I am a novice player who is trying to brush up on the core principles for successful chess.

Instead of focusing on specific openings in the beginnings of a game, I am trying to play to certain principles, namely:

  • Control of the centre by a combination of pawn and minor pieces.
  • Early development of minor pieces
  • Not losing momentum, or hindering development, by having to move the same piece twice.

Specfic Problem: I am currently having trouble with tripping over myself by moving pieces in the way of each other so that I end up not adequately defending pieces, or defending pieces come under attack. I often lose a pawn in the center which I was trying to defend, i.e. I failed in taking a square I wished to hold (d4, e4). This tends to happen by a pawn being taken and then the attacker pawn is defended by another pawn, so that my developed minor pieces can't retake without losing material in the exchange. So I think I might be pushing forward too early with my pawns. (I usually move e4, then some variation of knights, then bishop. I also don't know where to place my bishops (the only places I know for tactical/strategic advantage are pinning an opponent's minor piece against queen or king, or to aim them at the opponents weakest square (f2, f7).

General questions: Are there any other early-game principles? What order do you generally develop? How many turns does it take you to make a push for the centre? What squares do you move your minor pieces to for strategic or tactical opportunity?

  • 3
    Welcome to the site. Do you have an example or two that you could share of things going wrong as you described in your specific problem? Seeing exactly how things unfold might help others provide advice.
    – ETD
    Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 2:44
  • 2
    I think you have a great question (and you are on the right path), but it is a bit open ended very difficult to answer in this limited space. If you want a set of simplified / humorous guidelines aimed at beginners, my brother threw this list together a while back, which may be helpful since he often goes into the rationale behind each statement.
    – Daniel B
    Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 14:07

3 Answers 3


You can probably benefit greatly by improving your tactical calculation. Doing some exercises on chesstempo.com will help you get used to calculating out those exchanges. What you are describing seems like a tactical issue and generally can't be addressed using strategic ideas.

That said, a good way to avoid those difficulties may be to specialize in some less complicated openings until you get comfortable with the tactics that appear in the opening. Maybe the London System (1. d4 ... 2. Nf3 ... 3. Bf4) for white and the Center Counter Defense for black (1. e4 d5). Both have some traps, but there are less to deal with.

Personally, those are the two openings I liked to use to get "used" to chess without having to really deal with the openings much. Especially if you are a more strategic, positional player, these two openings should feel pretty natural.


Aron Nimzowitsch's book My System has more early game principles which give excellent guidance. Two important ones which would help you fix your problems are:

  • Over protection. If you over protect your central pawns then you aren't going to lose them

  • Prophylaxis. This means trying to anticipate your opponent's plans and good moves and trying to prevent them. This starts by asking yourself after every move of your opponent "Why did he do that?" It is an important step to becoming a better player.


You've given the basic opening principles. Another you might add is early castling to safeguard your king. Also connecting your rooks (by getting the queen out of the way, to c2, d2 or e2 as conditions dictate) ) and moving them to files that are or are about to be open, generally the "d" and "e" or possibly "c" files. Knights before bishops is a good rule, since as you indicate it's sometimes hard to know right away the best square for the bishop. As far as pawns are concerned, if you open with e4, your goal is to ultimately play d4 safely and vice versa. I'd complete my development first before worrying about additional pawn moves though. Hard to give a general answer about pieces getting in each other's way, but I'd say you just have to anticipate your opponent's replies before you move to avoid those. Additional experience should help with that situation. Part of the charm of chess is that there's always more to learn.

  • The original question is almost three years old - presumably he has learned a lot since then!
    – intx13
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 23:09

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