I was reading this Dutch article on chess openings, which basically states the following about openings:

  • Don't play the edge pawns

  • Don't move your knight to an edge

  • Don't use one piece too often

  • Don't use your queen too soon

And the 3 golden rules:

  • Move pawns to the center

  • Develop your knights and bishops early-on

  • Castle to keep your king safe

I understand most of these, but not all of them, these are my questions:

  • Shouldn't you move your knight to an edge because of the opponents bishops?

  • Edge pawns shouldn't be played because they don't remove any obstructions?

  • Why shouldn't you use your queen early-on?

5 Answers 5


What these guidelines really point to, is to make the point that you should develop evenly, and move towards the most open space.

In some ways, a chess opening is like building a ship inside of a bottle.

  • Build in layers starting with as large a base as possible so your ship can fill the bottle (Move pawns to the center, Develop your knights and bishops early-on)

    Start from the center and fill out evenly so that there is a strong base for your king to sit in and your pieces to develop outward from. Usually this means setting up a protected e4 or d4 pawn along with the relevant supporting knight and bishop, and then moving the opposite knight and bishop out to provide protected space to grow.

  • Make sure not to start building too close to the walls of the bottle because it can limit the development of your ship (Don't play the edge pawns, Don't move your knight to an edge)

    Moving too many pieces or pawns towards the side of the board can lead to a lopsided development where there is a large cluster of pieces and pawns on one half of the board. The negative result of this is that the opponent usually controls the other half of the board, and can pawn wall your cluster which becomes very hard to maneuver around or through.

  • Avoid building too much in one place at once or else it will prevent other parts of your ship from being complete (Don't use 1 piece too often, Don't use your queen to soon)

    Often when one piece is moved too many times it is a blunder to correct a misplaced piece or to react to an opponent's superior position. Doing this only makes the situation worse. When one piece takes up too many moves in the opening it allows the opponent to get far to ahead in development. If the reason for the single piece moving so many times is in the end negated the opponent will have gained significant positional advantage.

  • 0

    Indeed, these rules seem to me being golden rules!

    • Shouldn't you move your knight to an edge because of the opponnents bishops?
    • Edge pawns shouldn't be played because they don't remove any obstructions?

    In chess opening, the main idea is to develop your pieces and control the center of the chessboard. In order to control the center, moving your knight to edges is not accurate move. Same reason for edge pawns. For example, moving your knight on f3 permits to control d4 et e5 squares.

    • Why shouldn't you use your queen early-on?

    Moreover, moving a queen early-on can be dangerous because this piece must support other pieces at the beginning of the game. And queen is kind of protected if it is behind the other pieces and not attacked by your opponent pieces development.
    However, several openings play queen early and work well (Scandinavian Defense for instance).

    • also, taking out the queen early usually allows your opponent to attack her, and while you waste moves returning her to safety, he will be developing some pieces in the process (the ones he is using to attack your queen). The queen alone can't do much, she needs support of other pieces to be dangerous
      – ajax333221
      Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 18:10
    • Did you read my answer?
      – Zistoloen
      Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 19:48
    • yes, what would make you doubt about it?, my comment expanded the queen part in a new different way; you didn't specifically talk about losing tempos when returning her to safety or that it is not dangerous at all if not supported by other pieces
      – ajax333221
      Commented Feb 21, 2013 at 23:33
    • I have talked about losing tempo: "And queen is ... not attacked by your opponent pieces development."
      – Zistoloen
      Commented Feb 22, 2013 at 10:20

    The opening is a period of time where the position is at its most dynamic. There is a ton of open space to be filled by pawns and pieces, and long term static advantages will be had by the player who best controls the center, because it gives him the space to maneuver from wing to wing later in the game, while restricting his opponents ability to do the same.

    Pieces like to operate behind their pawn chains, and flank pawn moves don't contribute to maneuverability. Typically flank pawns are used later in a game to disrupt the opponents pawn chains, to open files for major pieces, and to spear thrust at a king's pawn shield.

    Moving the knight to an edge has a double whammy negative, as it fails to support central pawns, and cuts down on the number of squares controlled by the knight. For instance, a knight on f3 projects on four squares of its opponent, and four retreat squares of his own... while a knight on h3 cuts both those numbers in half.

    Bringing a queen out too early provides your opponent with a target to develop his pawns and pieces. If your opponent is able to both attack your queen and put pieces and pawns on useful squares at the same time, they have basically been given free extra moves while you are moving your queen to prevent it from being captured.


    Your "golden rules" are "truisms," good guidelines that TEND to be true in most situations most of the time. But there are exceptions to these rules in most situations.

    A game between two world class players (Alekhine and Rubinstein) began 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 a6?

    Alekhine replied c5! even though it is (almost) never a good idea for White to release the tension in the Queen's gambit so early in the game. But Alekhine had decided (correctLy) that a6 was 1) a "wasted" move and 2) weakened b6. Then he made several more "unorthodox" moves (moving his dark-squared bishop four times in the next nine moves to provoke weaknesses), and won the game.

    Moves and move orders are established over time by experience in play. After awhile, a consensus forms that given move or series of moves is considered "best" for a variation, based on the won-loss records of players using it. That is until someone finds a new move or variation that defeats it. Which happens quite often.

    I do not believe that there is such thing as the "absolute" truth in chess, only moves that tend work better or worse.

    • 1
      Because of the 50-move rule, there are only finitely many possible chess positions. This means that in theory, chess is solvable; there is objectively a set of best moves - it is not a matter of belief or opinion. Commented Dec 21, 2014 at 17:57

    I would take issue with the claim in the question that golden rules like these general principles are true.

    For a beginner these general Nimzowitschian guidelines are a very useful guide for directing your attention towards the kind of moves you should consider first and away from moves which are likely to be less useful.

    However there will likely come a time when regarding these guidelines as strict rules which you shouldn't contemplate breaking will hold you back and leave your game stuck in a rut. John Watson wrote a very good book called "Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy" where he tries to update Nimzowitsch for the 21st century. In a follow on book called "Chess Strategy in Action" he gives lots of games and game snippets illustrating his ideas and how modern master level chess departs from the strict observance of "golden rules" like these.

    Here is one of his examples to show how moving knights to the edge of the board (and moving them lots of times before completing development) can even be good!

    [White "Serper"]
    [Black "Nenashev, Novosibirsk 1989"]
    [fen ""]
    1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 exd5 5.cxd5 d6 6.e4 g6 7.Bd3 Bg7 8.Nge2 O-O 9.O-O Ng4 10.h3 Ne5 11.Bc2 Na6 12.f4 Nc4 13.b3 Na5 14.a3 b5 15.Rb1 b4 16.Na2 bxa3 17.Bxa3 Rb8 18.Kh2 Bd7

    Amazing! Watson's point is that modern masters have moved towards a position of move independence where the dictates of the position on the board overrule any old fashioned dictums that may have provided useful guidance 100 years ago.

    So, to answer your last 3 questions:

    Sometimes it is good to move your knight or even both knights to the edge, depends on the position. A more prosaic example than the one above would be in the French Winawer where if White plays Bd2 then Nh6 can be a good move for Black even though White can play BxN breaking up Black's pawns in front of his King.

    Quite often edge pawns should be moved, usually to kick or discourage an opposing bishop. It is standard for Black to play a6 on the 3rd move of the Ruy Lopez, for instance.

    Sometimes it is not only OK to use your queen early on but even good. There are a number of black openings (like the French for instance) where Black plays an early Qc7 or Qa5.

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