Chess Glossary and Basics


History of Chess

The origin of chess is not clear. Legends abound, attributing its invention to the Biblical King Solomon, or to the Greek God Hermes, or to the Chinese mandarin Hansing but it probably originated in India sometime around the 6th or 7th Century AD. From there the game crossed into Persia (now Iran), and then to Europe. The word chess is thought to be derived from ‘shah” the ‘Persian word for king, and the word checkmate from “shah mat”, meaning “The king is dead”.

The first documented reference to chess in literature was made in a Persian romance written in about 600AD. In the Middle Ages, collections of chess problems appeared in written form. One of the earliest books on chess ever printed was published in England. Written by a Dominican friar, Jacopo Dacciesole, before the year 1200, it was translated into English as The Game and Playe of the Chesse and printed by William Caxton. A woodcut from the book is depicted on Great Britain 1976 Scott 796. Another chess book by the author Alfonso X is depicted on Spain 1985 Scott 1293.

Chess had such a following that Shakespeare refers to the game 57 times, while his contemporary Thomas Middleton spent time in prison for writing a play called “A Game of Chess” (1624). Violence and death have something to do with the appeal of chess. There are countless examples of assassinations attempted and accomplished while a victim ponders over a chess move. And there is the legendary example of Charlot, son of Charlemagne who killed the son of a Danish warrior, using the chessboard itself as his fell weapon.

Actually, the popularity of chess is not hard to understand. Its play was reminiscent of the clash of armies, with their kings, knights, and foot soldiers. More important, the game also reflected the struggle up and down the medieval social structure: protection, promotion, misfortune, elimination, death and loss. Although it was essentially a mind game, it spelled carnage and mayhem.



Stopping a game to finish it at a later date: this practice almost disappeared in the early 1990s.

Advanced pawn

A pawn that has reached the fifth rank or higher and especially one threatening to promote to a queen.

Alekhine’s Defence

A hypermodern chess opening where Black replies to 1.e4 with 1…Nf6: it was named after the 4th World Chess Champion Alexander Alekhine.


A referee who ensures the chess and tournament rules are followed and handles any disputes.


Not the end of the world as we know it but a deciding game that must have a winner: White is given more time but a draw means victory for Black.


B The letter used to represent the bishop when recording chess moves in English.

Back rank

The 1st or 8th rank of the chessboard where the kings and other pieces start the game.

Back-rank mate

Mate given by a rook or queen going to the back rank (1st or 8th rank) of the chessboard, usually when a player’s own pawns prevent his or her king from escaping.

Back-rank weakness

When a player’s position is vulnerable to a back-rank mate.

Backward pawn

A pawn that is potentially weak because it’s behind pawns on same files so no other pawn can support its advance.

Bad bishop

A bishop whose movement is severely restricted, usually by its own pawns blocking the colour of squares on which it can move.

Benoni Defence

A chess opening beginning 1.d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e6, which is popular with players who enjoy sharp, tactical battles. The name means “son of sorrow” and comes from a chess book published in Hebrew in 1825 by Aaron Reinganum.

Bishop pair

Having two bishops is usually considered an advantage in open positions when your opponent doesn’t have the same.

Bishop pawn

A pawn on a file where the bishops start the game, i.e. the c or f-files.

Blindfold chess

Chess played without sight of the board, though not necessarily wearing a blindfold!


Chess played with each player typically having only 3-5 minutes to make all his or her moves.


A very bad move. In worst case you lose your Queen or get a checkmate.


A term used in chess to refer to home prepared moves in the opening: computer chess programs have “opening books” of moves they make automatically and a player is said to be “out of book” when he encounters a move he hadn’t prepared for in advance.


A spectacular move or game: sometimes rewarded with a “brilliancy prize”.


Chess played with each player having under 3 minutes (often only 1 minute) for all of his or her moves.



The chess goddess.


Working out the exact consequences of your possible moves rather than relying on intuition.

Candidate move

One of a small number of plausible options that a player will analyse in greater depth before making his move.

