Do and don’ts in chess? (General guideline that works)

Some of the things that you need to do in a chess game are to control the center, develop the pieces, castle early, avoiding moving the same piece twice, and ruining your pawn structure.

This is obvious, at least for those that have been playing chess for a long time.

As anyone who’s just starting to learn has told you it is not easy to learn the game. There are so many things to consider and a lot of trips can disable your progress which slumps the way.

I want you to learn as fast as possible to the best of your potential by providing a clear guideline of what to do and not to do.

I know that sounds confusing but let me explain further throughout this article. You will learn some basic rudimentary stuff that should help you understand what chess is all about (what to do and not to do), let’s start.

What you should do in the opening?

In the opening phase of chess your primary objective should be controlling the center of the board, developing your pieces, and castling as early as possible.

The center of the board is the juiciest area at the early stages due to its potential to unleash all the pieces’ capabilities. It’s has a wider space than the edges that makes anything inside it (pieces/pawns) very influential.

This is why it’s important for you to start controlling the center at this particular moment in time (placing your pawn/pieces near it). You can actually see this as a recurring pattern in games of the experienced players, where they are giving their all for such space.

Of course this is not the primary determinant of who will win the game, just a good guideline to follow that will make things a little bit easier.

Another idea is developing your pieces as much as possible with the least amount of moves. All the pieces in particular early in the game are enclosed in their cage of pawns, where they have to be activated to perform their role.

You don’t want to have them sitting in there for too long since they won’t be doing that much. That is why you need to let them out of the cage to make them realize their full potential.

I recommend developing the Knight as the priority, then the bishop and so on since those are the easiest one to mobilize (in order).

Lastly, a very good practice is castling whenever there’s an opportunity to do so. It will make your own king secure from any line of attack from the center (since that is where most of the pieces will be at).

This again is something that you will notice from matches of experienced players which talks about its essentiality. It’s just easier to accomplish your agendas when not worrying about the safety of your own King.

What are the don’ts of the opening?

Some things to avoid in the opening are moving the same piece twice, activating the queen early, and pushing any of the side pawns.

Do not move the same piece twice, you defeat the purpose of activating as many pieces as you can. Instead you should seek to develop pieces that are inactive instead of those already are.

The more the merrier they say which is absolutely true, the more pieces that are out more things they can accomplish. This would let you head straight to the middle game where a lot of possible combinations can occur.

You don’t want to just go back to the starting position all over again.

Another idea is don’t activate your queen too early since that will just help in the development of your enemy pieces. If your enemy pieces attack your early activated queen then it will inevitably lose tempo.

While you are busy moving your queen back and forth they are already getting the pieces active ready for combinations. Don’t get me wrong it is very important to develop your queen but not in the early phase.

Save that for the middle game where the queen truly shines anyway.

Lastly for the don’ts you should avoid pushing any of the side pawns at any cost. I’m talking about the a-file and h-file pawns since those will break any structure you could use to castle kingside or queenside.

First, it limits your option and tells your opponent where they can start the attack (since you’re likely castle on the opposite side). Second, it’s just a bad move since it doesn’t control the center nor develop any pieces.

It can even be considered as a troll move or just something to intimidate opponent with. So stay away from those early side pushes.

What you should do in the middle game?

The things that you should do with the middlegame are identifying the weaknesses of your opponent’s position, finding opportunities for attacks, and trading into a winning endgame.

Identifying the weakness in your opponent’s position and exploiting them is pretty important since this is the place where a lot of things are happening. It contain a weak pawn, unhinged King, or a pinned Knight whatever it is.

The point is you should look for the things to take advantage of or provoke them if there aren’t any. This constitutes the majority of what the middlegame is about, both players pressing for each other’s weaknesses.

While doing this you should also find opportunities for attacks if the position allow such a thing to occur. Take note though that you shouldn’t attack if the chance is not really there (most beginners lose by forcing things).

