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There is a lot of information available on chess opening basics—far too much information for us to have any hope of remembering it all.
No matter how much knowledge you acquire about chess opening basics, none of it matters if you don’t apply it to your games.
In every game, you have pieces and pawns. What would happen if you focused on learning to get the most out of them in the opening?
To do this, you only need to learn about the development of pawns and pieces.
Knowing what to do when your opponent plays a surprise move would also be handy. IM Anna Rudolf shares her advice on what to do in such situations.
Pawns Open the Way for Your Pieces
In the initial position, only one piece can move before you make a pawn move. Yes, the knight is that piece.
In the starting position, the kingside knight can go to h3 or f3, while the queenside knight has access to a3 and c3. If you count the squares the knight can control from those squares, you will learn it controls eight squares on f3 and c3 and only four from a3 and h3.
Getting the most out of your available resources is as important in chess as in life. Thus, the best square to place your pieces on is towards the middle of the board.
1.Nf3 is a respected opening called the Reti Opening.
The same applies when considering which pawn to move. Your central pawns, the e and d-pawn, free up the bishop and your queen, while moving the g or b pawn will only allow you to develop a bishop.
This does not make them bad pawn moves.
Any pawn move that helps you develop your pieces or increases your control of the center is a good pawn move.
Playing b3 or g3 helps your bishop develop, and a bishop on g2 or b2 helps you control the center. However, e4 allows your bishop and queen to develop while occupying a central square.
The power of a central pawn is not only a crucial part of chess opening basics but also a potent attacking weapon at the highest levels.
Look at how powerful the white e-pawn was in this game between two players rated above 2700!
Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar (2729) – Giri, Anish (2730), 2012.09.23, 1-0, FIDE GP Round 3, London ENG
Here is another example of using a central pawn to generate play in the opening. This time it was black who made use of the e-pawn with 6…e5.
Chess Opening Principles: Piece Play – Deploy Them Fast
Long-range pieces like the queen, bishop, or rook can play an active role in the opening from the first or second rank. Thus, there is no need to rush them forward.
The knights are short-range pieces, so every beginner is advised to develop knights before bishops.
Because the knight can jump over a piece, it is easier to develop it ahead of the bishop. Developing both your bishops requires at least two pawn moves.
If you are unsure where to develop your pieces, a general rule of thumb is to place them as far forward as possible without exposing them to attack.
There is little reason to play Bg5, and after …h6 attacking your bishop retreating it to e3. You could play Bg5, and when it gets attacked with …h6, play Bh4, keeping the knight on f6 pinned.
Bishops and queens, like knights, control more squares the closer they are to the center of the board. Once again, it is all about getting the most from every piece.
When you have brought all your pieces to their ideal squares, look for the opportunity to land a tactical blow.
This position occurred in one of Alexei Shirov’s games. His lead in development was so great he could sacrifice a knight and a bishop, and later his queen.
Alexia Shirov destroyed a 2200-rated player in only seventeen moves because he prioritized getting his pieces deployed fast. When he got checkmated, Shirov’s opponent had a queen, bishop, and knight material advantage.
Shirov, Alexei – Lapinski, Jerzy, 1990, 1-0, Daugavpils
By keeping your focus on the two basic components in every chess game (pawns and pieces), you won’t complicate your opening play. The less time you spend studying chess opening basics, the more you have available to work on your middlegame and endgame.
Your chess opening basics are now simplified to two questions:
- “Does this pawn move help my development or control of the center?”
- “What is my least active piece, and how far forward can I safely place it?”
Becoming a better chess player means improving not only your chess opening basics but also your middlegame and endgame technique. IM Anna Rudolf’s comprehensive Master Method course will help you Smash The Barriers To Your Chess Success!
This course will provide you with tips on how to improve every essential aspect of your game. You will get 15 hours of instruction from the opening to the endgame.