Candidates Tournament

An event held to determine the player who will challenge the World Champion in a match.

Caro-Kann Defence

A popular chess openings where Black responds to 1.e4 with 1…c6: it was named after the English master Horatio Caro (1862-1920) and Austrian Marcus Kann (1820-1886).


A special option you can play once in a game where you move your king and rook simultaneously and rook to the other side of the king. 0-0 is short castling and 0-0-0 is long castling. You can’t castle if your king have moved once and can’t castle if a square between king and rook is threatened.


The four squares in the centre of the chessboard: d4, e4, d5 and e5.


A simple trap that will radically change the result of a game if a player falls for it.


The king is under Attack by one of the opponents pieces.


When a king is in check and has no way to get out of the check.


A variation of chess where the starting line-up of the pieces is randomly (or semi-randomly) chosen from one of 960 possible alternatives. Another name for Fischer Random chess.


The 64-square board where a chess game takes place, with 8 vertical files (a-h) and 8 horizontal ranks (1-8).

Chop wood

A colloquial term for exchanging pieces.

Classical game

A game played at a long time control in contrast to rapid, blitz or bullet chess.

Classical School

The traditional understanding of chess that emphasises the importance of occupying the centre of the board with pawns or pieces: it was later challenged by the Hypermodern School.

Closed file

A file of the chessboard on which both sides have at least one pawn.

Closed game

A game of chess that starts with any move other than 1.e4.

Closed tournament

A tournament for which a player needs a personal invitation to take part.


A forced sequence of moves that usually involves sacrifices and is seen in advance by a player.


Advantages a player gains by sacrificing material, such as an Attack on the enemy king or a strategic (positional) edge.

Correspondence chess

Chess played by opponents in different locations who slowly exchange moves: the games can last days, weeks or even years, and used to be mainly played by post.


A Gambit (sacrifies) played by the player with the black pieces.


Active moves and threats which give a player compensation for weaknesses or problems elsewhere on the board.


To control a square with another pawn or piece that could capture on that square


Dark squares

The 32 squares on the chessboard of a darker colour (e.g. a1, b2, c3).

Dark-squared bishop

A bishop that can only move on dark squares i.e. White’s bishop that starts on c1 and Black’s that starts on f8.


A chess tactic where an opponent’s piece is lured to a bad square.


A chess tactic where an opponent’s piece is lured away from a square where it was performing an important task.


A piece that insists on sacrificing itself, usually to force perpetual check or stalemate.


The process of bringing out (“developing”) pieces at the start of a game of chess.


A diagonal line of squares on the chessboard e.g. a1 to h8.

Discovered Attack

Attacking an enemy piece by moving a pawn or piece that was blocking an Attack on it by one of your pieces.

Discovered check

Giving check by moving a piece that was blocking another of your pieces from giving check.

Double check

A check by two pieces at the same time: this always involves a discovered check and forces the opposing king to move.

Doubled pawns

When one player has two pawns on the same file: this is usually considered a weakness.


A game that ends with neither player winning: possible causes are agreement by the players, stalemate, threefold repetition, perpetual check, the fifty-move rule and insufficient material.

Dutch Defence

An opening where Black responds to 1.d4 with 1…f5: it got its name after Elias Stein, who lived in the Netherlands, recommended it in a book published in 1789.



Short for Encyclopedia of Chess Openings, this is a code used to classify openings in a range from A00 to E99: e.g. all variations of the Sicilian Defence are covered by B20–B99.


The Elo rating system, invented by Arpad Elo, is a system that since 1970 has been used to rate the strength of chess players based on their results against each other.

En passant

The rule allowing a pawn to capture an opponent’s pawn that moved two squares as if it had only moved one.

En prise

When a piece is left undefended and liable to be captured.


An endgame (or ending) is the final stage of a game of chess when queens have usually been exchanged and there are few pieces left on the board.


The chess-playing part of computer chess programs.

English Opening

A chess opening where White starts the game with 1.c4: it was named after 19th-century English player Howard Staunton, who regularly employed the opening although it didn’t really catch on until the 20th century.


