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Chess Strategy - Opening Basics

Before learning specific opening lines and theory, it is important to master the basic principals. There are three primary goals in the opening: development, centre control, king safety.


The most critical component of the opening is development. Developing a piece (we're talking about pieces here, not Pawns) simply means moving it off of its starting square. There are good and bad developing moves.

A good developing move involves moving a piece to a safe and useful square. It's usually a good idea to develop a piece with a threat, or to respond to a threat by developing a piece. It's almost always a bad idea to launch attacks in the opening phase before development is complete.

Usually, the best pieces to develop first are the Knights. This is because the best squares for the knights are usually known from the start. The King's Knight is almost always best developed to f3 (f6 for black). The Queen's Knight should develop to c3 or d2 (c6/d7 for black).

The Bishops should be used to help control the centre, or to pin enemy knights. Another strong developing move is the fianchetto. This involves advancing the b or g pawn one square, and moving the Bishop into the hole that has been created.

Rooks should be connected on the back rank and moved to open files or files that have the potential to be opened. Connected means that there are no other pieces between the Rooks - in other words, the Rooks protect each other. The Queen should not be brought out early in the opening. She can be developed close to home, behind the shelter of Pawns.

Centre Control

The next most important goal in the opening is centre control. Control of the centre is a critical component to an eventual attack on the enemy King. Attacks on the wing are usually doomed to fail unless the centre has been secured.

Pawns should occupy the centre to exert maximum control. For this reason, the best first move is either e4 or d4 - bringing a pawn into the centre. Also for this reason, black's best first move is probably to respond symmetrically with e5 or d5.

Pieces best control the centre by attacking it from a distance. Knights and Bishops must not be developed to the edge of the board, where they exert no control on central squares. An old saying goes, "a Knight on the rim is dim"

King Safety

The final goal of the opening is King safety. In open games (where the centre is not locked down) this is especially important. In closed games, this is less important, but must not be overlooked.

Where possible, castle early. Usually, it is best to castle on the kingside.

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Chess Strategy - Table of Contents
Strategy vs Tactics - Piece Values - Elementary Checkmates
The Three Game Phases - Opening Basics - Middlegame Basics - Endgame Basics
Top 10 Opening Principles - Top 10 Middlegame Principles - Top 10 Endgame Principles
Balanced Endgames - Part 2
Opening Systems