If one piece is badly placed, your whole game is bad.
- Siegbert Tarrasch, chess master at the turn of the twentieth century.
Strategy in chess is the overall art of forming a plan. A quote from the second World Champion, Emmanuel Lasker, goes, "A bad plan is better than no plan at all." This simply means that the ability to plan and make decisions about what the position calls for is one of the most important parts of playing great chess. Remember: it is not what you call for, it is what the position calls for.
Modern-day chess strategy was, in a sense, discovered by the scientific thinker Wilhelm Steinitz, who was also the first World Champion. This method of evaluating a position, and then making a plan based on this evaluation, was developed in the 19th century. Steinitz's idea was that chess was divided into positional elements, which are listed here:
- 1. Development
- 2. Mobility
- 3. The center
- 4. The positions of the kings
- 5. Weak and strong squares
- 6. Pawn structure
- 7. Queenside pawn majority
- 8. Open lines
- 9. Minor pieces
These elements were further developed by later thinkers like Nimzowitsch, Capablanca and Alekhine, who all made their own contribution to the strategy of the game. Capablanca said himself, in his instructive, timeless, and quintessential primer, Chess Fundamentals, that "in chess the tactics may change but the strategic fundamental principles are always the same, so that Chess Fundamentals is as good now as it was thirteen years ago.... It will be as good a hundred years from now; as long in fact as the laws and rules of the game remain what they are at present." This means that, while openings go in and out of style, and tactics may be refuted, basic chess strategy will always remain the same. It doesn't matter which opening you play, or what style you play in; the rules of chess strategy will always be helpful.
Steinitz's Four Rules of Strategy
- 1. The right to attack belongs to the side that has a positional advantage, which not only has the right to attack, but the obligation to do so, else the advantage will evaporate. The attack should be concentrated on the weakest square in the opponent's position.
- 2. If in an inferior position, the defender should be ready to defend and make compromises, or take other measures, such as a desperate counterattack.
- 3. In an equal position, the opponents should maneuver, trying to achieve a position in which they have an advantage. If both sides play correctly, an equal position will remain equal.
- 4. The advantage may be a big, indivisible one, or it may be a whole series of small advantages. The goal of the stronger side is to store up the advantages, and then to convert temporary advantages into permanent ones.
Using this Wikibook
This Wikibook assumes that the reader understands the rules of chess and algebraic notation. While it is up to the reader whether he/she should continue further from here, this book lays the foundation for all great chessplayers, as described above.
- Alburt, Lev and Palatnik, Semyon. Chess Strategy for the Tournament Player. New York, NY: Chess Information and Research Center, 2000.
- Capablanca, Jose Raul. Chess Fundamentals. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1921.