1. Swapping a piece for one of your opponent’s (usually of equal value), 2. The advantage of a rook over a minor piece: a player who swaps his knight or bishop for a rook “wins the exchange”.

Exchange sacrifice

Exchanging a rook for a bishop or knight.



FEN (short for Forsyth–Edwards Notation) is a concise way of representing a chess position in a single line of text. Position 1.Nf3 c6 is FEN: rnbqkbnr/pp1ppppp/2p5/8/8/5N2/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKB1R w KQkq – 0 2.


Developing your bishop on the long diagonals, i.e. to g2, b2, g7 or b7, usually after moving a pawn to g3, b3, g6 or b6.


The World Chess Federation (Fédération internationale des échecs) is the official chess governing body. Composed of over 150 national federations, its roles include running the World Championship system.

Fifty-move rule

Either player can claim an automatic draw if no capture or pawn move has been made in the last fifty moves.


One of the eight columns of a chessboard, often labelled a-h.

Fischer Random

Another name for Chess960.


Although modern chess clocks often don’t have a real flag or indicator to show when time has run out the word has survived in people talking about their “flag falling” or “flagging an opponent”: moving fast to try and win on time.


The left or right side of the chessboard (the a-c or f-h files).


Short for FIDE Master, a chess title which usually requires an Elo rating of 2300.

Fool’s mate

The fastest possible checkmate, requiring only four moves: 1.f3 (f4) e6 (e5) 2. g4 Qh4#.

Forced move

A move which is the only possible one in a particular position.


A move that Attacks two or more enemy pieces at the same time.


A position where the side with less material is able to hold a draw because the stronger side is unable to break through.

French Defence

A chess opening where Black responds to 1.e4 with 1…e6: the name comes from its use by the French team in a correspondence match between Paris and London in 1834.



An opening where the player with the white pieces gives up a pawn to develop his pieces quickly and gain Attacking chances.

Gens una sumus

The motto of FIDE, the World Chess Federation: literally “we are one people”, it’s usually translated into English as “we are one family”.


Short for grandmaster, the highest official chess title with an Elo rating of 2500+. There is special rules to gain it.

Good bishop

A mobile bishop, often because a player’s own pawns are on the other colour of squares from the bishop.

Greek gift

The sacrifice of a bishop on h7 (or h2 for Black), usually with the aim of delivering checkmate.

Gruenfeld Defence

A sharp chess opening beginning with the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5: it was named after Austrian Ernst Gruenfeld who used it to beat the World Champion Alexander Alekhine in the Vienna 1922 tournament.


Half-open file

A file on which only one player has pawns.


If a piece or pawn is “hanging” it’s unprotected and liable to be captured.

Hanging pawns

Two pawns of the same colour side-by-side with no other pawns of the same colour adjacent to them: sometimes a dynamic strength but at other times a static weakness.


A “holdable” position is one that can be “held” i.e. drawn by the weaker side with correct play.


A school of chess or style of opening based on allowing your opponent to occupy the centre in order to then Attack that centre with pieces from the flanks.


Illegal move

A move not allowed by the rules of chess. Like you can’t move your king into check.


Short for International Master, the second highest chess title granted by the World Chess Federation: it usually requires a rating of 2400 and three performances at a 2450 level.


Time added to a player’s clock before or after each move.

Insufficient material

A position with insufficient material is one which is drawn because neither side has any pawns or enough pieces to give checkmate.


A chess tactic where a piece is sacrificed to block an opponent’s piece from defending a more valuable piece.


An “in-between” move where instead of making an obvious move (usually recapturing a piece) you do something else first which forces your opponent to respond.


Another term for an “isolated queen’s pawn” (IQP) this is a pawn on the d-file with no friendly pawns on the c or e-files: usually a dynamic strength but a static weakness.

Isolated pawn

A pawn with no friendly pawns on the files adjacent to it.

Italian Game

A chess opening starting with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4: mentioned in sources dating back to the 15th century, it was named after Italian players who investigated it, particularly Gioacchino Greco.



