There are two words used when talking about battles: TACTICS and STRATEGY.

TACTICS is to do with fighting, using weapons, things like that.

STRATEGY involved long-range planning - deciding where the different units of your army should go.

So far, you've learned a lot about TACTICS in chess - CHECKMATE, FORKS, PINS, DISCOVERED ATTACKS and things like that.

In this lesson you're going to learn something about STRATEGY.

STRATEGY means making the most of your pieces - putting them on their most effective squares.

You learned a long time ago about the values of the pieces.

In fact these are not very accurate. On the whole, Bishops are worth a bit more than 3 points and Queens a bit more than 9 points.

But these are only averages, anyway. How much pieces are REALLY worth depends on how effectively they are placed.

If you put your pieces on more effective squares than your opponent then you'll find that that the TACTICS work in your favor.

The big mistake that most kids make is to play moves just because they create a THREAT.

Or, even worse, play moves just because they're CHECKS.

In this position, White's CHECK is totally useless: Black will just play c7-c6 and force the Bishop to retreat.

If you've got this far in the course you're a strong player. You don't need to play like that.

You'll have no difficulty beating opponents who overlook simple threats.

Effective squares for pieces are squares that could be described as both SAFE and STRONG.

This is something you've seen before.

Let's go through and explain it again.

White's just moved his Knight to g5.

On this square the Knight is certainly STRONG - there is a BIG THREAT to f7.

But it's not SAFE - Black can meet the threat easily by castling and then drive the Knight back by playing h7-h6.

So Nf3-g5 is not a good move.

On the other hand, moving the Bishop to g5 IS a good move.

It's a STRONG square, PINNING the Knight on f6 and planning Nc3-d5 if Black castles.

Although g5 is not a SAFE square for a Knight, it IS a safe square for a Bishop.

If Black plays h6-h6 White has a choice: he can play Bg5xf6, and if Qd8xf6, Nc3-d5, gaining time by THREATENING the Queen and the Pawn on c7.

Or he could play Bg5-h4, when if Black drives back the Bishop again with g7-g5 he weakens his King-side pawn position.

But in this position it's correct to move the Knight to g5 - for TACTICAL reasons.

The Knight creates an unanswerable THREAT - 0-0 is met by Qd1-h5 and White's winning.

So if you can play a move that WINS MATERIAL WHATEVER THE OPPONENT DOES you should do so.

But you should beware of playing moves that THREATEN to win material, but allow your opponent to drive your piece back once he's met the threat.

Now let's look at some positions involving QUEENS in the Opening.

This is the position after the moves 1. e2-e4 e7-e5 2. d2-d4 e5xd4 3. Qd1xd4 - the CENTER GAME. How can Black gain time in this position?

Yes, Black can gain time by THREATENING the White Queen: Nb8-c6 and the Queen has to move again.

This isn't a BAD opening for White but Black has no real problem getting an equal position, so we wouldn't really recommend that you play it.

Our next example is very different, though.

This position looks very similar, but in fact it's very different.

It comes from the SCOTCH GAME. 1. e2-e4 e7-e5 2. Ng1-f3 Nb8-c6 3. d2-d4 e5xd4 4. Nf3xd4 Nc6xd4 5. Qd1xd4.

In this position Black cannot gain time by attacking the Queen with a developing move, so White has a big advantage.

From what you've learned about PAWN FORMATIONS you know that c7-c5 would not be a good idea because Black would be left with a BACKWARD PAWN on a HALF-OPEN FILE.

Black could play Ng8-e7 and then Ne7-c6 but he'll be losing time himself and White will still have an advantage in the center.

By the way, what would you play if Black played Ng8-f6, giving this position?

Yes, what you should do here is play e4-e5 which leaves the Black Knight in a difficult situation - the only safe square is g8 as Nf6-h5 loses the Knight after g2-g4. Black could also play c7-c5 first, but that also, as we've seen, has its disadvantages.

