Let’s talk about Chess, baby.
Chess is a fascinating game of power dynamics. If you have a basic understanding of how the game works, but struggle to get it to the next level – keep these three simple principles in mind. It’ll make you a better player.
Note: I am by no means a chess expert, but applying these simple rules made me a better player. When teaching someone else how to play chess, I always start with these principles (after teaching the basics).
1. Aim to control the four center squares.
The four center squares are the most important squares of the chess board.
(S)he who controls the four center squares, controls the game. This is especially important in the beginning of the game. With exception of the end game, your main goal should be to gain influence and control over the center of the board. You can achieve this by either moving your pieces into this space, or moving your pieces in a position they can move towards those four center squares when needed.
This principle makes the game a lot easier. You don’t have to worry about crafting a 20-step plan to capture the King of the opponent. You can focus on something that’s closer and easier to achieve, it gives meaning to every movement you make.
2. Know when to trade your pieces.
When you already have the basics of chess down, you should already know this. It’s important to understand the value of each piece. Let’s go over them quickly:
Pawn (1 point), Knight (3 points), Bishop (3 points), Rook (5 points), Queen (9 points).
Win more points than the opponent, and you’re heading for victory. Generally speaking, you don’t want to trade any of your pieces for a piece that has a lower value. So far nothing groundbreaking.
The real question is, when should you start trading your pieces for a piece equal in value (eg. a Bishop for a Bishop, or a Bishop for a Knight)? When should you trade when there’s no value to be won? Normally I’d apply the following principles:
- Trade a piece of equal value if this allows you to gain more power over the board. Generally this means you either get in a better position with your pieces, gaining influence over the four center squares (see principle 1), or it means you free some pieces that were stuck in an unfavorable position before the trade started (see principle 3).
- Start a ‘trade war’ once you are three points ahead or more. Three points ahead on an otherwise full board, doesn’t result in much of a power difference. However, being three points ahead makes a lot of difference if there are only a few pieces left on the board. This is normally the point when I start moving in more aggressively. Make sure to not lose your power positions on the board while trading in pieces.
- The other way around, if you are three points behind, try to avoid trading in your pieces – unless you can gain value out of it in one way or another.
3. Make all pieces participate.
To increase your influence on the board, make sure ALL your pieces are participating in the game and can move freely over the board (except for the King, keep that weak fucker safe and hiding behind other pieces).
This is why it’s almost always a bad idea to position a Knight close to the edge of the board. You significantly limit the amount of movements it can make by doing so.
In the same way, it’s a bad idea to block the movement of your more valuable pieces by keeping the Pawns positioned in front of them, blocking them from moving around.
I hope these principles bring your Chess game to the next level.
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