A French phrase universally accepted as a way for a player to say he simply intends to adjust a piece (e.g. to put it in the centre of a square) without being compelled to move it.


K The letter used for the king when recording chess moves in English.


Someone who watches and usually comments (kibitzes) on a game in progress.


The King’s Indian Defence: one of Black’s most aggressive openings.


The chess piece each player tries to Attack and trap (checkmate) to win a game of chess: although vulnerable early in the game it becomes powerful in the endgame when its ability to move one square in any direction is a strong asset.

King pawn

A pawn on the file where the kings start the game, i.e. the e-file.

King’s Gambit

A chess opening where White offers a pawn on the second move by playing 1.e4 e5 2.f4: it’s one of the oldest and most “Romantic” openings, but rarely seen at the top level nowadays.

King’s Indian Defence

A chess opening beginning 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 which is considered an aggressive choice for the player with the black pieces.


The e, f, g and h-files on a chessboard: i.e. the right-hand side for White and the left-hand side for Black.

Knight pawn

A pawn on one of the files where the knights start the game, i.e. the b or g-files.


Light-squared bishop

A bishop that can only move on light squares, i.e. White’s bishop that starts on f1 and Black’s that starts on c8.


A series of moves, often in the opening or when analysing a position.


Making “luft” (German for “air”) is moving a pawn in front of your castled king (most often by playing h3 or p) to avoid a back-rank mate.


Maróczy Bind

Putting pawns on c4 and e4 to gain a grip on the centre of the chessboard: named after Hungarian player Géza Maróczy.


Short for checkmate.


All the pieces a player has: material can be won, lost, exchanged or sacrificed, and a player can be “up” or “down” material i.e. have more or less pieces than his opponent.

Mating Attack

An Attack aimed at delivering checkmate to the enemy king.


The second phase of a game of chess after pieces have been developed in the opening: players usually aim to Attack the enemy king or gain an advantage they can exploit in a future endgame.


A decisive game of chess that usually lasts no more than 20-25 moves.

Minor piece

A bishop or knight.

Minority Attack

Pushing pawns on the side of the board where you have fewer with the aim of provoking weaknesses in your opponent’s position


N The letter used for the knight when recording chess moves in English. Not K due to the fact that it have been taken by the king.

Nimzo-Indian Defence

A hypermodern chess opening starting 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4, named after Aaron Nimzowitsch, one of the top players in the early 20th century.


A performance at a chess tournament that is sufficient to count towards the requirements for gaining chess titles such as “Grandmaster” or “International Master”.


A record of the moves made in a game of chess: algebraic notation (e.g. 1.e4 e5).


The first move in a game of chess that has never been played before: at a professional level such moves are often backed up by deep analysis and aimed at surprising your opponent.



Chess notation for castling kingside (short).


Chess notation for castling queenside (long).


The chess Olympics: a team event held every two years with all national members of FIDE eligible to submit a men’s and women’s team.

Open file

A file of the chessboard on which there are no pawns.

Open game

A game of chess which begins 1.e4 e5.

Open tournament

A tournament that isn’t restricted to invited players.

Opposite-coloured bishops

A situation when one player has a dark-squared bishop and the other a light-squared bishop: in the middlegame that improves the chances for an Attacking player, but in the endgame it greatly increases the chances that a player with a weaker position can draw.


An important endgame situation where the two kings stand on the same rank, file or diagonal with one empty square between them: the player whose turn it is may have to move his king to a worse square.

Outside passed pawn

A passed pawn at or near the edge of the board and some distance from other pawns: sometimes a crucial advantage in endgames.


A situation where one piece is performing too many defensive functions and can be exploited by the other player.


A term Aron Nimzowitsch coined for protecting a piece or square more times than strictly required by the current situation on the chessboard.


Passed pawn

A pawn that has no enemy pawn ahead of it on the same or adjacent files, and therefore can’t be stopped from queening by other pawns.


Another word for a passed pawn.

Pawn chain

A diagonal pawn formation where pawns of the same colour support each other.

