4 Key Principles Behind Chess Strategies

Chess Guides / By Andrew Hercules

If you are lucky enough, all you would need is a strong opening and an opponent who doesn’t see through your opening to be done with the game in a jiffy. For the rest of the unlucky people, they will have to play till the end of the game.

If you aspire to finish the game on a victorious note, then you need a proper strategy to back your motive. In this article, I have identified the key principles based on which various chess strategies are devised. Since it is not feasible for all the players to follow each strategy completely, it makes it redundant to go over them.

However, if you identify the key principles behind the main strategies, you will be able to not only prepare a well-structured offensive but identify your opponent’s tactics as well.

There are four key principles based on which all chess strategies are developed.

  1. Piece quality and development
  2. Center control
  3. King safety
  4. Pawn formation

Let us look at each of these principles in detail now:

1. Piece Quality and Development

As you may be aware, there are different kinds of pieces in the game of chess and each piece has its own value. The various pieces along with their values are as below:

  • Queen – 9
  • Rook – 5
  • Bishop – 3
  • Knight – 3
  • Pawn – 1

However, these values are not to be taken as static because the truth is, every piece’s true value continuously changes as the game develops. Piece development refers to the ability of the piece to move effectively and complement the other pieces on the board, which can increase the true value of itself.

The attributes that determine the flexibility of a piece are as follows:


Flexibility is the ability of a piece to change its role. In other words, it is their ability to change their role from being a passive piece to an active piece. Usually pieces situated near the center of the board are more flexible when compared to the ones present at the corner of the board.


A piece is valuable as long as it is on the board. A queen is of no value if it is already off the board. Hence ensure that you have all the strong pieces well defended. Never put them in vulnerable positions or leave them unprotected.


No piece can do its bit if it is not given enough space to move, not even the queen. Hence ensure that there is always enough space for your pieces to move.


Understand the capacity of every piece. Some pieces are well suited for aggressive attacks while some pieces are the best when it comes to defensive strategies. Understand the suitability of each piece before you employ them as a part of your strategy.

Some pointers to improve piece development are as follows:

Do not let go of space advantage.

Space advantage (a.k.a. territorial advantage) is nothing but controlling majority of the squares on the board. Basically as you move your pawns forward, you create territory for yourself. All the squares behind your line of pawns are safe territory for the most part during the early stages of the game as your other pieces are positioned behind them ready for movement and advancement. When you have more space advantage, you will be able to move your pieces accordingly to realize their fullest potential.

Do not refrain from giving threats

When you stop giving threats, you are indirectly giving your opponent some time to think and retort, which should not be the case. So then this goes to say that by attacking, you will help direct your opponent’s attention and make him worry. Oftentimes this will cause him to forget going after his own plans and turn completely to defense. This gives credit to the adage, “The best defense is a good offense.”

Do not allow yourself to be distracted or dissuaded from enemy threats

If you begin to give in to the pressure your opponent is trying to impose and you react, you are more likely to make a fatal error yourself and your defeat will never be too far off.

Do not let any piece remain inactive. Advance these pieces and use them effectively

Oftentimes, beginners will leave half their major pieces in passive positions, memorize the various openings and understand how they can be used to not only advance the pawns, but the army behind them as well.

Sometimes, there can be more than one good move

It is important that we analyze every move in detail before we proceed. This type of analysis will help us use our pieces in the most effective manner. Remember to record your games so you can return back to see if an alternative move may have yielded more fruitful results.

Try to move your pieces as much as you can and try to get on to the other half of the board.

At the same time, never let the opponent’s piece enter your half of the board.

Never give your opponent the opportunity to place his pieces on good squares

The process of denying your opponent to position his pieces on good squares is called prophylaxis, meaning ‘suffocation’ in medical terminology. Aaron Nimzovich of Russia originated this technique in the early 1900s. So revolutionary was this concept during his time that many of his fellow players initially mocked him for it. Unfortunately for them, Nimzovich soon changed their tune, winning game after game and earning the title of one of the world’s top five players. Nowadays all top players of chess use this idea.

In the above example, the White player here has made great use of prophylaxis positioning, which most effectively draws a frustrated emotional response from the black player. We can see white’s superior pawn and knight formation, along with his f2 and d2, immobilizes black’s knight advancement at b3, d3, d4, e3, e4, g3 and h4.

