Hi Ann,

Just another chess text file that I had sitting around.

Guidelines for Beginners

The information below is from a work entitled Good Chess Guidelines for
Beginning & Amateur Players by Joe Brooks.

First, a quick primer on the relative values of the pieces. These values
only have meaning when deciding whether or not to trade pieces. One is not
necessarily winning just because one has more material. Having said that,
here it is:

Pawn = 1    Knight = 3    Bishop = 3.25    Rook = 5    Queen = 9

The King is never actually captured, and thus is not listed. The Bishop,
while slightly more valuable than a Knight in most cases, is often traded
on an equal basis with the Knight. Two Bishops, however, is almost always
better than Two Knights, as the advantage of the Bishops is additive. In
fact, one place they are definitely superior is in the endgame. You can
force checkmate with Two Bishops vs. a lone King, but cannot force
checkmate with two Knights vs. a lone king. Also, in chess parlance, the
Pawn is not considered a "piece"  Pawns and pieces are usually referred to
as separate things. Knights and Bishops are considered minor pieces, Rooks
and Queens major pieces. If you hear someone say he is "a piece up", that
generally means he is a minor piece ahead in material. If he were a Rook or
Queen up, he would usually specify which. If you've managed to trade your
Knight or Bishop for a Rook, you are said to be up the Exchange. Trading a
Bishop for a Rook is called being up the minor Exchange, and trading a
Knight for a Rook is called being up the major Exchange, though most often
no distinction is made between the two, as the difference is small. Having
defined a few terms, on to the guidelines.

1.      Start with moving a centre pawn 2 squares forward. This occupies and
controls the centre, meanwhile opening lines for your pieces to get into
play (in chess parlance, we say the pieces are "developed" when brought
into play). This also allows you to keep the side (or "wing") pawns intact
so your King has a safe place to castle later. This rule is here because
centre pawn openings are both the easiest to play and to understand, and
should be concentrated on by the beginning player. It does not mean other
choices are bad, they're just not good ones for beginning players.

2.      Make only as many Pawn moves as is necessary in the opening to
effectively develop the rest of your pieces or as necessary for defense.
This is usually no more than four in the early opening phase of the game.
The end of the opening phase is generally considered to be reached when all
the pieces have been developed and the King has castled.

3.      Get all your pieces developed as quickly as possible. One piece will not
accomplish anything by itself, and you basically can't do anything until
you do this first.

4.      Develop Knights before Bishops. People will give many reasons for this,
but as William Lombardy, a US Grandmaster, once told me, those other
reasons are basically so much hot air. The real reason is that Knights move
more slowly than Bishops, and take longer to get where they're going. A
Bishop can travel long range and be developed almost instantly to the
desired square. While I think the other reasons may have some minor impact,
I think he's essentially correct.

5.      Develop Knights toward the centre (not the edges). Remember, "A Knight
on the rim is dim." This is because it only has half the scope there as in
the centre. You can prove this by putting a Knight in the centre of the
board, and counting the squares it attacks (you should get eight), and then
putting it on the side, and counting how many squares it covers (four).
Since this placement has a larger effect percentagewise on the Knight than
any other piece (try it  and notice what happens to the Rook!), and the
Knight is also a slow moving piece, this rule actually applies to almost
all pieces, but especially the Knight.

6.      Castle early for King safety and to develop the Rooks, usually
immediately after the development of Knights and Bishops, sometimes even
before both Knights and both Bishops have come into play, depending on
necessity. If you can wait until the Knights and Bishops are in play,
however, this gives you the choice of deciding on which side to castle,
though sometimes there is only one good choice, as one wing or the other
may already be weakened, in which case delaying would give no benefit. See
items #1 and #21.

7.      Do not move a piece twice in the opening. Doing so delays getting your
other pieces developed and delays castling.

8.      Do not bring the Queen out too early. It is a valuable piece, and
therefore an easy target for lesser pieces. If you bring it out too early,
you are likely to find yourself moving the Queen over and over to get it to
safety (repeatedly violating guideline #7), and delaying the development of
your pieces while your opponent essentially takes one free turn after
another, developing his. If you need to move it so your King can castle
queenside, generally moving it up to the second rank just to get it out of
the way is ok. Moving it farther than this before you've finished
development is usually inviting trouble.

9.      Control the centre squares. Traffic generally has to run through the
centre of the board in one way or another. Control the centre of the board,
and you usually will have more freedom to put your plans into effect than
your opponent, as your pieces will have more scope & power from the centre
of the board, being able to get to any spot on the board relatively quickly.

10.     Keep one or more Pawns in the centre. This helps you achieve #9 above,
as one way to control the centre is by occupying it, and Pawns are the most
difficult piece to budge.

11.     Place your pieces on open lines (open lines are lines of movement that
are unobstructed by pawns). Place Bishops on open diagonals, Rooks on open
files (files are columns, ranks are rows).

12.     Coordinate your pieces to work together. One common way to do this is
to double pieces up, such as putting a Queen and Bishop on the same
diagonal, or putting two Rooks on the same file or rank. They support each
other's movement along the diagonal, file, or rank in question, and are
essentially twice as powerful this way.

13.     When protecting a piece, use the least valuable piece available to do
so. Especially, protect Pawns with Pawns (forming a Pawn chain). Why tie up
a valuable piece to protect a Pawn if it's not necessary? Not only does
using less valuable pieces for protection free up the more powerful pieces,
but the less valuable pieces are less likely to be scared away or dislodged
from their defensive posts.

