Let us suppose I am a chess beginner. I often lose my games. Well, it depends on the opponent but generally I can hardly win. My problem is I do not know what I should do with my knights.

Usually chess textbooks or people whom I asked for advice tell me, "You must develop your knights very early in the game; it's necessary for castling." After that, they don't give any more useful information.

I simply do not know what to do after I castled... For example, I've played 1. e4 2. Nf3 3. Bc4 4. 0-0. After that, I am stuck. A few times, I tried to be brave and to advance my knight forward in hope of giving a smothered checkmate, but I always had to encounter the opponent's queen, which is extremely powerful. Returning my knight to initial square doesn't make any sense for me. And not making any further moves with my knight seems to be pretty stupid as well.

4 Answers 4


The knights don't necessarily move beyond the third rank in the opening. The middlegame is more variable and depends on the opening, but I think the main "rule" you need to remember is that knights, being slow pieces, work best when they are supported. You generally should avoid advancing a knight unprotected, where it could be lost to a tactic. The best support for a knight is a pawn, but also you don't want your knight to be "kicked back" by an enemy pawn (unless that move would be bad for your opponent for some other reason), so the ideal square for a knight is an outpost, which quoting the Wikipedia definition is "a square on the fourth, fifth, sixth, or seventh rank which is protected by a pawn and which cannot be attacked by an opponent's pawn."

One more thing to consider is that, if you castle short, the f3 knight also has an important defensive role since it defends the h2 pawn, which is often a target of attack. That doesn't mean you can never move the knight, but you should be wary when there are enemy pieces threatening that pawn. A famous attacking pattern known as the "Greek gift" begins by sacrificing a bishop for the h2 pawn (or h7 against Black, of course!).


Think pawn breaks. A pawn break is when you move one of your pawns so that it can be captured by an opponent's pawn. They are what changes a position, what opens lines, etc.

After 1.e4 e5, those two pawns block each other. You can move a few pieces out, but that ends soon -- you need a pawn break, either d2-d4 or f2-f4. All openings following 1.e4 e5 try to achieve one or the other.

If you play 2.Nf3, then you go for d2-d4, either on the next move or after further preparation.

After 2.Nc3, it's more logical to aim for f2-f4.

If you play both either you go for d2-d4 or have to play a much slower game and then eventually go for d2-d4 anyway.


Short answer: You wait! You don't move them again until you develop more pieces unless for good reasons. Such reasons usually involve captures in the center after pawn breaks.

The nights there are already active pieces doing their share of the game. Nf3 puts pressure on e5 and d4 squares. Nc3 eyes d5 and e4. These are the four central squares and of utmost importance. Thus, having the knights exert pressure there is a good idea.

As an amateur, begin to see where your pieces apply influence, rather than to where they are sitting!


The most general opening goals are

  1. Develop your knights and bishops (all of them, usually N before B)
  2. Castle
  3. Move the queen and connect your rooks

At which point the opening stage is done and it is now middle game.

You might want to learn some particular opening lines (eg Italian/Sicilian) and memorize and understand the first few moves. If you are at a loss, try to achieve the above opening goals before going on something adventurous.

  • partially agree, you have to work on control of the center as well, actually 1.develop all pieces 2.control center(at least some(may be indirect)) 3.King safety(not mandatory by castling)
    – Drako
    Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 7:43
  • No bad advice, but completely fails to answer the question, which specifically asks for the next step(s) after the initial development moves.
    – Annatar
    Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 8:19
  • @Annatar, I don't agree. OP said "1. e4 2. Nf3 3. Bc4 4. 0-0. After that, I am stuck." So the next steps are, according to this answer, to develop your other knight and bishop, move the Q.
    – jf328
    Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 11:06
  • @jf328 I might be repeating the question's title here, but OP wants to know what do with the knights after they have been developed to c3/f3, i.e., what are they supposed to do after your checklist has been ticked off? Again, the list isn't wrong. You just stopped too early there.
    – Annatar
    Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 12:42

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