Chess Strategy for Beginners: Openings

This series of articles is titled “Chess Strategy for Beginners” because it is indeed designed to help beginning chess players go from say – just having learned to move the pieces, to complete competence (and confidence) in any type of chess position.

The articles will also be useful for others too, whether as a refresher course or to fill in the holes in their knowledge.

Chess Strategy for Beginners? Who do I mean?

I’m going to give you guys a rough idea as to who I’ve designed this series of articles for using the ELO Rating Scale as a reference. 

Bear in mind that if you are just dabbling and not ready to actually do some work on your chess, you might as well close this browser window and focus on eating cookies and watching episodes of Lost, because you my lazy friend…are LOST when it comes to becoming a strong chess player.

So…who will benefit most?

Below 1200 ELO Enormous and Immediate Jump in Strength
1200-1400 Enormous and Immediate Jump in Strength
1400-1600 Eliminate Gaps in Understanding and +200 ELO
1600-1800 Polish Style, Eliminate Weaknesses and Mistakes

Obviously, these results assume you will study all material in the entire group of coming blog posts (not just this one) and follow the advice therein.

I’m going to assume that you fit into one of these rating groups, so this training is for YOU!

Let’s get into it.

This particular article will focus on Chess Openings Strategy while the following (very comprehensive) articles in the series will focus more on Middlegame Strategy (static AND dynamic features) and finally Endgame Strategy, leaving you with a well very rounded understanding of how to approach a chess position.

Well…before we start, make sure you join my VIP Email List (just drop your email in the box in the sidebar and press “subscribe”) so that I can let you know when all the new lessons come and then continue reading!

 Chess Openings Strategy

Ok fellas, so I’m not gonna add any fluff to this lesson or beat around the bush, so I’ll just tell you that you’ll need to get a bit of practice (against weak engines is perfect! But I’ll talk about this later) to play chess openings well, but there are generally only THREE things to consider when playing the opening stage of a chess game.

  1. Rapid Deployment of Forces (Get your pieces out as quick as you can (and if possible, prevent the other guy from doing so)
  2. Control of Central Region (Exert as much force as possible in the center of the board (and if possible, prevent the other guy from doing so)
  3. King Safety (Get your King castled/to safety as early as you can (and if possible, prevent the other guy from doing so)

Rapid Deployment of Forces

In order to make this very clear for you, I’m going to use an analogy.

Consider if they changed the rules of basketball and at the beginning of a game (prior to the starting whistle), all players would still be on the bench and the ball would be placed in the center of the court.

When the starting whistle goes off what is going to happen?

Naturally, 5 players (the starting lineup) from each team will RUSH onto the court and scramble for the ball, right?

This is what happens in the games of strong chess players.

But instead of scrambling for the ball, they scramble for control of the center and they make sure that EVERY player is in a good, well thought out position.

Nobody is just standing around doing nothing!

Below we can see in one of the most famous chess games in history, white has been focussing on deploying and placing his pieces on great central squares, while black neglected to deploy his pieces.

Instead, he greedily went around capturing white pieces.

This is a serious mix-up in priorities.

anderssen vs kieseritzky

Anderssen vs Kieseritzky from the year 1851, where the “eternal noob” as black got punished with an undeployed army.

 

It amazes me how many (even strong) chessplayers break this simple rule in their games and when asked about it, cite some exception to the rule to justify their mistake.

 

“Aww, I was gonna bring that bishop out later, but then I didn’t see (insert hammer blow that rocked their position back to the stone-age!)”  

– Eternal Noob

 

Did you catch the super wit above?

“Hammer-Blow”, Rocked their position”, Stone-age”?…

Never mind, let’s move on… lol  🙂

No more jokes from me, I promise!

Anyway…

Follow the basic fundamentals and reap the results.

Let’s look at some examples of one side getting a HUGE advantage in development (AKA piece deployment), and crushing the “Eternal Noob” mentioned above.

dionargadinata vs BrendanJNorman

In this game, against a player rated 1938 (he should know better!), I played the black side and in a well-known opening I sacrificed a couple of pawns for lightning-fast deployment of my pieces.

As mentioned above (somewhere), it is also a good idea to prevent your opponent from deploying his pieces (if possible) and I did this here with the manoeuvre 17…Be2 followed by 18…Bd3, thus blocking his d-pawn from moving and bottling up his queenside pieces.

Once he was prevented from developing, a swift and ridiculiusly simple kingside attack took the guy out.

Pause for a moment on the position after black’s move 16 and witness how far behind white is in the race for the metaphorical basketball!

GoliathBlitz vs DisasterArea-1.54 Cognac

In this game, one of my favorite chess engines, DisasterArea Cognac plays a beautiful game against his strong opponent and places above all else the fast deployment of his pieces.

White wastes a bit of time grabbing material (usually a big “no no” if your army aren’t yet deployed fully) with his queen and before he gets a chance to bring out his dormant pieces on the queenside, it is too late!

A pretty nice game and quite illustrative of the need to RAPIDLY get your army into position!

So I’m pretty sure that you will have a clear idea now of the importance of what I’m saying, but for homework, I’m going to insist upon the following.

Homework:

  1. Play through both of the games above OVER THE BOARD (not on the computer screen), take notes and pay attention to the speed that the winning side deployed their pieces.
  2. Download the games of Paul Morphy (here) and open them with ChessX (here), but still study the games OVER THE BOARD when you do. Look at games he won in less than 25 moves and pay attention to whether his opponent’s pieces were fully deployed when they got into trouble. Also, pay attention to methods he used to get ahead in the race to full deployment.
  3. Come back to Chess&Cognac and see if the next lesson in this “Chess Strategy for Beginners” series is up
  4. If you like my materials…someone else probably does too! Share with your social media friends! 🙂

So that’s it for this lesson. Do the work and come back as soon as you can for the next lesson (which will be up tomorrow, I hope) and prepare to be blown away by the improvement you make over time.

Next article we’ll be looking at Control of the Centre, a vitally important element of opening strategy.

Good luck guys and till next time…

Your chess coach,

Brendan  😎

  • Cool! Is this going to be an on going thing? If so sign me up! 😀 Oh wait I already did lol

    • Brendan J. Norman

      Haha! Yeah man, I’ll be doing this stuff until my grandkids have grandkids, don’t worry lol Glad you like it and thanks for coming! 🙂

  • Howard E. Anderson III

    Thanks Coach, I’ve been playing for 25 years and still struggling to maintain an online rating over 1700!

    • Brendan J. Norman

      Hi Howard, with your level of experience the issue (of being stuck at 1700) is probably all tactics and calculation. Maybe a few ingrained prejudices as well. Would be interesting to see some of your games and make a diagnosis. 🙂

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