best chess moves for beginners in the opening middlegame and endgame yt preview
Best chess moves for beginners in the opening, middlegame and endgame

This guide will help beginners choose the best chess moves along their path to victory!

All three phases of the game are covered. After a sound start, you will be able to navigate the middlegame with confidence and play the endgame soundly.

Chess is a game that attracts people because of its richness and depth. However, there are stepping stones to help you navigate its deep waters safely.

Completely New to Chess?

If you are interested in learning chess, welcome to your next big adventure. Below is a list of helpful articles to get you started.

Remember, if you need more help or advice on how to progress, the friendly, knowledgeable staff at iChess.net are always willing to help.

The very first thing you need to learn is how to set up a chess board.

Then it’s time to learn how the pieces move.

To learn from chess books and by analyzing your games it’s essential to know chess notation:

Now it’s time to learn about two of the tricky rules of chess:

En passant

And stalemate:

How to Study Chess

Beginners need to know a good way to begin the game. A little opening knowledge will help you reach a safe position in the middlegame.

“Chess is 99% tactics.”

Richard Teichmann

Keep the time you spend studying chess openings to a minimum. Learn only what you need to get started and build upon it by analyzing your games.

A better investment of your study time is learning how to play the middlegame and endgame. Especially important is the study of chess tactics.

Chess tactics are present in the opening, middlegame and endgame.

Richard Teichmann said “Chess is 99% tactics” back in 1908 and it’s still true today.

The Best Chess Moves in the Opening

When selecting your opening repertoire you must choose openings that are:

  • easy to understand,
  • ones you can use for many years as your rating increases,
  • not going to take you long to learn.

In the opening your focus must be on three things:

  1. rapid piece development,
  2. control of the center either with pawns or pieces,
  3. getting your king to safety.

Also, be certain to learn the chess tactics that occur frequently in your chosen opening. Study the tactics for both sides so you know how to defend against your opponent’s ideas.

Even if you are playing with the white pieces you must be aware of the tactics black has available. One of the best ways for black to defend is to counter-attack so don’t get caught napping!

“Understanding why you are playing a specific move is more important than knowing the specific order of the chess moves.”

There will be games where you find yourself in a position to use these tactics when you are playing the other side. You can never learn too many tactics.

A Complete, Easy-To-Learn Beginner’s Chess Repertoire

There are four main moves you need to know how to meet with the black pieces – 1.e4, 1.d4, 1.c4, and 1.Nf3.

The following repertoire places greater emphasis on understanding than memorizing theory, won’t take you long to learn and is made up of openings you could play your entire chess career.

Play the London System (1.d4 and 2.Bf4) with white. As black against 1.e4. play the French Defense (1.e4 e6). Play the Slav Defense against 1.d4. You can also use a Slav set-up against 1.c4 and 1.Nf3.

A Solid Chess Opening for White

london system openings index
London System initial position

The advantage of playing The London System is that you can use it against all of black’s possible defenses.

When you play 1.d4 and 2.Bf4 you reach the starting position of the London System.

Another advantage of the London System is that understanding why you are playing a specific move is more important than knowing the specific order of the chess moves.

Less theory to learn means less study time spent mastering the opening.

You can learn lots more about this dependable opening from GM Ron Henley:

Safe and Exciting Chess Openings for Black

Against 1.e4, the French Defense (1…e6) is a good choice because it combines solidity and chances for counter-attack.

There are many common ideas for black in all the main variations to further reduce the amount of theory you must know.

french defense
The starting position of the French Defense. An easy-to-learn dependable opening for beginners.
slav defense

The Slav Defense (1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6) is a multi-purpose defense and can be played against all of the other three main moves – 1.d4, 1.c4, and 1.Nf3.

The pawns on d5 and c6 are very effective against a bishop on g2, which is a common way for white to develop it in the English Opening (1.c4) and the Reti (1.Nf3).

