Many people playing chess think they know how to win chess. Yet, when they sit down at the board and actually play the game they don’t stand a chance. It is very hard to play a great game of chess, one in which you control the outcome of the game through tactics, strategy and superb timing. Yet, you cannot do these things unless you have a solid foundation of strategy and tactics.
The most important thing to remember as you learn how to win chess is that a game of strategy and tactics can only be effectively learned from an experience of them. Everyone tells you that to win at chess and become a master player you have to be a very strategic player and open to new knowledge. Indeed, you must possess some notion of how to advance your pieces and develop stronger ones. However, you must also have an idea about how to move after the stronger pieces are developed (again, depending on how deep beneath the 1800s elo you’re).
In a game of chess, the objective is to develop pieces and prevent your opponent from doing so. If your opponent can successfully develop a good piece (something that I call a ‘rouse’), or a piece that is not easily pinned down), then you must move your piece out of the way. And if this checkmate is executed correctly, then the opposing king will soon be pinned down or dead. If you execute a checkmate correctly however, your opponent may simply move his piece out of the way without putting up too much of a fight.
So the most important thing is to develop your pieces and prevent your opponent from doing so. How to do this is to make use of the ‘use it or lose it’ principle in chess. For instance, let’s say you have a fairly strong opening position. Your white pawn is quite threatening with its pin potential and your black queen is fairly useless (unless she gets captured). If your white queen gets captured, your rook will automatically become your bishop will become your queen (if it already is).
Now, the best defense in this case is to simply exchange the white pawn for the bishop and the black queen. However, you have to understand that this will usually result in a checkmate. If your opponent decides to take your queen, he’s not just going to leave his rook and bishop; he’s going to put pressure on you with his queen. This makes forcing moves quite risky, especially when your opponent also has a powerful king which could easily trade places with your rook and bishop.
There are more advanced strategies to prevent checkmates. For example, let’s say that your opponent has a very powerful piece such as a Rook or Queen who can easily trade the exchange down to your weaker pieces to open the game up to checkmate moves. If you make a series of trades with your weaker pieces, then your opponent will eventually have to trade down his queen and rook to even out the ranks on the board so that he can go for the checkmate move.
The most common mistake beginners make is thinking they can ‘just show up’ and make a series of unnoticeable or weak attacks which will just get them out of check. This is a deadly mistake, especially if your opening position is somewhat weak. For instance, if you’re playing against a very strong square with a central river section, it may seem like you can take the middle with some nice checkmate moves, but how many times have you traded your rook to exchange to your bishop only to have your opponent make some more checks? Worst case scenario, your opponent may even be able to make a totally hidden double rook sacrifice to get you to commit even more than you wanted to! In this case, simply showing up and making a few sacrifices would put you in a better position than simply trading a rook and a bishop away!
One last point about playing chess that bears repeating is the importance of having pieces protected. If your pieces are all over the board, your opponent can easily dominate you and win the game. Many beginner players don’t put enough emphasis on having their pieces protected, and they often find themselves at a severe disadvantage once the game starts. Always make sure your pieces are protected. You can do this by putting them into protected squares, by not using pieces which could be removed (Rooks and Knights, for instance), or by using pawns and bishops to stop your opponents from taking your pieces! As you learn more about how to win chess games, you’ll come to realize how important this aspect is.