the case of exchange you have to be careful and sure that you are getting what you think you are. To often when a person exchanges a piece, say a Knight for another Knight, it reveals a concealed protector, say a bishop, and you end up losing two pieces for the price of one. The again, mistakes happen, and there are some times when you might want to consider exchanging pieces. It is a good idea to exchange pieces when you are under attack. If you can get an equal, or close to equal trade you effectively slow your opponent’s attack and lose pieces rather than the game. It is also worth exchanging pieces if for some reason you have not been able to open as well as these tips have suggested and you find your self in a crammed position. In short it is better to lose a piece, for the price of another, then to be too restricted. Finally it is generally a good idea to exchange pieces if you are in a better position then your opponent. If you eliminate the Queens when you have more pieces then the other player.

2. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Pawn’s


While you shouldn’t go around saving Pawns for the price of a Queen or Rook, you should also not take them lightly. In the opening moves it is best not to move more then two Pawns, (the ones in front of your King and Queen), but Pawns play a central role in a winning game. For example, if you look, a lot of chess guides will explain that to win without Pawns you must be ahead by at least a Rook or two other pieces. That’s no mean feat for a Pawn! Pawns can tie things up, they can work as a surprisingly tough defense screen, they can be exchanged for you fallen pieces, and they can check mate a King (something two Rooks can’t do!) But you should be as mindful of your own Pawns as you are wary of you opponents, and try not to let them get double filed, (one Pawn in front of another), this not only makes them relatively useless but it serves to complicate your defensive line and leaves an opening for your opponents bigger pieces to get through.

1. Play Someone (a little) Better then you


You are not going to learn much when the person you play beats you in 5 moves or less every time. You may be able to learn a lot from that type of player but when will you ever get the chance? It is equally difficult to develop you game and learn how to win games of chess if you only play someone worse then you are. If you beat them every time, even if it does last a while, there is a limit to the things you can learn because they will not challenge you to come up with new ideas. The tip is to try and find a player, or players, that are better then you, but not by too much. You will likely still get beaten a lot but you will find that your game develops quickly and that your understanding of how you are getting beaten improves dramatically. Eventually you will find that you are winning around an even amount of games, and then you will start to develop together as you try different tactics and ideas to beat each other. Or you will have to find someone else to play. In the end the only way to develop experience and improve you game is to be challenged, but not too much.