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How To Open A Game of Chess - My Advice To Beginners

Updated on February 4, 2013

How To Open A Chess Game - Your first goal is to survive!

This web site contains some basic principles to help the beginning chess player learn how to open his/her chess game without being crushed.  Playing chess is a lot of fun, and losing is a good way to learn.  However, it is more fun to win, and as a former chess coach for middle school children, I have taught many children these chess strategies I am sharing with you.  I also have some other lenses on beginning chess lessons on Squidoo which I think you might want to check out!

Remember, the first thing about the opening in a chess game is to survive, and even though you want to charge with the attack of the lion, it is very embarrassing to have your head chopped off by a kitty cat!  Opening chess strategies and tactics must always begin with King safety. I remember playing in one tournament years ago.  I was playing a fellow I was expected to beat handily.  I was a little bored with his play, and began to 'assume' his demise would be sooner than I could finish my coffee.  Well,  he made one move around my king which I ignored.  Next move, he announced, "Checkmate."  The hall was filled with snickers, and the "teacher" became the "lesson." I do not wear a dunce hat very good!

Good luck, and I hope this web page helps your chess!  

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How To Open The Chess Game - Know Your Objectives:

Chess for Beginners: Chess Tips

1. Your first objective is to get to the middle part of the game with some kind of advantage, or at least equality.  The middle game of chess is often where the major attacks take place after most of the pieces have been developed.  This explanation is far over simplified, but most beginners start 'attacking' without adequate preparation.  You are preparing for battle in the opening.  White starts the game; so, he wants to expand this small advantage.  Black plays last and is at a slight disadvantage.  He wants to catch up and overtake white by the middle game.

2. Secondly, even though the board is only 64 squares, there will probably be areas where you have an advantage (or disadvantage) over your opponent.  Try to figure area advantages in this imbalance.  The better players recognize areas of 'dynamic imbalance' as well as overall objectives.  This is a little complex, but after you work on other opening principles I outline in this page, it should get clearer.

3. Finally, try to open with moves that make you comfortable, and your opponent uneasy.  For example, if he/she likes it 'wide open,' try closing the position off, or vice versa.

A Possible closed game of chess.  Pieces have to move around the  centre pawns for some time.

A Possible wide open game in playing chess.  The centre pawns have been exchanged off, and most of the pieces are free to move.

How To Open A Chess Game - Know the 'Worth' of your pieces.

chess strategy and tactics

I believe before you can effectively play the opening in chess, you must know the approximate worth of each piece.  I will be very simple here, and give a ranking number to each.  The position always determines a piece's real worth, but here is an approximate worth that will help you determine whether you are getting ripped off in a trade.

Pawn = 1 point

Knight = 3 points

Bishop = 3 points (but two bishops are worth a little more than two knights.  The bishops team together and on a wide open position are easier to handle and cover more squares than the knights!

Rook = 5 points

Queen = 9 points.

Kings = 3 ¾ points in fighting power

You can use this knowledge to help you decide general trades.  Just add the points to see whether you come out ahead or not.  However, these are only general guidelines.  Playing a chess game is so dynamic, good players often gambit pawns and pieces to gain some other kind of advantage.

How To Open The Chess Game - Develop your pieces!

Most beginners try to attack far too soon.  You need your pieces developed to their "best" squares.  Since you may not be sure where the attack might lead for a while, try putting them to attack the center. To this end, knights are often developed to f3, c3, f6 and c6 (or sometimes e2, d2, e7 or d7), and both player's King and/or Queen pawns are moved so the bishops can be developed.  There are other ways, but this is a good way for a beginning chess player to open the game of chess.

Quick deployment of the pieces is one of the keys to good opening chess play.  The following guidelines may help you get started (only suggestions - every position is different).:

1. Put either e or d pawn in the center.
2. Generally, develop knights before bishops.
3. Do not start major attack until you have several pieces out.
4. Do not move the same piece over and over in the opening.
5. The queen is too valuable to develop too early.  Hold it till you can see its best square.
6.  Rooks and queens are best played in the middle game.
7.  Knights may be stronger than bishops in closed games.
8. Bishops may be stronger than knights in open games.

A good example of good opening play in chess is the

Ruy Lopez Opening

1. e4 e5

Both players claim the center by placing a pawn in this most important part of the board.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6

White develops his King's Knight to f3.  In doing so, he develops his knight to its best square, he attacks black's e5 pawn, and does not hinder his bishop from developing.  Black defends his e5 pawn with Nf6, and develops his knight to its best square.

1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Nf6
3. Bb5

Because of white's wise play earlier, his bishop is ready to deploy.  If you will study where the bishop might go safely , you will notice  four squares (e2, d3, c4, and b5).  d3 blocks white's d2 pawn, which would block the c1 bishop.  Therefore, the bishop should move to c4 or b5.  White chooses b5 because it attacks the f6 knight.  Thus, we can see the beginning of white's future attack.

How To Lose A Game of Chess

A good way to lose a chess game is to attack before you get your pieces developed!

Control the center squares - e4, e5, d4, d5
Control the center squares - e4, e5, d4, d5

How To Open The Chess Game - Try to control the centre.

chess opening strategy

Notice the center squares (e4, d4, e5, d5).  When you control these squares, you gain space and a foothold to attack in any direction.

I suggest the easiest way for a beginning chess play is to place a pawn in one of these squares and defend it with other pawns and pieces. As you gain experience, you will learn the importance of piece control in the center as well.