Pawn island

One or more pawns on consecutive files with no friendly pawns on the files adjacent to the island.

Pawn race

A situation where both players strive to promote a pawn (or pawns) to a queen before the other.

Pawn storm

An Attack spearheaded by pawns, usually on one side of the chessboard.

Pawn structure

The placement of the pawns on the chessboard: as pawns have very limited mobility and restrict other pieces their placement is often crucial to determining the character of a game.


A number indicating the performance of a player in a particular event: it roughly corresponds to the Elo rating a player might have if he continued to perform at the same level over a longer period.

Perpetual check

A drawing mechanism where one player is able to give a potentially unlimited sequence of checks. If the check is given 3 times the players can claim a draw.

Petrov’s Defence

Also known as the Petroff or Russian Game, this is an opening for Black starting with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6. A very solid defence, it was associated with Russian masters Alexander Petrov and Carl Jänisch, who investigated the opening in the 19th century.


Short for “portable game notation”, this is a standard way of recording the moves and other information about a chess game in a computer file.

Philidor Defence

An opening starting with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6, which is considered solid but somewhat passive. It was named after Frenchman François-André Danican Philidor (1726-1795), perhaps the best player of his era.


A situation where a player’s piece is pinned: unable to move: because his king would be in check (an absolute pin) or a more valuable piece could be captured by his opponent (a relative pin).


An opening that starts 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 and is seldom seen in top-level games. It was named after Slovenian master Vasja Pirc (1907-1980), although it’s also sometimes known as the Ufimtsev Defence after Kazakh player Anatoly Ufimtsev (1914-2000).


A position, chess opening or move can be described as “playable” as long as it isn’t losing by force with best play from the other player.


Used in computer chess to refer to a single move by one player: a full move consists of two ply e.g. 1.e4 e5.

Poisoned pawn

A pawn that is apparently undefended but whose capture may result in material losses or a positional disadvantage.

Positional play

Play based around strategic thinking and manoeuvring rather than tactical threats and calculation.

Positional player

A player who favours positional play over tactical calculation.

Positional sacrifice

A sacrifice which isn’t immediately justified by regaining the material (or getting a decisive Attack) through a forced sequence of moves.


Analysis of a game immediately after its over, usually by the players involved.


In chess terms this refers specifically to the home analysis of opening moves to be able to match or surprise your opponent in the early stages of a game.


When a pawn reaches the 8th (or 1st) rank of the chessboard you must “promote” it by changing it into another piece: usually a queen, but you can also choose to make it a knight, bishop or rook.


Defending against your opponent’s potential active plans or threats before he has the chance to implement them.

Protected passed pawn

A passed pawn supported by another pawn.


Q The letter used for the queen when recording chess moves in English.


1. The most powerful piece on the chessboard: it can move any number of squares in any straight line and is worth about 9 pawns. 2. To promote a pawn to a queen.

Queen pawn

A pawn on the file where the queens start the game, i.e. the d-file.

Queen’s Gambit

A popular opening starting with the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4, which can branch into other well-known openings such as the Queen’s Gambit Accepted (QGA) or the Slav Defence.

Queen’s Indian Defence

A popular opening starting with the moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6, theoretical investigation of which began in the early 20th century.


The a, b, c and d-files on a chessboard: i.e. the left-hand side for White and the right-hand side for Black.


R The letter used for the rook when recording chess moves in English.


A row of the chessboard: usually numbered from 1 (where White’s king starts) to 8 (where Black’s king starts).


Chess played at a quicker time control than classical chess but slower than blitz: often with 15-30 minutes per player per game.


To acknowledge defeat, often by offering your hand to your opponent: resignation immediately ends the game.

Reti Opening

A hypermodern chess opening where White starts with the move 1.Nf3: it was named after Richard Réti, one of the world’s best players in the early 20th century.


A chess piece that can move any number of squares horizontally or vertically: each player starts with two, each worth approximately 5 pawns. Knight and Bishop is worth 3 pawns.

Rook pawn

A pawn on the files where the rooks start the game: i.e. the a or h-files.


