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ideas behind openings

7 Most Important Opening Principles E-mail
Written by Yury Markushin   
Friday, 15 May 2015 00:00

most important opening principlesMany chess players get in trouble in the openings because they are not familiar with general opening principles. These players may know the opening lines that they usually play, but if something goes differently they get confused and in danger to get inferior position and even lose the game. The goal of this article is to remind you of these seven very important opening principles that every chess player must know.

1. Develop pieces rapidly

It is not a secret that the main objective of opening is development. Even though it sounds like common sense it is not the case for many amateur players. Some players use this phase of the game for quick queen checks, pawn hunt and launch of unprepared attack.

Needless to say, that after their cheap shots fail (and that happens in 99% of the games) they end up in deep trouble. Imaging being way behind in development, with an exposed king stuck at the center, under attack of opponent’s rooks and the queen. Not a very pleasant position to be in. Focus on rapid development and you won’t be one of these “unlucky” players that lose in 15 moves.

In the position below Black is 2 pawns up but he is so much behind in development that the game is already lost.

position 1

Black to move

2. Don’t move the same piece twice

This is a general rule to remember. Typically you want to move each piece just once during the opening phase. Unless there is a very good reason (serious material gain, checkmate, etc.) to move the piece twice, it should be avoided. Give a chance to other pieces to get developed before you start repositioning already developed pieces.

It seems like white found a nice attacking move Nb5, threatening a vulnerable c7 square. But this move was an inaccuracy because it violates one of the basic opening principles of not moving the same piece twice. Black can easily defend with Qf7, simultaneously opening the diagonal for the light squared bishop. White just lost a tempo. It would’ve been better for white just to play O-O.

position 2

Black to move


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3. Don’t make unneeded pawn moves

Don’t spend valuable time in the opening making unnecessary pawn moves. Generally speaking, you should only make pawn moves when they are needed to develop the pieces (central pawns, fianchetto, etc.) Especially avoid prophylactic pawn pushes; they don’t do any good in the opening.

White just played an unforced pawn move h3. This is not very good move because it loses time. Better is just Qe2+ or Nxd5.

position 3

Black to move

4. Develop knights before bishops

There are many reasons to develop knights before bishops. First of all, the knight is a short range piece, meaning that it only can control the nearby squares. If a knight is not developed its effectiveness is close to zero. At the same time, a bishop is a long range piece and can control many squares even from the back rank. Also, by developing the bishop before the knight you are leaving a knight’s pawn unprotected.

position 4

5. Avoid exchanging a developed piece for an undeveloped counterpart

In order to develop a piece you invest a valuable chess resource: time. If you exchanged a well-positioned piece for an undeveloped counterpart you are losing tempos, and that’s something you definitely want to avoid in the opening.  Use these tempos to develop more pieces instead!

In the position below it is not a good idea for white to play Bxb8 because it will lose a tempo.

position 5

White to move

6. Castle early

Putting the King to safety is one of the priorities of the opening. Keep in mind that contrary to a popular belief it is much harder to attack the castled king. At the same time, castling connects the rooks, allowing them to work more efficiently. Always castle early in the game! Following this simple rules will save you handful of games.

position 6

White to move

7. Control more space

The spatial advantage is a very important aspect of chess. Generally speaking a player that possesses a spatial advantage has control of the game. Space allows you to much more efficiently coordinate the pieces for both attack and defense, at the same time preventing your opponent from doing the same.  In our training course we have excellent examples and a much deeper explanation of how spatial advantage can be effectively used and converted into the win.

Notice how white advanced his pawns to occupy more space.

position 7

 White to move

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  • tactics
  • positional play
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Last Updated on Friday, 15 May 2015 09:06


+1 #4 Marko 2015-05-20 03:29
Great article Yury, I would like to add one more opening principal and that's intention of controlling center squares and developing pieces near the center. It's partly related to rule #7. So the good practice is to start opening with d4 or e4 pawn.
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+1 #3 Yury 2015-05-19 22:04
Thanks Bhanubhai, I'm glad that you find it helpful :-)
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+4 #2 Bhanubhai 2015-05-15 09:32
Very good information
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+3 #1 Bhanubhai 2015-05-15 09:29
Good article
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