Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Playing Chess

Whenever someone talks about not being able to play chess, because they can't think several moves ahead, I do wonder how much chess they've played. When I was younger, and was undoubtedly much better at chess than I am now, I was given a simple piece of advice that is very true "Wait for your opponent to make a mistake." This is very, very accurate. In chess there are multiple ways to attack your opponent, to push for checkmate early. You don't actually need to do any of these things.

Most opponents in chess you will encounter won't be terribly good- I'm certainly not- and at some point will make a mistake. If you can spot that mistake and take advantage of it, then you can obtain victory.

Chess rewards careful play. Many players make the mistake of attacking early, thus leaving themselves exposed to a counter attack. You will do well for a large part of chess to just play a development game.

A development game has the aim of utilising your pieces as efficiently as possible. You should try to do the following things:

1)Control the centre of the board
2)Move your pawns as little as possible, and when you do, they should both control the centre and allow other pieces to move
3)Every move you make should ideally develop a piece: that is, move it off the back position into a good position
4)Try and avoid developing your queen too early

Doing these things, and reacting carefully to your opponents attacks, while avoiding attacks yourself (unless your opponent presents you with an irresistible opportunity), will serve you well.

Now, to thinking ahead. This is what you should do ever turn:

1)What move did my opponent just make? How did it change the board? Are any of my pieces now under threat that were not before?
2)What move do I want to make? How will it affect the board? Will it put any of my pieces under threat that were not before? Will it defend against any threats my opponent has created?

Being able to do this does require practice, and mistakes can easily be made if you move in haste (which is why competitive chess, where each player only has half an hour in total to make all their moves, is hard).

For all of these you only really need to think a move ahead. Attacks are really the only time when you need to think ahead, and often these will flow relatively naturally from the game, if you study the board, and understand what your opponent is doing, and what mistakes they have made.

Chess is by no means an easy game, but it should not necessarily be an overly intimidating one.



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