But playing passively is just as dangerous as being too aggressive, you should go on the attack if the position calls for it. The reason that most top games finishes in the endgame is not because no one wants to attack, it’s because mistakes rarely occur in their level to do so.

After having some sort of an advantage (material gain/positional superiority) you should simplify by trading pieces and heading into the endgame. If you stay in the middle game it will just give your enemy some chances to actually equalize.

It is much easier to convert a winning endgame than a middlegame since there are less pieces. A trademark of a good player is being able to force such trades.

This naturally comes with experience and some steady practice on your own part, you can watch some top games too as a sort of supplement.

What are the don’ts of the middlegame?

Playing passively with the pieces, moving the King into dangerous areas, and performing surface-level calculations are things you should avoid in the middlegame.

Do not play passively (positioning pieces in less optimal squares) this is just not a recipe to success, in fact it is the opposite. I give this advice to people that plays really safe avoiding any risk along the way.

The problem with this is your opponents are very unlikely to make a mistake enough to cost them to lose the game. You can’t expect anything that big if you don’t take opportunities when they arises.

Another that you shouldn’t do is moving your King into dangerous areas where there’s potential for current and future attacks. The game end when the King gets checkmated so you should really take good care of it.

If there are a lot of breakthroughs possible (through the pawns) then maybe it is safer to keep the king in its castled position. Consequently if the King’s current position is very intimidating then maybe it is time to move (we just want to secure the king).

Lastly, you should avoid sacrifices that have a surface-level calculation, or those that give up material without that much backing into it. Sacrifices are just really dedicated decisions that should require some level of justification.

If the sacrifice doesn’t amount to anything significant you almost certainly would lose the game. This is why it is important to perform a deeper analysis in such cases to avoid regretting some things later on.

What you should do in the end game?

In the endgame you should prioritize activating your King as much as possible, creating passed pawns and pushing them, and having a solid pawn structure.

Activating your King as much as possible is really important since it raises its value significantly at this stage of the game. The King is incredibly powerful at defending and escorting passed pawns that can be promoted to a queen.

This phase is where there are not that many pieces left, making the king itself a useful asset. Plus the king is unlikely to get checkmated anyway since there aren’t that many pieces that can do so.

You should also try to create passed pawns and push them since those have the ability to bring back a Queen. Such pawns are the tiebreakers that mostly determine who can win the game (since they are so important).

Lastly, keeping a solid pawn structure definitely helps in increasing the likelihood of creating passed pawns. Of course, you don’t always have control over the type of pawn structure you will eventually have,

But the endgame especially will present those opportunities where you can choose from, and you should go for the one that will keep things intact. It’s just easier when there’s a limited amount of weak pawns and everything is not all over the place

What are the don’ts of the endgame?

In the endgame here are the things you shouldn’t allow:  have any of the pieces to remain passive, letting the enemy rook infiltrate the position, or concede the opponent a passed pawn and be able promote them.

The endgame just like any other phase of the match caters to the activity of the pieces since those would be the ones doing the work. Being passive at this point mostly means staying on the edges of the board with the endgame pieces (queen endgames are not that common).

So you shouldn’t allow any of your pieces to remain passive since this is the most important part (this determines the winner), it just makes sense to activate your pieces just like you should do in any other phase.

Just as you want your pieces to be as productive as possible, you need to keep the opponent’s pieces from becoming the same. Specifically you don’t want the enemy’s rooks to infiltrate the position since that is the one which will cause the most problems.

Lastly, your opponent would be happy to push the pawn and get a Queen for themselves (from a passed pawn). You don’t want your opponent to accomplish this since it would definitely mean losing the game.

Final thoughts

Frankly, there are many guidelines that could possibly fit a beginner more than I could express in just one post. But it definitely helps in advancing someone to start playing decently as fast as they can.

It will naturally take time to master all of these ideas though, but you should be on track by following this.

Play some games if you aren’t already doing it since that is perhaps what’s missing. Sleep well and play chess.