Chess Tips for Beginners
Some easy to follow tips for absolute beginners.
Most believe that the modern game of chess began in sixth-century India, with strong influences from a then-popular game named chaturanga. It is a game of skill, with some players dedicating their careers and lives to the game, either through tournament play or through writing books on chess and strategy.
Whether you have been inspired to join the chess community thanks to charismatic Grand Masters such as the current number one Magnus Carlsen, the hoards of twitch streamers promoting and teaching the game, or the former five time champion Viswanathan Anand or even Netflix's adaptation of the chess prodigy Beth Harmon in The Queen's Gambit, everyone who is willing to learn a few basics can enjoy the world of chess.
Learn what each piece can do
Learning the moves of each piece is your first task. Even though it may seem complicated initially, they are actually quite simple once you get used to them. Let's see what each of the six pieces can do.
Pawn (1): Moves one square vertically. Can move two squares on its first move.
Bishop (3): The bishop can move unlimited squares diagonally.
Knight (3): The knight moves in an L shape. The knight can move two squares horizontally and one vertically, or the other way around. The knight is the only piece who can 'jump' over pieces.
Rook (5): The rook can move unlimited squares vertically.
Queen (9): As the most powerful piece, the queen can move unlimited squares either vertically, horizontally, or diagonally.
King : The piece you must protect at all costs. The king can move one square.
Piece values and trading
Each piece listed above has a point value attached to it; this is how much the piece is worth and is directly related to how strong the piece is. The king does not hold a value as once it is taken, the game is over.
Point values are useful to know when trading pieces with your opponent. A trade is when you sacrifice a piece of your own in order to take one of your opponents with the same value.
Trading can be useful, even for new players. Try figuring out which piece you like working with the most and sacrificing the pieces you don't like. For example, if you enjoy using the knight but don't really value bishops, you can freely sacrifice your bishop for either a bishop or knight of your opponents.
Chess could be more difficult than playing word making games like Scrabble even though you are fully aware of the opponent’s pieces (unlike Scrabble tiles) in advance.
Try to control the center
Occupying the center of the board grants a solid strategic advantage. The range on your pieces, such as bishops, knights, and queens, will be extended, allowing them to cover more squares while limiting the moves of your opponent.
Having knights in the center is especially useful as, given their unique movement pattern, being at the edge of the board seriously infringes on their ability to attack, defend or escape.
Castle for safety
The only time in the game when two pieces move at once, castling is when the king moves two spaces to the left or right, and the rook moves over the king to give it shelter.
This move can only be made when both pieces involved, i.e., the king and the moving rook, haven't yet been moved during the game. Castling cannot be performed when in check.
Castling early on in the game can save new players from being surprised by an early assault on the king and could be a good move after establishing your presence in the center.
Solve chess problems
The folks over at lichess.org have an excellent setup for players to practice chess problems that are common in real-world play.
You can try mating techniques, learning to play with particular pieces, and tons more. Your pattern recognition for these situations will help your play tremendously.
Take your time
If you aren't playing a timed game, then use that to your advantage. When playing chess, there are a lot of moves you might want to consider.
The best players consider moves that could happen several turns ahead, but as a new player, you can focus on making the best move possible in your current turn.
Wait for opportunities to arise to take pieces, and ensure your pieces are all defended before making a move.
Read about the game
Reading about the game - both general reading and strategy - is one of the best ways to assimilate yourself into the world of chess. There is tons of material available, both free and paid, that new players can greatly benefit from.
Books that might take your fancy are:
- Chess 101 by Dave Schloss
- Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess by Bobby Fischer
- Beginning Chess by Bruce Pandolfini
- 1001 Chess Exercises for Beginners by Franco Massetti and Roberto Messa
Learn basic mating techniques
Getting your opponent into mate is the object of the game. Just because you have a material advantage over your opponent doesn't necessarily mean you can win. If you don't know how to use your pieces to get your opponent into mate, you could have difficulties pulling off the win without causing a stalemate.
Consider learning how to mate your opponent using only the following pieces:
- Queen and rook
- Two rooks
- Queen and king
- Rook and king
- Two bishops
- Two knights
Play the game
This list of tips would be incomplete without the reminder to play the game and have fun! Chess, for most people, won't be as competitive as we see in tournaments and cinema. It's an enjoyable, brain-stimulating pastime that around 10% of the entire planet knows how to play.
Playing the game helps build familiarity with the pieces and allows you to put into practice what you have learned. Playing online also allows you to play with people perfectly matched to your ability level, giving you a somewhat even chance of winning, an obvious confidence booster.
There's always the option of playing against the computer, too, if that's your thing.