Chess strategy: what do you need to know about strategy and tactics?

Chess strategy: what do you need to know about strategy and tactics?

Everyone wants to learn about chess strategy. Players believe that if they learn more about this magic thing called “strategy” they’ll win every single game. But what chess strategy really is? Is it attack or defense, style of playing or evaluation of positions, set of rules, or tactics? No, my friend, I’m not trying to confuse you, just to show that chess strategy covers all of the above to some extent.

Wikipedia defines chess strategy as an evaluation of chess positions and setting up goals and long-term tactics for future play.

Strategy must also involve tactics, because if there is no tactics behind the chess strategy it becomes pointless. It’s like planning to walk a dog this morning if you don’t have one.

Chess player usually starts out the game with opening, as white or via transposition as black, taking into account future strategy of play. For example, if the player aims for minority attack he plays Queen’s Gambit Declined, for opposite side castles and pawn attacks – Sicilian Dragon, for play in the center – Petroff or Spanish.

To develop strategy players must evaluate the position on the chessboard. When evaluating, the player must take into account the following:

  1. Material on the board
  2. Pawn structure
  3. King safety (own and the opponent’s)
  4. Position of pieces (analyze where own and opponent’s pieces are located in respect to the king, other weaknesses)
  5. Control of center and key squares (You may want to check out my previous discussion over the Central Squares)
  6. Control of open files, long diagonals
  7. Own and opponent’s weaknesses (isolated pawns, “bad” bishops/knights, developmental problems)

Here are a few examples of a good chess strategy:

  • If a player sees that he is a piece up, a good chess strategy would be to exchange pieces, to simplify the position and to move into the endgame, which should be a no-brainer to win.
  • If a player sees that he has 2 bishops, knight and a queen pointing into opposing king castle a good chess strategy would be to sacrifice a bishop and develop a checkmate of win material if possible. We see how chess tactics and chess strategy go together. Tactics is to sac a piece, strategy (or main goal) is to develop a mate or win material. So, chess tactics is an instrument to accomplish a chess strategy.
  • If a player sees that opponent castles on the opposite side with respect to his own king, a good chess strategy would be to develop a pawn attack to destroy the opposing castle.
  • If the player sees that there is an open position type on the board a good chess strategy would be to exchange knights for opponent’s bishops since bishops are considered to be superior when the game is open. If position is closed however a good chess strategy would be to exchange bishops for opponent’s knights.
  • If there is an open file on the board a good chess strategy would be to occupy file by doubling/tripling heavy material: rooks and queen.
  • If there is an isolated pawn (weakness) on the board a good chess strategy would be to block this pawn and to attack by all available pieces in order to win it.
  • If one player is up in development it would be a good chess strategy not to exchange material, since simplifying the position would be the best option for the side behind in development.
  • A good chess strategy would be to develop knights before bishops (applicable to the opening only).
  • A good chess strategy would be not to develop a queen early in the game because it can become a target and accelerate the opponent’s development. Don’t give your opponent something for nothing! There are exceptions to this rule, however. If one wins material by say forking opponent’s bishop and king, it’s sure a good chess strategy to take advantage of it, to develop a queen and to win material.
  • A good chess strategy would be to avoid moving a piece twice in the opening stage if there is no good reason to do so. Again, if one is winning material or losing that piece it’s definitely better to move it twice.
  • Finally, a good chess strategy would be to have a strategy. It is a lot better to play chess with a bad plan than without any plan at all. Remember that!

Further readings involving chess strategy and tactics:

Basic Chess Tips

Seven Deadly Chess Mistakes

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Updated 12.19.2023


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