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11 Best Chess Opening Principles For Starters (Step-By-Step!)

If you want to play chess well then one of the fundamental concepts that you have to master is chess opening. And the first step to learn chess opening is to understand the principles behind it. 

Now there are plenty of ways you can start the game and that creates a great confusion especially when you just start learning chess openings. 

Hence you need to first master some basic principles that will provide you the right direction in the game. 

So today I am gonna share with you the 11 best chess opening principles in a step by step format. Note that I have broken down the principles in parts, for ease of explanation and so that you can understand them well.

Let’s start!

1. Move Center Pawns to Center Squares.

Squares e4, e5, d4, and d5 are called center squares. Controlling center squares right from the beginning is very important in chess. It will give you a space advantage.

So the first step is definitely to move your pawns and get the control over the center squares

Tip 🙂 – I have already written a detailed article on Why controlling the center is important in chess? You can check that out for reference.

You can also move knights instead of pawns for controlling the center. But moving the pawns first is preferred more. 

Like if you have studied a little bit about various chess openings then you might know that pawn to e4 is so common in chess, right?

Moving the pawn in front of the king to e4 square is a typical chess opening known as King-Pawn Opening.

However we should think wisely while moving our pawns in the first few moves and that brings us to our next principle.

2. Don’t make unnecessary pawn moves.

What I mean to say, by not making unnecessary pawn moves is, not moving pawns aimlessly. Remember, pawns are the only chess piece that can’t move backward. So whatever move you make must have some concrete aim.

Let’s take an example: 

  • Suppose that your opponent is white and moved the pawn on e4 square. 
  • In response, if you moved the pawn in front of your rook on a or h file. 
  • Then it would be considered a bad move. At least from a beginner’s point of view.
  • Because your opponent will have more chance of gaining control over the center squares.
  • So your opponent will not only be ahead of you in terms of spatial advantage but also in terms of moves.
  • Therefore you need to take care of this point. 

See, if you are an advanced player or a grandmaster then it would not be much of an issue for you, because you would then easily react with various situations in a clever way. 

But other than that case, most of the time you should follow the general and basic fundamental principles.

” Follow the basic principles and keep things simple because winners don’t do different things, but they do the same things in a different way! “

3. Move the Kingside Pieces first.

Now you should develop the kingside pieces first. Kingside pieces refer to the pieces to the right hand side of the king’s position. 

This is because that will help you to castle kingside early on. Castling is discussed ahead in this article.

Tip 🙂 – If you want to know: Why is kingside castling better than queenside? Then surely check my detailed article on the same to clear your doubts.

4. Then move Queenside Pieces.

After you have moved the kingside pieces, now you should move the queenside pieces. Note that queenside pieces refer to the pieces on the left-hand side of the queen’s position.

Doing this will help you in two ways. Firstly you will be able to put all the chess pieces in proper lines right from the beginning.

Secondly, you will be able to activate the rook (which is sometimes very lazy! Perhaps that is why it is also called as elephants, lol!) But don’t underestimate the power of rooks. Once you activate it then it will give you a lead for middle and endgames.

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5. Don’t bring out the major pieces early!

Now, after you have moved your pawns the next step is to develop your other chess pieces. In chess, there are minor and major pieces. Giving you a brief idea about them.

  • Major pieces are called such simply because they are more valuable. Rooks and Queen are the major pieces.
  • Minor pieces are less valuable. Knights and bishops are minor pieces.

Now coming to the principle, you should not bring out the major pieces early. Simply because they are more valuable.

See if you bring out the major pieces early, then they will get more exposed to attack by opponent’s chess pieces. Hence chances of losing them will definitely increase. Isn’t it so?

Therefore bring out the minor pieces first- knights and bishops. But the then you might ask which pieces to develop first knights or bishops. Hence we head on to our next principle.

6. Develop knights before bishops.

Now that you know you should develop minor pices first then only the major ones. One thing you need to consider is moving knights before bishops while developing the pieces.

  • Firstly when you move bishops before knights you keep the pawns in front of knight unprotected. Hence it is good to develop first the knights then bishops.
  • Secondly it is easier to find the perfect position of knights first compared to bishops.

Simply because the knights are short range pieces and can jump over. But bishops can only travel diagonally. Many times it happens that when you move bishops to almost on 5th or 6th rank then the opponent might attack your bishop with their pawns.

And it is not favourable to trade a bishop for a pawn right at the beginning. So you have to retreat and move back your bishop. Thus losing tempo and also falling behind your opponent in controlling the space.

  • Moreover knights can control more central squares compared to bishop.

Yeah, I know that if you do fianchetto then you may be able to control more squares with bishops. But then it will require two moves instead of one, right?

If you don’t know fianchetto then in brief- It simply means the bishopp development on the longest diagonal.

It is achieved when you move your knight’s pawn one or two squares, making the room for bishop and then put the bishop on the long diagonal such that it can control two center squares at a time.