Black’s queen is also restricted from white territory all along the open lane of diagonal light-colored squares it so hopes to capitalize upon. Through setting up a “suffocating” defense to prevent your opponent from taking any of critical squares, you not only defend yourself but you allow your opponent to waste valuable turns as well.

These are more strategies that form the basis of any chess strategy.

2. Center control

(White Center Control)

It is highly important that you have control over the center. Having a command over the center is required for many reasons; king safety and piece development are the most prominent. Hence it is evident that this principle is linked with two other principles behind chess strategies, and that by playing one good strategy, you are efficaciously laying the foundation for the other strategies as well.

Before you gain control over the center, it is important that you understand the current status of your center. This will give you enough opportunity to plan your next moves.

Ideally your center can fall under one of the categories:

Blocked center

A blocked center is a situation where it is impossible to open the center. The idea behind instigating a blocked center is to take away any chance of opponent dominance over it and deprive them of central squares. Back in the 1800s it was believed that this was an indestructible idea and the best way to counter if your opponent is trying to get a command of the center.

Since then, a modernist view has earned strength in belief that central pawns can be treated as weaknesses. We can see this proven true with Black’s position in the Grünfeld Defense, which allows the White player to take control of the center first, only then to have Black bypass it effectively.

(Grünfeld Defense – Black bypassing blocked center)

A few tips to deal with blocked centers are as follows:

  • Learn to organize your pieces properly. Using pawns to take control of the center gains you space in your territory.
  • If you intend to create one, aim to provide yourself with control over critical squares by way of those advanced pawns so they provide a nice home for other pieces to advance upon.
  • If your opponent has stuck you with one, concentrate your pawns and pieces to chip away at it.
  • Once you organize your pieces, proceed to build them along the flanks of the board.
  • Be ready to position your pieces in any file that might open up during the course of the game.

Open center

An open center is the opposite of the blocked center. It gives both the players an equal opportunity to build around the center. Hence it is important that you make best use of the open center situation. A few tips to deal with open center are as follows:

  • Forward all your active pieces to the center. Placing your active pieces in the center will not only assist in taking control over it but will also help in launching an aggressive attack against your opponent.
  • When your focus is on building a strong center, do not waste any time over trivial things such as an isolated pawn. Sometimes, it is fine to lose a pawn to gain control over the center.

Dynamic center

A dynamic center is a situation where both the players are not sure about who holds the center. This confusion can make the game take unprecedented and undesired turns. To avoid this confusion, the following pointers have to be followed:

i. Clarify first

Understand who holds more of an advantage in the center. This knowledge will help you plan your next moves accordingly. For instance, if you know that your opponent holds the upper hand, you will have to be careful and play more on the defensive side. On the other hand, if you realize that you hold the center, look to launch an aggressive attack.

ii. Look to point counts, piece mobility, material advantage, and superior pawn structure to help determine who has a greater control.

When it becomes confusing you must consider the subtler advantages that each player has. For example if you have a superior pawn structure and your opponent has a gain in piece mobility (take into account those mobile pieces in their back territory) and material advantage, even by one piece, it is your opponent who has control. Their ample mobility of pieces means they can strike at any time, while it still may take you a few turns to get your pieces into a strategic position.

iii. Never make an aggressive move without clarifying

If it is indeed your opponent who holds the center, then an aggressive move will result in a high chance of you losing a valuable piece. Hence refrain from doing so. When your opponent has a firm grasp on the center of the board and continues advancement there, sweep your pieces out to the wings to counter.

3. King safety

Every chess player purports to protect his king and win the game. Compromising on the safety of the king can ensure your failure in the game and hence, the safety of the king is definitely our prerogative at any point of time. A few pointers to keep in mind to ensure the safety of your king is listed below for your reference:

  • Always ensure that there is a shield of pawns in front of your king. Lack of pawns or a weak pawn shield will definitely make your king an easy target. Arrange enough pieces near your king to defend any aggressive attacks by the opponent.
  • Make sure that you hold the center. A strong hold over the center is important not only to ensure the safety of your king but also to launch an aggressive attack against your opponent’s king.
  • Learn to castle your king at the beginning of the game itself. Castling is an effective way to ensure the safety of your king. This again comes to memorizing the various openings that will allow you to strategically move your pieces while permitting your king to castle with a rook.