14.     Avoid isolated Pawns if possible. Isolated pawns are those that can no
longer be protected by an adjacent pawn (because there are no pawns on the
adjacent files). Isolated pawns generally occur as a result of Pawn
captures being made, so carefully look at the resulting Pawn structure when
you have the choice of capturing with a Pawn or another piece. Isolated
pawns are weak because they are subject to attack and must be defended by
other pieces.

15.     Especially avoid doubled isolated Pawns. Doubled Pawns are two pawns of
the same colour on the same file. The Pawn in back is weak because its
movement is inhibited by the Pawn in front. This is not terribly weak by
itself. However, doubled isolated Pawns are very weak, as they both cannot
be supported by other pawns and cannot move freely, a bad combination.

16.     Make moves that threaten, when possible. These moves limit your
opponent's choices, and basically allow you to call the shots, as your
opponent usually must respond to your threat before proceeding with his own
threats. Alternately, do not get carried away with making your own threats
to the point that you overlook your opponent's threats. Being the one who
is calling the shots is called having the initiative.

17.     Don't make pointless threats. This includes checks. Checking or
attacking something simply for the sake of doing so has no value. If the
threatened piece can simply move away with no detrimental consequences, and
there is no advantage to you in making the move in the first place, then
the threat is pointless. Doing this can even force your opponent to make a
good move. Pointlessly threatening a Knight on the rim just forces your
opponent to move it back towards the centre of the board, for example.
However, if the Knight is trapped there, then attacking it would allow you
to win the piece.

18.     When ahead in material, exchange pieces. For example, if the total
value of your pieces on the board (see relative values listed above) is 16,
and the total value of your opponents pieces is 11, this is roughly a 3 to
2 edge. Trade Rooks, however, and now the total value of your pieces is 11,
your opponent's pieces have a total value of 6. This is almost a 2 to 1
edge, which is obviously better.

19.     When behind in material, don't exchange pieces. This is essentially #18
looked at from the other side of the coin.

20.     When you are attacked, try to exchange the attacking pieces to reduce
the power of the attack. This takes precedence over #18 & #19, as the
safety of the King is more important than anything else.

21.     Don't weaken Pawns in front of your castled King. Generally this means
don't move them unless you absolutely have to. Once moved forward they
become easier targets for attack.

22.     Try not to leave your pieces in positions where they are loose
(undefended). Loose pieces become targets for attack, and are more likely
to be lost than pieces that are defended.

23.     Avoid creating holes in your position. A hole is a square that can no
longer be defended by a Pawn. Since a Pawn is the most useful piece when it
comes to threatening another piece to make it move away from a particular
spot, this would mean a piece can lodge itself in this hole and be
extremely hard to drive away. This is especially bad if the hole is near
where your king is hiding out.

24.     Bring your King into action in the endgame. Once the danger of the
middle game is over and there are very few pieces on the board, the King
need not cower in the corner anymore. He instead becomes a powerful
attacking piece.

25.     Find your opponent's weaknesses and exploit them. This may be anything
from a set of doubled or isolated pawns to a vulnerable King position to
something as esoteric (and beyond the scope of this file) as a weak square
or a lack of development. To understand how to exploit these weaknesses,
play over master games, and watch how they do it. Games of the old masters
(Morphy, Tarrasch, Nimzovitch, Lasker, & Capablanca, for example) often
illustrate these concepts better than modern games, as they are simply
easier to follow and more straightforward in their style of play.

26.     Don't sacrifice a piece without a clear reason, like a DEFINITE
checkmate. Only masters are justified in making speculative sacrifices, and
even they will not generally do so. Speculative sacrifices fail much more
often than they succeed. If your name is Mikhail Tal, you can ignore this one.

27.     Always assume your opponent will make the best move. Assume he will be
fooled, and you will eventually set yourself up for trouble. Only by
determining the best moves for both sides can accurate analysis be done.

28.     Do not follow any of these preceding guidelines blindly or
mechanically. Analysis always supersedes these guidelines. If your analysis
says you have checkmate in three moves no matter how your opponent replies
(you are said to "have mate in three"), then all the guidelines go out the
window. Obviously, it doesn't matter if you have to put your Knight on the
rim to deliver checkmate. If you see a specific reason to break a
guideline, such as mate or the win of material, particularly of a piece or
more, and you believe your analysis is sound and the benefits outweigh the
negatives of breaking that guideline, then by all means break it. These
guidelines are simply to help you win, and are not hard and fast rules for
every situation. This leads us to #29...

29.     Be careful when grabbing material, as it can be used as a way of luring
your pieces into positions where they will be useless to prevent an
onslaught against your King, or even in preventing your pieces from ever
developing and getting into the game. But as Bobby Fischer once said
(paraphrased), "If you can't see a good reason not to take a piece, then
take it." Simply put, don't get greedy over material at the expense of the
safety of your King, but don't refuse outright gifts, either.

30.     And fittingly last, if you are playing a game and are a Rook down or
more, with no attack, passed pawn (a Pawn whose passage is unopposed by
other pawns and thus is a serious threat to promote to a queen), or other
significant compensation, against a knowledgeable player who is not likely
to blunder badly enough for you to get back in the game, graciously resign
and get on with the next game. There are exceptions to this, especially
with timed play and/or when tournament prize money is on the line at the
amateur level, but it is generally a sign of good sportsmanship to admit
when you've been defeated and congratulate your opponent. This almost
always occurs at the master level, regardless of circumstance  few would be
caught dead playing drearily on until the inevitable mate is delivered. It
should always occur when the games are friendly. Also, if you are the
victor, be gracious about winning, don't gloat, and compliment your
opponent on the things he did right.


Once a king always a king but once a knights enough

(440) 286-6920
Chardon Ohio USA
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