11-Best-Chess-Opening-Principles-For-Starters-Step-By-Step

You can note that it requires two moves to develop this hence as a general rule of thumb, develop knights before bishops.

But don’t just stick to this rule and act accordingly to position of the game.

You might be interested in reading about the knight moves in chess and the bishop moves in chess.

7. Don’t repeat the moves!

Repeating the moves, you will not only lose tempo but also give your opponent an extra edge over you.

Also Read: A Complete Guide On What Is Tempo In Chess With Example!

Telling my story– When I played with computer it happened with me many times that the I moved the bishops but then was attacked by opponent’s pawn. So I had to take back my bishop and putting myself in defensive mode instead of offensive.

Similarly, sometimes it happened with my knights. So these made me weaker right from the beginning. But now, after working on my mistake I have been able to overcome it. (I now rarely repeat moves in openings) One thing I learned in the process,

“Your move selection is very important as well as evaluation of the position!”

Also Read: Can You Repeat Moves In Chess? (4 Must-Know Rules!)

8. Castle within the first 5-10 moves.

After you develop your pawns and minor pieces, it is generally the right time to castle. If you don’t castle then you might get a checkmate early on. 

As both sides try to control the center there is some action going on there. The lines are getting opened up and that increases the vulnerability of your king being exposed to the center. So the best idea would be a castle just within 10 moves.

Tip 🙂 – I already wrote a detailed article on What is the perfect time to castle in chess? In that, I discussed everything about when to and when not to castle and some other related queries. I suggest you check that out for further reference.

9. Attach your Rooks.

Here by attaching the rooks I mean to say, keep the two rooks as close as possible. Following are the reasons why you should connect your rooks.

  • Connected rooks are very very powerful because they protect each other so can’t be easily attacked by some other piece.
  • It will help you during the mid game stages and give an extra edge over your opponent.

You can also read my article on how the rook moves in chess.

10. Protect your castled position.

After you castle, make sure that you also protect that position. Up till now all the principles that we discussed most chess players follow but one of the most important yet simple thing that they forget is to protect the castle position.
Like it happens many times, especially for beginners, that you did castling at the right time but then also the opponent destroyed your castle. Finally checkmating you. ( So sad! )

11-Best-Chess-Opening-Principles-For-Starters-Step-By-Step

Let’s take an example to understand this.

  • Look at the image. The marked three pawns on f2,g2 and h2 are like bricks of the castle.
  • If you move the bricks then the castle will eventually fall,right?
  • So if you were white then you shouldn’t move those pawns.
  • If you move then the opponent’s pieces will surely take them.
  • Eventually putting you in checkmate.
11-Best-Chess-Opening-Principles-For-Starters-Step-By-Step

Note how the castle is destroyed and now the black’s queen is attacking white’s king. Although if you notice that the king can get out of check by taking the black’s queen with its h3 pawn. But why should you threaten your king’s safety in the initial stages of the game, right?

So it is very easy to get a checkmate if you break your castle. (If you have trouble understanding this you can just compare the previous position with this by seeing both images.) Keep this valuable important point in mind.

Also Read: Can You Castle Out Of Check?

11. When attacked-Use your Mind.

Last but not least, always remember that chess is a mind game. So use your mind whenever and wherever necessary.

” There are no rules and principles in chess that if you follow without using your mind and without evaluating the present position, will give you success. “

When you are in an attack such that losing that piece will be a major setback for you, then you should definitely first save that piece and then only follow the principles.

Yury the founder of thechessworld, describes that you should not lose a developed piece for an undeveloped one.

See, when you develop a piece you use time and effort and losing that piece for an undeveloped piece of your opponent would be a very bad decision. You need to take care of this thing.

Chess is a very dynamic game with lots of variation. So you can’t always stick to just general principles and rules. 

But does that mean that you should not follow the general rules and principles? No, absolutely no! because basic principles will always give you a proper direction than to just randomly make moves. Therefore,

” Just follow the basic principles but also use your brain whenever needed. Be flexiblel! “

Conclusion

So that’s it! I hope that this article provided some value to you and added something more in your chess skills. If you enjoyed reading then please share this article with others.

Now let’s have a quick recap and summarize all the 11 best chess opening principles we discussed so far.

  • Gain control over the center squares by moving pawns
  • But don’t make unnecessary pawn moves that don’t make any sense.
  • First empty kingside squares by moving the pieces so that you can castle early.
  • Then focus on queenside pieces for providing more flexibility to the corner inactivated rooks.
  • First bring out the minor pieces. (Don’t move major pieces too early)
  • Move knights before bishops.
  • In the meantime, within the first 5-10 moves castle whenever you find it suitable (mostly kingside).
  • Attach your rooks to increase their strength.
  • Protect the castle position.
  • Use your mind whenever needed!

If you are new to chess then don’t forget to check out my Complete Beginner’s Guide On How To Play Chess.

Thanks and best of luck for your next chess game. 🙂

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