If the capture of the king didn’t mean a loss of the game, the dynamic of this piece’s tactical movements would appraise it in a whole new light. This may sound irrelevant and even silly at first, so allow me to explain. Since the adaptation of the game as we know it today, the king has always been allowed to move one square in any direction.

It essentially enacts a force field around itself to protect against impeding opposition so the gallant and even unruly bishops, queens and rooks may not invade his personal space without having backup to protect themselves.

During the late courses of the game however, a centralized position, the king’s hidden power can take advantage of this fact to constrain your opponent’s strategy and turn what may appear to be a weak disposition to your own advantage.

It’s called taking the king for a walk, and like all other pieces on the chessboard, the king must be put to use if you intend to develop a well-refined and effective strategy to the game. The endgame, that is, is where the king’s quality truly shines, so get him ready to don his walking shoes and go for a stroll.

In the picture above we can see the white king has made his way up the center of the board and is moving into position to threaten black’s bishop. Black’s bishop is virtually useless while the white king remains on the dark-colored squares. White’s pawn majority makes a great contention against the black player’s remaining forces and if played correctly, will have the chance for promotion on the queenside.

White’s bishop is also still very effective and will be able to pick off black’s remaining pawns. At the endgame when the threat of many forcible pieces has dissipated, the climate becomes favorable to move the king to a more centralized location. For the most part when both sides only have a few pieces left, advancing the king to the center allows him to dodge around the protection of individual pawns working for him while providing the opportunity for him to capture the enemy’s pawns that still pose a threat, especially if they are making their way into his domain for a promotion.

This also saves your remaining mobile pieces the exhaustion of trying to play defense and offense simultaneously. In a more centralized location, the king’s force field allows him to occupy a larger area of critical squares that will make it more difficult for the opponent’s pieces to attack up close and personal.

Duality of the Queen

Amateur players quickly become enamored with the queen’s power in all her tempting ploys. She is by far the most commanding piece on the board, which is why her piece value is ranked at 9. The queen can move in files, ranks, and diagonally at any length she pleases as long as her path is not blocked.

In fact, the only trick she has not been gifted is that funky swoop the knight is able to pull off. Interestingly enough however, until 1475 the queen was only valued one-up before the pawns, limited to a one-step movement to any diagonally adjacent square. Her newfound powers after which she was granted transformed her into a demolition expert that makes quite an intimidating distraction on the board.

This is why amateurs develop such an attachment to her, which can cost them the game. They become so infatuated with her positioning and protection, investing the strength of their strategy in this one piece that they often forget about their other pieces, upon which a more experienced player will be sure to capitalize. Having lost what they consider their most valuable piece, an amateur will immediately lose confidence and their gameplay will suffer for it.

Studying chess books and players will show that professional players don’t mind trading this piece up to play a more docile game. So then, the queen’s reigning fortitude also becomes her weakness. Rushing her out too early in the game can seal her fate and cramp the true strength of one’s strategy.

Consider as a general rule to first of all avoid placing your queen in a vulnerable position through reckless unplanned actions, and more to the point, make her one of the last pieces that you bring out. The safest way to effectively use the queen’s prominence is to position your minor pieces first and keep the queen deep inside your own territory on an advantageous square for support.

When you finally do choose to move her into a position she goes guts and glory for, make sure she is well protected by your other minor pieces. With your queen as the strong arm of a leading attack, you’ll want to have the rest of your pieces ready to play a part in the action. This is how you can maximize the full extent of the queen’s ferocity.

Rook – The Enforcer

This is a fitting title for the second most powerful piece that is so often forgotten about because of the power of the queen and because of it’s beginning placement. Many times a rook will not be brought out until the endgame, or at all, or luckily find itself in action after a clamorous pawn before it is swept away. It is important to understand the value this piece plays and that by commanding an open file, the long arm of the rook acts as a mighty support system for the rest of its crew.

Before the queen was promoted to royal status in the 15th century, the rook was the most powerful piece in the game. We can see this in its point value of 5, next in line behind the queen. In fact, this is an ideal physical place for the rook on the board.

Whenever it is possible, get your rooks into open files, especially during mid and endgame situations where it can easily reach the back of the opponent’s base. This means that you must lead with your minor pieces after opening to clear some moving room for the rooks behind the lines. Visualize placements where one of your pawns may effectively sacrifice itself or capture an opponent’s piece to open up that file and have your rook ready and waiting behind it.