A common tournament format where each player plays each other player: if they play once it’s a single round-robin, if twice a double round-robin, and so on.

Ruy Lopez

A chess opening, sometimes also known as the Spanish Game, which starts with the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5. It was named after the Spanish priest Ruy López de Segura, who published a monograph on it in 1561, and is still one of the most popular openings at all levels



Voluntarily giving up material (e.g. exchanging a queen for a pawn) in the hope of gaining an advantage, usually via an Attack: “sacrifice” is often shortened to “sac”.

Scandinavian Defence

The Scandinavian Defence or Centre Counter is a chess opening where Black responds to 1.e4 with 1…d5: now more popular at an amateur level, its use dates all the way back to the 15th century.

Scholar’s mate

A quick checkmate often seen in beginners’ games where White plays 1.e4 2.Qh5/f3 3.Bc4 and 4.Qxf7 mate.

Score sheet

A form where players record their own moves and those of their opponent during a game.

Scotch Game

A chess opening starting 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4, so-named after an Edinburgh team played it against a London team in a match in 1824. Although long considered harmless it was later revived by Garry Kasparov and other players struggling to get an advantage against the Ruy Lopez.

Sealed move

The final move before a game was adjourned, which a player wrote down and sealed in an envelope rather than making at the board.

Semi-closed game

A chess opening where White starts 1.d4 and Black replies with a move other than 1…d5.

Semi-open game

A chess opening where White starts 1.e4 and Black replies with a move other than 1…e5.

Sicilian Defence

A chess opening where Black responds to 1.e4 with 1…c5. This is the most popular and perhaps exciting chess opening, even if computer analysis has dented its impact at the very highest levels.

Simultaneous display

Often shortened to “simul”, this is an event where a strong player takes on a number of weaker players at the same time.


A chess tactic where one valuable piece (e.g. the king or queen) is Attacked and forced to move, exposing another piece behind it to capture: also known as an X-ray Attack.

Slav Defence

A chess opening starting with the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6. First analysed in the 16th century, it achieved prominence when it was explored by Slav chess players in the 1920s and remains very popular today.

Smothered mate

A checkmate given by a knight where the king is unable to move due to its own pieces being in the way.

Sofia rules

Tournament rules that ban players from agreeing draws with each other or limit them to doing so only in special circumstances (e.g. after move 40).


A situation where the player to move has no legal move but isn’t in check: the game ends in a draw.

Swiss tournament

An open tournament using the Swiss pairings system which tries to pair players on the same or similar score in each round



An opening position reached by more or less standard moves which is the starting point for various alternative moves or serious investigation.


A special database of all the possible chess positions with limited material on the board (currently 6-7 pieces) which can instantly give the result with perfect play from both players: such positions are considered “solved”.


Play based on the calculation of moves involving threats and Attacks with speciel technics rather than on long-term strategic considerations.


An extra move, particularly in the opening when developing pieces as fast as possible is crucial: you can “play a move with tempo” or “gain a tempo” if you make a useful move for yourself while forcing your opponent to make a move he doesn’t want to make.

Threefold repetition

A draw can be claimed if the same position occurs three times with the same player to move.

Time control

The time players are allocated for their moves during a game: it can also refer to the individual deadlines during a game, which may include multiple time controls (e.g. at move 40, then at move 60 and so on).

Time trouble

When a player struggles to make the required number of moves before his time runs out.


A rule used for most over-the-board games which states that if you touch a piece and have any legal moves with that piece then you must move it.


Getting to the same position (usually in the opening) by a different order of moves.



Promoting a pawn to a piece other than a queen: i.e. a knight, bishop or rook.



A sequence of moves that might be played: in particular this is used for options in the opening, such as the Poisoned Pawn Variation of the Sicilian Defence.



Short for the Women’s FIDE Master title.


Short for the Women’s Grandmaster title.


Short for the Women’s International Master title.

Wrong bishop

A bishop which would win (not draw) or draw (not lose) a game if it could move on the other colour of squares.


