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Here you are in your journey to become a strong Chess player. You know how pieces are moving. Also, you have already learnt many tactical patterns, (like the fork, the discovered attack and so many others). You even know how to deliver a basic checkmate with the Queen or with the Rook. Opening principles are still unknown territories for you.

To sum up, you are starting to feel relatively comfortable with every aspect of the game, but there is still one puzzling question: How to start a game ?

You may be confused as there are so many possible moves to start with. That’s why I am going to give you a few practical keys to deal efficiently with the opening. The opening phase is part of the game in which you have to maintain a subtle balance between:

  • Space (how to control the chessboard and in particular the center)
  • Material (which pieces should you develop and how)
  • Time (how to develop pieces and put your King to safety as fast as possible)

This article is about principles linked to space in the opening. There is one thing crucial in particular: getting a good control of the center of the board.

If you play as White, a simple and sound first move is to open with either the “e” or “d” pawn, these pawns stake a claim in the centre. Note that there are many other possible (and very good !) moves to start with, but they are probably trickier and cannot be recommended to the complete beginner. We are looking here for simple solutions in the opening.

The other possibility for White is 1. d4

Now the question is: what to play as Black ? You would actually be surprised by the number of good answers to either d4 or e4, and when you are more experienced, I invite you to study in details some chess openings. My piece of advice to you: on the first move, play symmetrical ! This is a very safe and sound answer. But please remember that it just works for the first move !

Now, we have discussed about the pawns. Time to speak about the piece that often goes next after one or two pawns have been pushed: the Knight. Controlling the center without the Knights is a challenge: you need to move you Knights early to support your central pawns. But where to move them ?

Put your Knights in the center when possible: they control more squares and thus have a greater influence.

Another point needs to be highlighted: Always try to keep at least one pawn in the center of the chessboard. The following example shows how neglecting the center can lead to a bad position.

To sum up on the first principles of space in the opening:

  • Control the center with your pawns and your light pieces.
  • Move either the e or d pawn first.
  • Support your pawns with the Knights.

in the next article, we are going to see how to develop each pieces to their best squares in the opening and finally our last lesson for beginners will be how to develop quickly and get a safe King in the opening.

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