Brilliant Chess Strategy and Tactics Every Beginner Must Be Aware Of

Chess Strategy and Tactics
Mastering chess strategy is a matter of constant practice and analysis. In this article, I present some basic tips for beginners, on the basis of my own experience.
A game of chess is a battle of two minds, fighting for control over the 64 squares, that make the playing board. This article is aimed at sharing some insight into the game's strategy and tactics, that can give you an edge over your opponent. Mastering this game is an art and there are no beaten paths or tricks here. The strategy that I expound here, is by no means, the only way to play the game. However, they are sound ideas, that have been tested over time, perfected and wielded by masters of the game. Read them, but don't follow them blindly. Take these tips as suggestions, test them in your own games, and then follow, if you find them to be effective. I say this because learning to think on your own is important in chess, as in life.

If you look into the history of this board game, you will know that its origins can be traced back to the game of 'Chaturanga', played in India. This ancient game was developed with the intention of teaching the use of battle strategies and tactics, to Indian princes of those times. The modern game of chess, though largely changed in form over the centuries, still remains a training ground for mastering the deployment of strategy. Playing this game is a way of channelizing our aggressive instincts and learning to take control. Mastering it is all about learning to take control over the three elements important in warfare and chess, which are:
  • Control over Pieces
  • Control over Tempo/Time
  • Control over Position/Space
Chess lessons can only be gleaned from playing it and gaining experience through play. It is your own understanding that will ultimately guide you.

Some Tips for Beginners

The objective of any game of chess is, capturing the opponent's king. The beauty lies in how creatively and simply you can do that. I assume here that you know setting up of a chess board and are familiar with basic rules. A game can be broadly divided into three stages:
  • Opening
  • Middle Game
  • Endgame
Strategy can be divided, according to their application in these three stages. Though they are divided broadly for ease of understanding, the strategies in each stage follow or flow out from previous stages. Sound execution in each stage, makes the next one easier. Strategy is a long-term plan of action and tactics are applied strategy.

Opening Strategy

Volumes could be written on strategy for opening moves. Here, some very basic strategy is discussed, gleaned from my limited experience. Here are some tips on opening strategy.

Center Control
Whatever be your opening moves, let your focus always be on controlling the center. If you control the four center squares, you gain tempo and space over your opponent.

Develop Knights and Bishops to Strategic Positions
Developing the knights and the bishops at the start, is of paramount importance. If you bring them into play earlier, you can get a better hold over the game. Knights and bishops can exert control over the center, without occupying it. They help in protecting the forwarded pawns. A knight developed to the central squares is most potent in that position.

Compact and Strong Pawn Structure
The amateurs squander their pawns, while the masters look at them as potential queens. Focus on creating a strong pawn structure, which acts as a bulwark and an effective offensive mechanism.

Castle and Safeguard King
Castling is an effective way of taking the King out, from the vulnerable position at the center, to the more protected position in the flanks. An early castling on the King's side or Queen's side is a good precautionary move. It also brings the rook from the last file, to a more central file, where it can play a more active role.

Middle Game Tactics

Here are some tips to improve your middle game play.

Exchange Wisely
Opportunities for exchange arise quite frequently, in the middle game. If you cannot gain advantage through an exchange, avoid making one. The advantage through an exchange might be a material one, a positional one, or it might gain tempo for you.

Bring Rooks and Queen into Action
Middle game is more spread out than the opening game. This is the best time for the development of the Queen and the rooks, as they have a long attacking range. Rooks doubling up on a file, backed by the queen on the same file, can be a deadly force. Attack the opponent's King aggressively.

Look for Combinations
This is a time which is ripe for springing combinations. Identifying combinations and pulling them off is something which requires a trained eye. Combinations make the game interesting and beautiful. A lot of tactical maneuvers can help you trigger a combination. For combinations to happen, you need to place your pieces in strategic positions.

Protect Pawn Structures
As mentioned before, protect pawns as every one of them is a potential Queen. Keep the pawns connected in the middle game. Guard isolated pawns.

Endgame Strategy

Here are some tips to gain greater control during the endgame.

Promote and Protect Pawns
The endgame is all about promoting pawns. This is the time to press your material, temporal, and spatial advantage. If you have worked hard in the middle game and have a rich stock of connected pawns, your chances of winning are certainly brighter. Start promoting your pawns with the King's backing. King plays a stronger role in the endgame and actually becomes a fighting force. Create as many 'Passed Pawns' as possible.

Ensnare Opponent's Pawns
Gobble the opponent's pawns, at the slightest opportunity. Each pawn taken, hurts, even greater at the end of the game, as it is as good as losing a potential Queen.

Beware of Stalemate
A stalemate is a draw, which arises when the opponent's King has nowhere to go, neither is he in check, nor does he have any other piece to move. It is a disastrous ending and is very frustrating. Avoid it at all costs. Learn to calculate future moves.

Important Tactical Maneuvers

Here are some important tactical maneuvers that you can use, throughout the game, when opportunity presents itself. You should practice all these tactics and enrich your arsenal.

Discovered Attack
This is a move which unmasks an attacking piece. It can be used as a doubly attacking move, whereby, the moved piece can spring an attack, as complementing the attack from the unmasked piece.

Pin
The pin is a move, whereby, a piece of the opponent is threatened and pinned to a position, as moving it is either not allowed (as it could put the King in check) or may cause ruinous loss of material. This is a frequently used tactic, throughout the game.

The Fork
The fork is a move, by which two pieces of the opponent are simultaneously attacked, by one piece of yours. Usually, the knight does this job really well. The fork could be executed well by the bishop or the Queen as well.

Skewer
Skewer is similar to a pin maneuver, but here a piece of higher value is pinned, in front of a piece of relatively lesser value.

Zugwang (Forced Move)
Zugwang, which is German for forced move, is a great tactic, whereby the opponent is forced to make an undesirable move. This move commonly occurs in the endgame, when few pieces are on the board.

The Toughest One: Sacrifice
Sacrifice is a tactical move which can trigger a combination. It is giving up a piece of higher value, for a significantly lower one, with the hope of getting tactical advantage. It is a calculated gamble and is executed by the masters. Only masters can execute it because only they can see it. It takes years of experience and a willingness to experiment, that can lead you to see a combination, triggered by a sacrifice. Chess is all about imagination, and sacrifice is a piece of art.

If you do not know how to play this game, I suggest you learn and discover a great and enriching pastime activity. It will not only help you pass your time happily, but will also teach the value of patience and planning.
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