Do get used to this idea of using your center pawns to drive back enemy Knights - the idea comes up over and over again.

The same thing can happen the other way round as well.

Here's the position after 1. e2-e4 d7-d5 2. e4xd5 Qd8xd5 (The CENTER COUNTER or SCANDINAVIAN DEFENSE).

Here again White can gain time by playing Nb1-c3.

This opening's not too bad for Black, though. Black usually plays Qd5-a5 here, eyeing the White King.

But again our next example is different.

This position arises after the moves 1. e2-e4 d7-d5 2. e4xd5 Ng8-f6 (another variation of the SCANDINAVIAN DEFENSE) 3. Nb1-c3 Nf6xd5 4. Nc3xd5 Qd8xd5.

Again, White's fourth move was poor and Black already has the advantage.

In one game from this position White played b2-b3, preparing Bc1-b2 and maybe hoping to gain time by THREATENING the Queen with Bf1-c4 at some point in the future.

Here's the position. What do you think Black played in this position?

Just because this is a STRATEGY lesson it doesn't mean there won't be any TACTICS questions!!

You have to watch out for TACTICS all the time, and, don't forget, good things happen to kids who put their pieces on good squares.

And bad things happen to kids who put their opponent's pieces on good squares!

Yes, it's yet another QUEEN FORK - and the Rook on a1 will die next move.

Now let's take a look at ROOKS.

ROOKS like nothing better than OPEN FILES - FILES with no PAWNS on them.

Control of an OPEN FILE can easily be enough to win you the game.

It follows that, when Rooks are opposed on an OPEN FILE, as in this position, it's usually a mistake to trade Rooks, unless you can occupy the OPEN FILE again straight away.

This position is completely equal. But if White exchanges Rooks Black will have the advantage because he controls the OPEN FILE.

This position is almost SYMMETRICAL. The only difference is that White's Rook is on an OPEN FILE - and it's his move.

What should he play?

This is what you do with Rooks.

You control the OPEN FILE, then you move it down to the 7th RANK and start eating all your opponent's pawns.

In this case it's also a ROOK FORK - White will pick up his first extra pawn next move.

If you think one Rook on the 7th rank is good, what about TWO ROOKS?! Select a move for White here.

Note that two Rooks can move to d7. If you want to move from d1 to d7 enter Rdd7. If you want to move from c7 to d7 enter Rcd7.

Just take a look at the position with TWO ROOKS on the seventh rank!

White's certainly going to win a few pawns - and he'll also create mating threats against the Black King.

Now we move on to BISHOPS.

You remember this position, from the DANISH GAMBIT?

If you've tried playing games from this position you'll remember how strong those Bishops are, sitting on adjacent diagonals.

Like Rooks, Bishops are LINE PIECES who like OPEN LINES - in this case OPEN DIAGONALS.

If there's a piece in the way, that doesn't matter, but Bishops usually don't like being stuck behind pawns.

And they work especially well together, just like in this diagram.

OK - quick quiz about developing BISHOPS.

If White wants to move his Bishop here which move should he play?

Bf1-e2 Bf1-d3

Bf1-c4 Bf1-b5

Going through the options in turn:

Bf1-e2 is possible but PASSIVE. Black often develops a Bishop on e7, but White can look for a more active square.

Bf1-d3 is a poor move - the Bishop is blocked in by the Pawn on e4.

Bf1-c4 is fine - the BISHOP'S OPENING.

Bf1-b5 is a waste of time - Black can use a CENTER PAWN to drive back the Bishop - c7-c6.

Different position - same question, though?

Bf1-e2 Bf1-d3

Bf1-c4 Bf1-b5

Again, we'll look at each move in turn.

Just like last time, Bf1-e2 is possible - but you could choose a more active square.

This time Bf1-d3 is excellent, posting the Bishop on an OPEN DIAGONAL.