Performing a castle move will help find a rook a nice action spot in the center of play as well as protect your king. If you do this, move your queen to a strategic square so that the rooks become connected and that they reinforce each other.

When you place a rook in an open file, you can double or even triple on that file by placing the queen or other minor pieces onto it to take full advantage over your opponent with a battering ram force. In the later stages of the midgame and toward the endgame, plowing through enemy lines to home ranks with the rook in an open file spells certain disaster for your opponent.

The rooks’ reach, especially sitting together in adjacent ranks or files, acts as an electrified fence to corral the opposing king’s movements and zap any presumptuous piece standing in the way. As with any cognitive strategy, assure the enduring force of your rook by keeping it protected with another piece whenever possible.

The Wily Knight

Love them or hate them, this tricky stickler usually gathers some kind of pronounced emotion from professional players to amateurs, even if it is blatant confusion for not knowing what to do with the thing. Knights have the most unique moving ability of all the chess pieces, both in pattern and the ability to jump over other pieces, which attributes to their centuries-old lure and the difficulty that comes in harnessing their full strategic potential.

First you must decide within your overall strategy which pieces you will advance to attack and which you will keep behind to maintain a strong defense. Through practicing, within the opening moves and toward the midgame, you should soon be proficient in identifying which squares present themselves as critical for both sides.

You will remember from the section on piece quality that weak or critical squares are very important to the context of the entire game, so important in fact that in future games you’ll want to spend a majority of the time you have in determining which squares present themselves this way early on. Then play into them well throughout the midgame.

On top of that, you will need to figure out how to either occupy those squares yourself for pivotal advancement or exert prophylaxis, blocking them to prevent your opponent from taking them over.

Now that you have equipped your midgame strategy and determined which squares are critical, you may decide to drive your knight into the thick of battle or keep it reared to protect your king. You must train yourself to see every possible square that a knight may move to, whether it is occupied or not. Practice this on both sides of play in every move of every game you play and observe. This will help you greatly to understand the nature of the knight better and prevent undesired plays from taking you by surprise.

Many players at the beginner and even intermediate levels do not take this into consideration, which is why they mistrust and have so diminutive a faith in this guy. When you can see the potential movements of the knights, you will notice where they cannot move (game border restrictions, squares occupied by your pieces), where they typically should not move unless to some tactical advantage (blocked squares or enemy-occupied squares that are also protected), and where they can move (squares occupied by an unprotected enemy piece and all other open squares).

In a centralized position, in at least the third rank, knights have a maximum potential of eight squares that they can cover. Most of the time however, a few or more of these potential squares are blocked by one of the instances described above.

A knight positioned in the first and second ranks is limited in potential squares; it doesn’t allow for the pull potential but which makes this positioning feebly effective and purely defensive. So then, keep this in mind if you are going to reserve your knight for a defensive strategy to block your opponent from moving to any critical squares covered by the knight. This strategy can be useful however it still limits their potential.

(The Wily Knight can be used to it’s full potential when positioned between the 3nd and 6th ranks and between C & F as shown in the diagram)

When you decide to charge with a knight into attacking position, you must realize that knights need advanced support points to be effective. They are joggers, not runners, so it will take them some time to advance. If you muster them up the field by their lonesome selves you leave them vulnerable and prone to an easy capture.

The squares you will be looking for can only be considered a support point if they cannot be attacked by your opponent’s pawn or if attacking with a pawn would leave you open. By moving a knight up to the third rank and beyond, you are now entering the battlefield and preparing yourself to set up a tasty scheme while still providing your back lines some defense. A knight in the fifth and sixth ranks is entering deep into enemy territory, and by this time with the proper support, it acts like a chokehold on your enemy and truly starts to cramp their style.

The fifth and sixth ranked positions allow the knight to begin locking on your opponents pawns, effectively weakening their pawn structure a.k.a. the first line of defense, as well as provide a lead-in for your other pieces to control the center and propel an advanced attack, tightening play into endgame material. Note too that these positions (5th and 6th ranks) allow the knight to claim critical squares over the enemy.

It is for this reason that knights are known for being excellent blockers. Keep this in mind when encountering locked pawns, known as closed positions, whereby such a jam might inhibit other pieces’ movements. It becomes a breeze for the rowdy knight to simply jump over them.