White moves, black moves

!. e4, e5

2. d4,d5

How To Open A Chess Game: King Safety - Always keep your king safe!

The beginner usually loves to attack; this is what makes chess so fun.  However, when you lose your king, it is over, even if you feel you have outplayed your opponent.  

This means:
1.  Keep an eye on your king and any pieces that "might" even be able to attack him.
2. I advise beginner chess players to castle early, and usually to the king's side of the board.
3. Watch the squares around the king that are vulnerable to attack, because this could open lines to your king.

As you get more experience,  you will become knowledgeable in king safety, but this will help you survive for now!

Name:  Giuoco Piano  opening

Example of good chess strategies:

1. e4 e5 (both sides claim the center)
2. Nf3 Nf6 (both sides develop pieces)
3. Bc4 Bc5 (Both sides develop Bishops allowing white to castle)
4. O-O (White brings King to safety.
Name: Scholar's Mate

Example of bad chess strategies:

1. e4 e5
2. Bc4   (White develops His  Bishop and aims its influence to the f7 square.  This square is potentially vulnerable for black, but it is easily defended.)
2. ...  Nf6
3. Qf3 (White does not make his best move.  However, he aims his powerful Queen to the f7 square, setting the trap.
3. ... d6?? (Black does not see the threat)
4. Qf7:  Check and Checkmate!

How To Open A Chess Game - Avoid too many unnecessary pawn moves.

Pawns are valuable to holding the center, and often determine attack and defenses. In the end game they are valuable for promotion to a new queen. You can't move them backward, so avoid moving them just for fun. One single weak pawn can cause you the game!

Where to find great 'Chess for Beginners' books

Good Chess Strategy: Two Rules

1. Take enough time so that EVERY move has a reason!

2, Assume that your opponent is making the BEST move EVERY time. Figure what he/she is trying to do!

Control the Center

Control of the central squares allows pieces to be moved to any part of the board relatively easily, and can also have a cramping effect on the opponent

How To Open A Chess Game: Sample Chess Opening Moves

Popular chess Openings

The following are a few popular ways to open a chess game.  My advice is to try them and see which one(s) you are most comfortable playing.  Then, learn its major ideas and variations:

The Ruy Lopez
1. e4 e5
2.  Nf3 Nf6
3.  Bb5

A very popular opening.  Both sides
develop with great and exciting clashes around the center points.

Italian Game

1. e4 e5
2.  Nf3 Nf6
3. Bc4

A very old opening with clashes around the king sides.  Leads to aggressive and open positions,

Sicilian Defense

1. e4 c5

White generally attacks king side, Black counters on the Queen side.

French defense

1. e4 e6

White attacks king side while black defends behind his e6 and d5 pawns.  Then,  Black will counter by attacking on the queen side.

Caro Kann

1. e4 c6

White attacks king side while black defends by exchanging pawns and pieces. Similar to French but may be safer for beginner.  However, offers more chance  for drawn games as well.  

Pirc Defense

1. e4 d6

Fluid and black usually Fiancheto's his Bishop to g7.  Controls the center from the edges.

Queen's Gambit

1. d4 d5
2. c4

White  (pseudo) offers the c4 pawn for development and center attack.

Indian Defense

1. d4 Nf6

Flexible opening for black with lots of heavy piece maneuvering.

English Opening

1. c4

Flexible opening for white, hoping to transpose into a favorable game later.

Reti Opening

1. Nf3

Flexible opening for white, hoping to transpose into a favorable game later.

I hope you will sign my guestbook!

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    • Wbisbill LM profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Isbill 

      5 years ago from New Market Tn 37820

      @anonymous: Thank you for pointing out my sloppy notation. I hope it is ok now!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Lost me on the Italian GameItalian Game

      1. e4 e5

      2. Nf3 Nf6

      3. Bc4

      picture shows N on c6 not on Nf3

      What am I missing?



    • Wbisbill LM profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Isbill 

      5 years ago from New Market Tn 37820

      @DreamingBoomer: Chess is a great, mind improving game!

    • Wbisbill LM profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Isbill 

      5 years ago from New Market Tn 37820

      @anonymous: Thanks for the visit.

    • DreamingBoomer profile image

      Karen Kay 

      5 years ago from Jackson, MS

      Thanks so much for these tips for beginners! Featuring on a lens about beating the Winter Blues.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      @ChrisDay LM: mhmh i like to learn about the chess because sometimes iam lost

    • Wbisbill LM profile imageAUTHOR

      Barbara Isbill 

      5 years ago from New Market Tn 37820

      @anonymous: Thanks for the visit and comment!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Thanks for this great lens I will now try some of those moves. I knew to gain the center but from there on .....down. And it annoys me so much when playing on computer how it always goes to a draw even though I have so many more pieces on the board.

    • Inkhand profile image


      6 years ago

      So complex, that's why a novice like myself should just strive to survive as long as possible. Great lens.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I am only starting with chess as my granddaughter wants to play with me and you have lots for me to digest on this lens. Thanks for the trouble you took

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is great for chess lovers. When I used to play chess with my brother (a brilliant chap and an IIT topper) I would always lose, that would really irritate me because he did not even pretend to lose even one single game for my sake.

      I think the chess geeks will surely like this lens.

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 

      7 years ago

      Lovely lens - thanks

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love chess and I learned how to play as a teenager with my father, who is an excellent chess player. I passed the skills to my teenage daughter and last time she played my father she beat him! Something I was never able to do...


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