X-ray Attack

Another name for a skewer.



A German word for time trouble that is also common in English chess jargon.


When a player is forced to make a move that worsens his position.


Another name for an intermezzo.

Square names

Square Names


K = King Q = Queen B = Bishop N = Knight (K is already taken 🙂 ) R = Rook Pawn = No notation (Only field name)

!! Brilliant move, 0–0 Kingside castling, 0–0–0 Queenside castling, + = King in check, # = Checkmate, 1–0 White wins the game, 0–1 Black wins the game, 1/2–1/2 The game finished equal.

Before studying the analysis of openings you should know some opening essentials. It’s more important to know some general strategies and understand chess than knowing openings by heart.

  • Develop Pieces In an early phase of the game, the most important goal is to activate your pieces to the best squares. Do not only develop some pieces but, if possible, all – united we are strong. A kings Attack with two pieces usually will not be successful but if more and more pieces are activated, it is more likely to checkmate your opponent.
  • Center domination The player who dominates the center of the game dominates the whole game. A common goal of many openings is to control the central squares with Pawns. Other figures are placed to protect/ Attack the center so that they have a bigger impact on the game
  • Kings safety The primary objective of every game should be securing one’s king. Since the pawns are usually trying to dominate the center of the game, the king is exposed in the center squares. Therefore it is a common strategy to castle and secure the king.
  • Prevent the development of your opponent A good opening move is to mobilize one of your pieces and prevent your opponent from developing at the same time. If you are able to prevent castling it might be easier to successfully Attack the king in the center squares.

Rules of thumb

1. Dominate the center.

2.  Only move your pieces once (if possible).

3. Avoid unnecessary pawn moves.

4.  Castle (before move 10 if possible).

5. Mobilize all your pieces.

6.  Do not place your knights at the edges of the chessboard.

How to Survive the Opening

1. Make only as many pawn moves as are necessary to develop your pieces. 

Pushing pawns is great fun. People use to love to crush my opponents against the wall with a huge pawn phalanx. However, it’s not so much fun when the opponent’s pieces start to checkmate your denuded king. Two pawn moves (your d- and e-pawns) is plenty to get your forces mobilized.

2. Put all your pieces on active squares as soon as possible. 

They should have plenty of scope for further movement. Note all your pieces – not just one or two. One piece on its own doesn’t constitute an Attacking force.

3. Arrange your pieces and pawns so that your pieces are not exposed to Attack.

Obviously there is no point putting your pieces on squares where your opponent can immediately drive them back. Your pawns can help in this respect, by controlling some key squares.

4. Do not waste any time.

Any move that does nothing to increase the activity of your pieces should be regarded with suspicion. Naturally, you should respond to direct threats.

What Constitutes a “Good” Opening

To have much appeal to over-the-board players, an opening must have the following qualities:

 1. It must not lose by force.

No one likes to gamble on the opponent not having memorized the winning continuations.

2. It should not involve too much simplification.

An overly simplified position gives little scope for outplaying the opponent.

3. It should be reasonably promising.

For White, this means some hope of preserving an advantage: for Black, either equality or at worst just a small disadvantage, with some counterplay. Whether a player’s priority is equality or counterplay depends on his temperament.

Click on Eco Code or Opening Category to see the Openings and more


English Opening – Benoni Defence  Dutch Defence  King’s Indian Attack – Benko Gambit – Old Indian – Bird’s Opening


Sicilian Defence – Caro-Kann Defence – Pirc Defence – Modern Defence – Alekhines Defence – Scandinavian Defence


Ruy Lopez – French Defence – Petroff Defence – King’s Gambit – Philidor Defence – Giuoco Piano – Two Knights Defence – Scotch Game


Queen’s Gambit Declined – Queen’s Gambit Accepted – Slav Defence – Tarrasch Defence – Gruenfeld Defence – Queens Pawn


Nimzo-Indian Defence – Queen’s Indian Defence – King’s Indian Defence – Catalan Opening – Bogo-Indian Defence

How to Play Chess

Essential Chess Knowledge