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Color-blind Bishops

Though nearly every chess piece only ever has an option between landing on light and dark squares, bishops are limited in this case to remaining on their own color from the beginning of the game. Each player has a light-squared bishop and a dark-squared bishop, which makes a considerable difference at many points in gameplay.

This does not necessarily define a weakness for the bishop piece. To the contrary, they can supply excellent long-range blocks, attacks, and support for other mobile pieces in a diagonal position – difficult to see through pillars of pawns and other pieces – while still remaining hidden in their own territory. This provides them the stealth of the queen and rooks that cause them to appear as superior pieces; however the combination of their qualities in total still puts their piece value at a 3.

The bottom line is to understand that to have an effective command over the role of the bishops you must be able to determine them in three different types of classifications – good, bad, and active.

Good Bishops

Considering the nature of the bishops’ qualities, one is determined to be good when its path is unobstructed from central pawns. It means that all of your central pawns are on squares of opposite color to that of your bishop’s path. If you have a pawn, or if an enemy has a pawn chain on your bishop’s color, its long-range capabilities are neutralized.

Bad Bishops

A bishop is bad if the previously mentioned condition exists where central pawns are on its color to block any effect it might have. Between the midgame and endgame, this situation can get messy for a bishop, especially if only one of its kind remains on your team. Closed positions in the form of locked pawns, especially in clusters, can be as frustrating as long-winding detours in heavy traffic.

When few pieces are left in the endgame and one bishop remains with you, or vice versa, the opposing player can easily move their king to a square of opposite color than that of the contending bishop, leaving it powerless.

Active Bishops

In the diagram above, Black’s bishops are both active but bad, and while black could advance his b7 pawn to b6 pawn to clear c8’s path and move to either b7 or a6, it would still be confined by the nice lane white’s pawns and bishop has created.

The same goes for black’s g7 bishop moving to h6 because of white’s effective use of the c1 bishop. Note the dynamic central control by both players. Still, white can be considered to have control over the center because of his well-developed positioning of good active bishops. White is working with an effective strategy based on superior piece mobility.

An active bishop can be good or bad, what brands them as active is if they are in a position with many different agile options; the opposite holds true, an inactive bishop is one where its mobility choices are very limited or 0, similar to how they begin the game. While a bad bishop has virtually no options beyond their limited movement, an active bishop has many options that can flip the momentum to give its team an advantage.

Active bishops that are considered good may be good by definition (all their central pawns rest on opposite-colored squares), although their movement may still be limited by the opposing player’s pieces and there may be little they can do about that. Active bishops that are considered bad will have pieces resting on the same colored squares as that particular bishop, although the active bad bishop will most probable be on the side of attack in the enemy’s territory rather than stuck behind their own lines. Furthermore, making a few calculated changes in their obstructive pawn formation by either advancing or trading pieces may liberate this bishop’s movement.

The important thing to remember in any case is that bad bishops can make strong pieces if you are able to move them to an active position. Possible strategies to achieve this are as follows:

  • You may attempt to free the bishop’s diagonals by moving your pawns to another color.
  • You can try to get the bishop outside of the pawn chain – do everything you can to get it back into the game if has been inactive for a period of time.
  • If neither of the above works, you may try giving up your bishop for another piece of equal or greater value.

Bishop versus Knight Dynamics

Let’s take a brief moment to step away from individual piece strategies to observe an ongoing scrutiny among the masters that pits favor of one over another in the relationship of bishop versus knight dynamics. Both pieces are valued at a 3, although some would and do consider the bishop to hold a brighter candle to the knight in value of 3 ½. This seriousness is taken into such consideration that the difference is even documented in some chess instruction manuscripts, although in tournament and match play they are still valued equally.

So then, if you are to choose one over the other in procuring dominance on the board and in battle when they meet eye to eye (or staff to muzzle), you have to know how to formulate such conditions that favor your preference. Knights are more favored in earlier stages of the game while bishops are more favored in latter stages.

If you own a knight, you will want to set up a closed position. That is, create a favorable pawn block in the center of the board that your knight can rally behind and drive your opponent in such forcible ways that it claims control over multiple critical squares in central play. The pawns will also do their job by congesting the bishops’ precious channels. If you fall under the charms of your bishop’s wit, you must clear the lanes for him to extend a pervasive reach into enemy territories.