Bf1-c4 is not now an option - it just puts the Bishop where it can be taken.

And again Bf1-b5+ is a waste of time. Yes, it's CHECK, but so what? Black can just play c7-c6 (a useful move anyway) and the Bishop has to move again.

Now take a look at this position.

You'll soon learn that this, like the previous example, comes from the FRENCH DEFENSE.

This is a popular opening for Black, but there is one problem. His Bishop on c8 is stuck behind the his center pawns. It won't be very easy to find anything very useful to do with it.

A Bishop stuck behind its pawns in this way is called a BAD BISHOP.

Compare this Bishop with White's light squared Bishop on f1. If he can keep it on, say, d3, it will be very strongly placed, pointing at Black's king side.

So, in this opening, White will be trying to keep the light squared bishops on the board, while Black will be trying to exchange them off.

A few words of advice about Bishops.

Bishops like OPEN POSITIONS where Pawns have been traded in the center.

Bishops especially like OPEN DIAGONALS.

If your center pawns are blocked, try to exchange off the Bishop that's stuck behind the pawns.

If you have only ONE BISHOP left - as far as you can, KEEP YOUR PAWNS ON THE OPPOSITE COLOR SQUARES.

One of the most interesting things about chess is that there are two pieces - BISHOPS AND KNIGHTS - of similar value but very different moves.

BISHOPS, as we've seen, like OPEN POSITIONS - positions where there have been pawn exchanges in the center.

KNIGHTS, on the other hand, like CLOSED POSITIONS - positions where the pawns have been blocked in the center.

On average, BISHOPS are worth a little bit more than KNIGHTS.

So, unless the position is blocked, try not to exchange a Bishop for a Knight without a very good reason. A typical example of a good reason might be to double your opponent's pawns.

What Knights like more than anything else are OUTPOSTS.

An OUTPOST is a square in, or close to, enemy territory, which is protected by a friendly pawn and cannot be attacked by an enemy pawn.

A strong OUTPOST for a Knight can easily be enough to win you the game.

Let's see how much you understand about OUTPOSTS.

All I want you to do here is to tell me on which square WHITE has an OUTPOST - a square in enemy territory which is protected by a friendly pawn and can never be attacked by an enemy pawn.

Correct - White has an OUTPOST on d5. With this pawn formation White should try to keep a Knight on that square.

In a position such as this the Knight is ESPECIALLY STRONG.

Unless you have a VERY GOOD REASON you should never exchange it for Black's BAD BISHOP on e7.

Notice that Black has a BACKWARD PAWN on a HALF-OPEN FILE.

Same thing again - where is White's OUTPOST in this position?

On which square would he like to place a Knight?

Here's the position - see just how strong the White Knight is on e6.

A Knight on an outpost such as this can sometimes be as strong as a Rook.

So always look out for OUTPOSTS for your Knights.

The way to think about Knights, even more than other pieces, is to think first about which square you would like to put them on, and then work out the best route to get there.

Finally, let's test your judgement about MINOR PIECES - BISHOPS and KNIGHTS.

Who has the better MINOR PIECE in this position?

White Black

Don't know Don't care

In this position WHITE has the better MINOR PIECE.

In an OPEN position where the center pawns have been exchanged BISHOPS are better than KNIGHTS.

Why not try playing on from this position yourself and see what happens?

Another position for you.

Who has the better MINOR PIECE here?

White Black

Don't know Don't care

This time the White KNIGHT is better than the Black BISHOP.

White's KNIGHT is on a OUTPOST, while Black has a BAD BISHOP stuck behind his pawns.

Again, play out the position and see whether you can win it with White.

And your final question.

Who has the better MINOR PIECE this time?

White Black

Don't know Don't care

This time it's BLACK who has the advantage.

He has a GOOD BISHOP while WHITE has a BAD BISHOP.

Once again, play a game from this position and see what the result it.


You have now completed the CHESS STRATEGY: PIECES assignment.