Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Few Chess Strategy Tips

I haven’t played Chess seriously since college. At that time, I met Dave Dawson. I helped him out with his Mechanical Engineering homework, and he, being a near master level player, tutored me in Chess.

We started right after my first ever Chess tournament. Going in, I thought that I was hot stuff. Most people that I had played barely could stay on the same board with me. Surely, these players couldn’t be much better, right?

Wrong. They wiped up the floor with me. One guy was so bored by the challenge, or lack thereof, that I presented that he walked around the room while I made my moves.

That’s when I got more serious about learning. I never got near the level of a master, but, with Dave’s help, I at least reached the point where I was competitive. After leaving La Tech, I lost interest in keeping up my study of the game, and that knowledge slowly started leaking back into the dark recesses of my brain.

Recently, a coworker, Enrique, and I have started playing at lunch. I’m a bit rusty, but some of what Dave taught me is coming back.

If you’re a beginning player who hasn’t read much about Chess strategy, these few tips should immediately improve your game:

· Don’t cede control of the center of the board: If you have a knight in the center of the board, how many spaces can it attack? 8. Put that same knight on the edge and see how many it spaces it can attack. Only 4. Your pieces, especially knights and bishops are more effective in the center. Don’t let your opponent establish control there without a fight.
· Protect your king: Note that both your king’s and queen’s pawns are usually advanced in the fight for control of the center, leaving your king out in the open. If you leave it there, your opponent is going to gain, at the very least, temporal and positional advantage. Castle as soon as you can. The only exception to this rule is if the queens are taken off the board early. Your king becomes a more valuable strategic asset without the presence of the most powerful piece on the board.
· Try not to move the same piece twice in the opening: The purpose of the opening is to get all your pieces in position to attack. If I’ve got all my firepower pointed at your king and three of your pieces are still sitting in their starting spots, you’re pretty much going down.
· Don’t bring your queen out too early: Have you seen Searching for Bobby Fischer? Seriously, moving your queen out in the early game allows your opponent to develop their pieces by attacking your queen. Trust me, this is not good for you.
· Rooks belong on open files: Moving into the midgame, place your rooks on those files where your pawns have been taken. They are much more powerful threats there.
· Connected rooks are more powerful than the sum of the two independently: If possible, keep your rooks on the same rank or file with no pieces between. This way, they protect each other and provide for a double attack.
· Passed pawns must be pushed: A passed pawn is one that has no opponent’s pawns between it at the 8th rank. Advancing (pushing) these pawns creates a threat with which your opponent must deal.

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