Business in Bishops: Midgame

Having come this far, you should now be aware of each piece’s strengths and weakness. So let’s put that knowledge to practical use in seizing the ground out from under the other. Knights, for example, require support pieces and critical squares to gain a tactical lead in attacking. What does your holy wisdom recommend bishop bearers? If you suggest to block all possible advancement squares that the knight might attempt, then you have gained favor in the eyes of the chess lords.

Your opponent’s knights will have tossed their riders in a screeching halt without having any place to go. Don’t let that be the end of it though! If your opponent rears their knight to attempt another advance from a different position, counter them again.

This is how the robed warriors exact their superiority. Are any of your pawns blocking this tactical strategy from taking place? You must remove them and allow the bishop to go about his business. Stifling a knight’s attempts at infiltrating your defenses will keep your territory clear for the comfortable movement of other pieces and assure protection for a grateful king.

Above we can observe a few noteworthy strategies that the white player is impressively employing. First of all he has all-supreme dominance of the center, choking black’s pieces with unnerving restlessness from the queenside and locking black’s queen in the backdrop with the help of the white queen at a6. White’s superior, hard-working pawn formation is cutting out most of the work for his bishops in stifling any effective advancement from black’s knights.

And although we can consider that b3 is a bad bishop because of the light-colored square pawn chain in central play, it is reinforcing d5 and strengthening center control.

Business in Bishops: Endgame

Endgames are usually equivalent to few pieces left on the board, and for a resilient bishop this means good news: there are plenty of open spaces on the board to make use of his wide-sweeping skills. If you find yourself in a particular endgame where the remaining survivors are comprised of a handful of pawns on each side of the board while your bishop faces off with your opponent’s knight, rest easy.

The bishop will have the advantage to quickly sweep up your opponent’s passed pawns (those last foot soldiers that are wishfully eking their way to a promotion) and evade any remaining threat. On the other hand, in order to do the same, your opponent’s knight will have to exhaustively gallop toward your hopeful pawns and whinny when it finds it has come up short, watching hopelessly while you’ve just promoted your way to a new queen and a sure win.

Things to remember in such a scenario:

  • Open positions most often support bishops and puts them at an advantage versus knights
  • Endgame pawn majorities usually have many passed pawns (a passed pawn is where there is no obstructing enemy pawns that prevent it from reaching the 8th rank), and scenarios with passed pawns on both sides almost always benefit the side of the bishop over the knight.
  • An opponent’s passed pawns, should they have any hope of continued gameplay must advance toward potential promotion. In doing so, they will inevitably land on colored squares, favoring the bishop’s opportunity to seize them.

A Knight’s Strike: Midgame

In order to effectively set a knight up for an imposing position over the enemy’s bishop, there are few things to take into account, drawing upon the previously laid out points of knight-piece strategy:

  • Close out a critical position at the center of the board with locked-in pawns. This will block the bishop’s speedy diagonal line attacks. Knights will be able to jump around these blockades.
  • Set your knight up on an advanced support point.
  • Secure your knight’s position at an attack-oriented rank, such as the fifth or sixth rank. This will optimize the knight’s attack power with multiple squares covered, including critical ones.
  • Aim to deprive your opponent of maintaining two bishops on the board. This will leave only one square-colored bishop (slightly) operable.

Remember that when you can work your knight up to a secure, 5th or 6th ranked square, it becomes an extremely powerful piece covering multiple critical squares.

The knight’s advantage over an opposing bishop in this sense is that it can attack critical areas even when the opponent has a closed formation whereas the bishop can only slam against the defensive walls. The necessary appointment of closed positions (again, locked pawns) double as further confinement for the bishops and support points for the knight.

Again, if your aim is to master knight combat with the enemy, don’t allow them to own two bishops because they’ll control both colored squares. Knights can go on any color and therefore control a wider variety of spaces, essentially making them more versatile. Use them to corrupt your enemy’s pieces by converting their bishops into bad ones!

Here we have another beautiful pawn formation strategy working for the white player, whose pieces have just exploded from the queen’s side in territorial domination. Take note of all the closed positions at a6:a7, c6:c7, d5:d6 and f4:f5.

They work to keep a constraint on black’s forces, and at the moment white’s superior pawn structure, territorial domination, and superior piece mobility strategies are at his advantage. There are however certainly some holes he has left open, such as the entire b file as well as a weak square on f6.

