To win at chess you need to know your openings, be good at tactics and chess strategy, and be ready to play any kind of endgame.
How to win chess games is one of the first questions every beginner chess player asks.
The beauty of chess is that within its richness and complexity, there are many ways to win. This is what makes it suitable for players of many different playing styles to learn how to win a chess game.
What is important to remember is how to win chess games is not very complicated.
Chess is challenging because your opponent is following his own method on how to win chess games.
There is also the advantage for white of having the first move. Since players with the black pieces have won games, this is not an insurmountable advantage.
Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
How to Win Chess Openings
In the following video, GM Axel Delorme uses a classic example of why pawn hunting in the opening can be a horrible idea. Enjoy this excellent game played between Aaron Nimzovitch and Semyon Alapin.
Ask any chess coach how you should invest your training time, and they will invariably tell you to focus on the middlegame and endgame. This is where you learn how to win a chess game.
Still, before you reach the middlegame or endgame, you must know how to safely navigate the opening.
There are general guidelines to help you learn how to win chess openings:
- Control of the center, either with pieces or pawns, is crucial.
- Develop as many of your pieces as quickly as you can.
- Don’t move the same piece multiple times in the chess opening.
- Keep your pawn moves to a minimum. Six in the first fourteen moves of the game is a good guideline.
- Get your king to safety by castling early in the game.
- Avoid going pawn hunting in the opening.
Understand When and Why to Break the Rules
Always keep in mind that these general rules can be broken. For example, in the Alekhine Defense, black can move the same knight for the first three moves – 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.c4 Nb6 5.d4
Understanding why you are breaking the classical rules of the opening will help you learn how to win at chess. In the Alekhine Defense, black’s strategy is to attack white’s advanced pawns.
When learning how to win at chess, it’s best to pick a solid and straightforward chess opening. Avoid openings with a lot of theory because you will need to invest more time to learn how to win chess openings.
The Italian Opening and the Four Knights Opening are good openings for beginners learning how to win chess openings to play with white.
The Caro-Kann Defense is a good defense against 1.e4. You can further reduce the time you spend learning how to win chess openings by combining it with the Slav Defense against 1.d4.
Playing …c6 and …d5 is an excellent, universal opening system. No matter how white starts the game, you can use similar strategies in the opening.
The simpler you can keep learning how to win a chess game the better.
Memorization Is Not Enough When Learning Chess Openings
You won’t learn how to win chess openings by memorizing moves alone.
The danger with this approach is if your opponent plays a sideline or a move that isn’t part of opening theory.
Understanding your opening strategy or plans is crucial in learning how to win chess openings. Learn why a piece goes to a particular square.
The f3 square is often the best square for white to place his knight because it controls the e5 and d4 squares – two of the four center squares.
However, if white plays g3 and Bg2, it can be more advantageous to play Ne2. The knight on e2 doesn’t block the bishop on g2.
In the Nimzo-Indian Defense white can play Ne2 to avoid double pawns if black plays Bxc3.
Understanding why a piece is placed on a specific square is essential when learning how to win chess openings.
Another essential part of learning an opening is knowing how to punish your opponent when he breaks these guidelines.
Learning how to win a chess game means recognizing mistakes made by your opponent and punishing them.
You might remember grabbing pawns in the opening is terrible, but you must know how to punish your opponent or else you will simply be a pawn down.
How to Win Chess Middlegames
Knowing your plan for the game before the game starts is essential when learning how to win chess games.
When playing with an isolated queen pawn, your plan is a lot different from the plan you have if you open with a double-fianchetto. Both are effective openings; you can learn how to win a chess game from either one.
Understanding the different pawn structures and the plans that go with them will help you learn how to win chess middlegames.
In an isolated queen pawn opening, you gain easy development for your pieces at the cost of a weak pawn structure. If you are a player who likes to play positions without weaknesses, then this is not the middlegame you want.
Chess is challenging enough without putting yourself in a position that makes it harder for you to learn how to win a chess game. There are many other pawn structures you can choose from.
Pawn structures are essential while learning how to win chess middlegames. The more familiar you are with the plans based on your chosen structures, the better your winning chances become.
Two Strategies to Help You Learn How to Win Chess Middlegames
There are two very effective strategies you can use in chess middlegames:
- Playing against bad pieces
Prophylaxis is a strategy you can employ with great success while learning how to win a chess middlegame.
Understanding why you are placing your pieces on certain squares tells half the story.
You need to know why your opponent moves a piece to a particular square to get a complete picture of the game.
Remember, prophylaxis is a strategy you can apply from the start of the game and help you learn how to win chess openings. The more you practice, the sooner this will become one of your good chess habits and you will learn how to win a chess game.
Many of your opponents will become demoralized if you keep stopping their plans. They are more likely to make mistakes in such a frame of mind.
Take Advantage of Bad Pieces
Every chess player very soon hears the term “bad bishop” and “good bishop.” What few are taught is how to use exchanges to take advantage of a bad bishop.
When you have identified a bad piece in your opponent’s position, exchange his other pieces. The closer you get to the endgame, the more significant the impact on the game.
Piece activity is crucial in all phases of the game. Keeping your pieces active is essential while learning how to win chess middlegames.
When you have an idle piece or one out of play, you give your opponent a significant advantage! Constantly check on your pieces to make sure they are playing active roles.
If you identify one of your pieces as a bad piece, try to improve it or exchange it. Learning to use all your pieces when attacking is essential while learning how to win chess games.
In the following video, former world champion Anatoly Karpov shows how to take advantage when your opponent has a bad bishop. There is nobody better than Karpov to show you how to win chess games by taking advantage of bad pieces.
How to Win Chess Endgames
Jose Raul Capablanca, world chess champion from 1921-1927, famously said, “To improve at chess, you should in the first instance study the endgame.”
There can be very little doubt that if you learn how to win chess endgames, you will have the advantage over many of your opponents.
Several games played between chess grandmasters have been lost because of mistakes in the endgame. If grandmasters struggle in the endgame, think about how challenging this part of the game is for your opponents.
Fortunately, you don’t have to learn a lot to know more about how to win chess endgames than your opponents. Learning the basics of endgame play is an excellent start to understanding how to win chess endgames.
Lay a solid foundation for your chess development with the help of GM Susan Polgar, 4 times Women’s World Chess Champion.
Must-Know Endgame Knowledge
The essential knowledge you need includes:
- basic checkmates – for example, how to checkmate with two rooks or two bishops, king and queen, king and rook,
- king and pawn endgames
- queen endgames,
- rook and pawn endgames
- minor piece endgames.
A chess engine can help you learn how to win chess endgames. You can improve your technique when it comes to basic checkmates by playing against the engine.
You will often find yourself playing the endgame with little time on the clock in a blitz or rapid game. In such situations, you will be glad you practiced chess endgames against the chess engine.
Although we would like to learn how to win chess endgames, this knowledge can help you save a game. When you are down material in the middlegame, you can look to transition to an endgame you know how to draw.
Learn more about how to win chess endgames from GM Alex Delorme in this video, where he explains how to play rook endgames.
Learning how to win chess games is not difficult. Acquiring the skills you need and applying them to the board is the greatest challenge!
The easy way to learn how to win chess games is to adopt a safety-first approach. Instead of trying to make every attack end in checkmate, be content with gaining small advantages.
No matter what your level or playing style, work on improving your tactical skills.
Tactics occur in all three phases of the game. Even if you prefer playing a positional game to win the game, you will need to attack.
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