Chess strategy basics cover many different aspects of the game. One of the most important is the position of your pieces.
When you have a poorly placed piece, you are essentially giving your opponent a material advantage.
This is what led chess players to declare, “A knight on the rim is dim.” A far better approach is to have your pieces shine brightly into your opponent’s position.
Learning how to get the most from your pieces is a skill you can master. You can learn to increase your knowledge of chess strategy basics in a systematic manner.
IM Robert Ris has many years of coaching experience and shares constructive tips on improving the placement of your pieces in the following video.
Pawn Structure: A Key Element of Chess Strategy Basics
In the French Defense, one of White’s most vital attacking pieces is the bishop on d3. One of black’s worst pieces is the light-squared bishop. These are important factors to consider in the basic chess strategy of this opening.
Therefore, it is not surprising that black will do whatever they can to exchange these bishops while White will want to preserve the bishop. Learning about favorable and unfavorable piece exchanges is a crucial element of middlegame chess strategy basics that will improve your endgame play.
When you play the French Defense, you often end up with locked central pawns. The pawns on e6 and d6 block the bishop on c8.
Black will attack the pawn on e5 with …f6 and then develop the bishop with Bd7-Be8 and Bh5.
Don’t be afraid to sacrifice a pawn to activate one of your pieces. In the King’s Indian Defense, black will regularly play …Nf4 even though black can capture with the bishop and queen.
After …Nf4, Bxf4, exf4, Qxf4 White wins a pawn. In return, black activates the bishop on g7, which was blocked by the e5-pawn.
Choosing an opening, you can depend on and feel confident playing is key to reaching a sound middlegame with well-placed pieces.
One of the most reliable openings for black is the Queen’s Gambit Declined. Learn more about this opening in our comprehensive guide.
Centralization Is Crucial In All Phases
The importance of the center is underestimated by many players despite it being one of the first basic chess strategies we learn. A lot of chess players think controlling the center is only essential in the opening.
There is a very good reason why centralization is an essential component of chess strategy basics. Former World Champion Anatoly Karpov is known for his well-centralized pieces.
Although every position must get evaluated on its own merits, always look to bring your pieces to the center first.
However, sometimes moving a piece to a central square is not the best strategy. Instead of asking, “Where can this piece go?” it is better to ask, “Where does it want to go?”
Controlling the center is done in two ways:
- Staking claim to central squares with your pawns,
- Or controlling these squares with your pieces.
One of the most famous chess openings that seek to control the center with pieces is the Nimzo-Indian Defense. Black will strive to keep control of the e4-square.
This is done by playing …Nf6 on the first move and aided by the bishops.
Black plays …Bb4 to pin the knight on c3. The light-squared bishop gets developed on b7 from where it takes aim at e4.
Knowing the basic chess strategy of your opening will help you find the correct squares for your pieces. The fight for e4 is one of the most important strategies of the Nimzo-Indian Defense.
The strategy to control the e4-square starts in the opening and continues into the middlegame.
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An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure
One of the best ways to prevent your pieces from being poorly placed is knowing your plan before the game starts.
When you know what your middlegame strategy is, it’s easier to make advantageous exchanges. You will also understand what prophylactic moves to play to prevent your opponent from exchanging your key pieces.
Take a look at the following position. This position can arise in the Panov Attack in the Caro Kann Defense.
White is playing with an isolated queen pawn. One of his most valuable pieces is the light-squared bishop. To protect this piece, White plays a3 to prevent …Nb4.
Know Your Opponent’s Plan
When studying specific positions and chess strategy basics, you must learn your plans and know your opponent’s likely plans.
After all, if you only know your plans, you only know half of what is taking place. As a result, you will find yourself reacting to your opponent during the game instead of forcing him to misplace his pieces.
In any position, you and your opponent are trying to do the same thing. Both of you are trying to use your advantages against your opponent’s weaknesses.
A poorly placed piece is a weakness. This could be a long-term weakness or a temporary weakness.
Bad bishops are a long-term weakness, and a piece that can be activated is a temporary weakness.
For example, you might have more pieces on the kingside because your opponent’s pieces are all on the queenside. If you don’t play actively, he will bring his pieces over to defend the king.
You must take advantage of a poorly placed piece before your opponent has time to bring this piece into play. A simple but highly effective strategy is to exchange his good pieces until he is left with only the poorly placed piece.
Attacking Is a Popular Element of Chess Strategy Basics
Obviously, we’d like it if all our attacks resulted in checkmate or decisive material advantage. Generally speaking, it is more realistic to look for a positional advantage.
Obtaining positional advantages is what chess strategy basics help us accumulate. Each positional advantage we gain brings us closer to winning.
Direct threats are suitable for keeping your opponent under pressure. Against strong players, use your attacks to create weaknesses in his position.
This can be forcing a piece onto the wrong square to play a crucial defensive role. Establishing a queen and bishop battery aimed at h7 could keep a knight on f6 or f8.
Even if attacking h7 with a queen and bishop can be blocked by …g6, this creates dark square weaknesses around the enemy king. He might need to retreat his bishop to f8 to keep your queen from settling on h6.
The concept of weak color complexes is an essential component of your chess strategy basics toolkit.
Final Thoughts on Chess Strategy Basics
Siegbert Tarrasch gave us a timely warning many years ago when he said, “If one piece is bad, the whole position is bad.” This is one of the most important of all chess strategy basics to remember.
Of course, you must deal with the immediate threats first but don’t neglect a poorly placed piece. Give it your close attention as soon as possible.
Cultivate the habit of routinely checking the placement of your pieces. Develop a system to help you work through this methodically.
You could start with pawns and work up to the queen or start with the queen and work down to your pawns.
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