Let’s take a look though at his knight’s advantage over black’s bishop. Essentially in this formation, f6 is the only workable position because of the effective pawn chain covering the rest of black’s king side sweep. The crucial square that white has maximized upon is d5. Not only has he employed his pawn here to a righteous enemy-territory pawn lock, preventing any bishop movement in the queenside direction, it acts as a support position and protectorate of his heavyweight knight.

The knight’s j-hooks have the black king pinched in the corner, and his physical position along with the locked in pawns on the f file blocks up any immediate and hopeful advancement from black’s queen.

4. Pawn structure

In 1749, a fellow named André Philidor claimed that pawns were the “soul of chess.” This comment went largely unappreciated until about 1909 when the famous chess player Emanuel Lasker explained this further so that now every master of chess takes it into consideration with great sincerity.It should be understood that the strategic placement of pawns helps to determine the rest of your moves and your plan’s entirety at large.

They are indeed the first pieces to be moved (aside from an occasionally willy-nilly filly that is the piece- hopping knight), so take great care in the purposeful placement of each of your pawns throughout the game, for they are only to be underestimated at one’s own expense.

A few of the pawn’s strengths in quality are its blocking and restrictive powers. Although they move quite slowly, one step at a time, they are ultimately the concealed directors of the game. Pawns create roadblocks, stopping short in front of an opponent’s pawn so that the opponent must push their efforts and schemes to another area of the board.

They also prevent an opponent’s more mobile pieces from claiming crucial squares in the center of the board. Furthermore, the careful extension of one’s line of pawns governs the amount of territory a player may claim over the board, which is an important part of midgame strategy.

It is important that you have a strong pawn structure. A strong pawn structure will help a great deal in playing out your strategies. Some pointers to strengthen your pawn structure are as follows:

a.) Do not let your pawns become isolated. Isolated pawns are easy targets and are too much of an effort to save.

b.) Make sure that you have a dynamic pawn structure. It is essential to have a dynamic pawn structure if you want to give your opponent a run for his money.

c.) Remember that your pawns should complement the movement of the other pieces and aid them in their roles. Never let your pawn block an active piece, as it can be quite detrimental to your strategy. This goes especially for the lanes of your bishops.

d.) A good rule of thumb to go by is to use your pawns to fix your opponent’s pawns wherever possible. This forces the lanes of the more mobile pieces into concentrated avenues that you may take advantage of by having the right pieces in place.

e.) Avoid pawn islands. When you have a lone pawn or an isolated group of pawns toward the middle of the board, you create weaknesses in your defense. Pawn chains on the other hand (a diagonal line of connected pawns) are only weak at their base – the only place not protected by a pawn. The more pawn islands you have, the more points of attack your opponent has. So while you want to avoid pawn islands that invite gaps in your defenses, you’ll also want to keep in mind to always attack your opponent’s pawn chain at its base.

f.) Advancing pawns have their allure and their drawbacks. If you have a pawn that is blocking the mobility of several other of your pieces, it might be a good idea to move it forward, even if it means sacrificing it for the advancement of your heavier-hitting pieces. Advancing pawns also means opening up files and diagonals for previously inactive pieces to take charge. By the endgame, if you have a pawn that is in the sweet reach of your opponent’s home rank, by all means you will want to push it to promotion so that it may become a Queen or lesser piece and change the dynamic of the game drastically.

g.) One tip to remember is that in midgame play, pawns also prevent an opponent’s pieces from moving into critical squares. Pay keen attention to the squares that are not occupied, because some of these hold immense strategic power for the player that is able to take advantage of them. Every time you move a pawn forward, make sure that you are not giving up one of these great footholds.

h.) If you find that by the endgame you and your opponent have only a few remaining mobile pieces (like in the diagram below) while there are considerable number of pawns left on the board, consider making trades to simplify the position so that with a few of the bigger players out of the picture, you may advance the majority of your pawns forward to put a squeeze on your opponent’s defenses then move in for the kill with your remaining pieces.

Can you identify which pawn trades would be advantageous to both sides in the diagram below? leave your comment:)


Andrew Hercules

Hercules Chess, launched in 2020, is a website that teaches you about chess. We started as a chess blog and became a chess training platform in early 2022.

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