After you learn how the chess pieces move, you should learn how to find the best square for each piece. This will help you to play better chess and win more games.
- Note: if you don’t know the basics of how the chess pieces move, take a look at this first.
This article explains the basics of chess strategy and is aimed at beginners.
It’s true that the “best square” for each piece can change several times during a chess game, but there are certain general rules that will come in handy in most of your games.
What Are the “Best Squares” for Each Piece?
During a chess game, our pieces can occupy several squares. However, some of these squares are usually better.
There are many reasons why a piece is better positioned on one square than another:
- Better mobility.
- Control over other pieces or squares.
- Attacking influence.
For instance, in the diagram below, White’s bishops are in very different circumstances.
The light-squared bishop is on a good square and the dark bishop is on a bad square.
Why is the light-squared bishop better than the dark-squared bishop in this position?
The light-squared bishop has several squares available to move to, whilst the dark-squared bishop is trapped behind its own pawns. With nothing it can do in the position, its effectively the same as if it weren’t on the board at all!
Meanwhile, the light-squared bishop can run free across the whole board.
More Advanced Examples
The Blockading Knight
The knight is the best piece to block dangerous advancing pawns from our opponent.
Because of the fact it has control over a handful of squares in every direction, the knight is the perfect piece to stop pawns from moving forward.
In the diagram above, the White knight is preventing the black pawn on d4 from advancing, and the pawn on the c-file can’t simply advance because the knight would capture it, while still defending the d3 square.
A different situation for White would be if there was a rook in the d3 square instead of a knight.
In the diagram above, the black pawn on the c-file will eventually be able to attack the rook and take control of the d3 square, connect the pawns and ultimately get to promote.
The Safe King
When the game starts, the king is in the center.
That’s not a good square for what is your most important piece.
Your opponent can easily target the king and create a powerful attack in just a few moves.
That’s why the best place for the king usually tucked away on the g-file after it castles short (diagram below).
The Centralized Rooks
Here, the main concept is exactly the opposite of the last example!
In the starting position, the rooks are on the sides (files a and h), but the best squares are in the center.
In the diagram below, the white rooks are placed on their best squares, whilst the black rooks are on the worst squares.
When the rooks are centralized they are supporting the work of the rest of the pieces in trying to control the center of the board.
Also, in the diagram above you can see that the rooks are on the same files as Black’s queen and king.
This is important because when the center opens up, these rooks will be attacking the opponent’s two most important pieces.
The Active Queen
The queen is the most versatile and strongest piece of the board.
That’s why it’s important our queen always has a lot of space to execute long maneuvers.
Also, we should always try to keep our opponent’s queen under control, without the possibility to move around and create problems.
This is an example of a very active queen (White) vs a very passive queen (Black):
The Useful Pawns
“The pawns are the soul of chess: it is they alone that determine the attack and the defense, and the winning or losing of the game depends entirely on their good or bad arrangement.” – Philidor
There are some universal rules in terms of pawn play.
For instance, you always want your pawns to be connected with each other.
There are some exceptions in which advanced players choose to play with isolated pawns, but we will not focus on this advanced concept here. For now, it’s enough to know that a pawn is the best thing to defend another pawn.
In the diagram below, you can see how White’s pawns are connected and supporting each other, but Black’s pawns are far from each other, therefore they are weak.
Another important general rule is always try to prevent your opponent from having ‘passed pawns’.
A passed pawn is a pawn that can’t be stopped from advancing by the opponent’s pawns, so it becomes extremely dangerous as it has a clear road to the eighth rank.
In the diagram above, the Black pawn can’t be stopped and it will continue moving forward until it promotes.
All chess pieces always have one or two squares that are the most suitable for them at any given time.
This can change during the course of a chess game but there are universal rules we should be aware of if we want to take our chess to the next level.
Getting to know which squares are the best for your pieces will give you an edge against your rivals.
It allows you to defend properly, or to set up fantastic attacks.
This is a guide meant for beginners who already know the basic rules of chess. If you still don’t know how chess pieces move, check this out.
And if you are an intermediate player, you can find several chess courses for your level here.
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