Best Chess Moves for Beginners in the Middlegame

“Before the endgame, the gods have placed the middlegame.”

Siegbert Tarrasch

The French Tarrasch: Breaking Into Fort Knox
Siegbert Tarrasch

For beginners, the middlegame is where the majority of your games will get decided. Make certain you come out ahead by improving your tactics and piece play.

Daily tactics training for 20 – 30 minutes is a very good habit to cultivate. There are numerous free online tactics trainers for you to use.

An invaluable resource for beginners is lichess.org. Along with a tactics trainers there are studies on almost every chess topic and the opportunity to play others.

Online tactics trainers make use of common tactical motifs. That’s why you need to become familiar with pins, skewers, forks and X-ray attacks.

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Common Tactical Motifs

Always be on the lookout for the opportunity to use these chess tactics and be vigilant so they aren’t used against you.

The white queen is in an absolute pin.

Pins – A piece is pinned when moving it would lead to the loss of a piece of greater value. For example, a knight is pinned if it shields a rook or queen from capture.

There are two types of pins. A relative pin is where the shielded piece is a piece other than the king. An absolute pin is where the pinned piece shields the king.

“The pin is mightier than the sword.” – Fred Reinfeld

Skewer – A skewer is very similar to a pin but in this instance the more valuable piece is under attack.

Black plays the bishop to g7 and wins the queen because the king must move out of check. There are no good moves for white after bishop to g7 check.
Bishop Skewer on g7

For example, in the diagram, the king and queen are on the same diagonal and the bishop can place the white king in check.

Using a skewer black wins the game.

The king must move out of check allowing the capture of the queen.

Black wins with …Bg7 check!

As with the pin there is an absolute and relative skewer. In a relative skewer a player isn’t forced to move the more valuable piece.

Sometimes it’s better to allow the bishop to capture the rook and get some material if moving the rook means losing another piece without compensation.

There are two ways to defend against the skewer:

  • with a check
  • by threatening a more valuable piece.

X-Ray – This is when a piece attacks another piece or square through other pieces. Good use of the X-ray is to place your rook on the same file as the enemy king or queen even if there are pieces in the way.

xray on h8
The white bishop has an X-Ray attack on h8. White wins with Qh8 check. After the bishop captures the queen, the rook captures the bishop and delivers checkmate!

The Most Common Tactic in Chess

When two pieces are attacked at the same time they are said to be forked. This is also known as a double-attack.

More than two pieces can be forked. In the diagram, the king, rook, and queen are caught in a triple fork by the knight on c7.

triple fork
The king, rook, and queen are caught in a triple fork

A fork is especially powerful if it involves a check because the check must be dealt with first. This doesn’t give the other piece time to escape capture.

A good move for black in this position is Nxe4 and after Nxe4 d5 forks the knight and bishop.
White played 7.Be3 which allows black to play 7…Nxe4 and if 8.Nxe4 d5 forking the bishop and the knight.

When a fork doesn’t involve a check it’s possible to defend by giving a check and then moving the other attacked piece to safety.

A pawn fork by black with the move …d5 is common in the opening if white develops the bishop to c4. This commonly occurs in the Two Knights opening and Pirc Defense.

Here white played 7.Be3 allowing 7…Nxe4 8.Nxe4 d5 with a double-attack, or fork, of the bishop and knight.

Good Chess Moves Improve Piece Placement

There are three types of positions in chess:

  • open positions – this position has no locked pawns and usually has 3 or more pawns traded.
  • semi-open positions – a position where usually 1 or 2 pawns have been traded and there are few or no locked pawns.
  • closed positions – occur when the center is locked and very few pawns, sometimes none, have been traded.

When you analyze your games, see if how the type of position impacts your results. You can choose an opening that gives you positions best suited to your style of play.

The Best Squares for Your Pieces

To ensure your pieces are on the best squares you need to understand when they are at their best.

Although a rook has a higher material value than a knight, the knight can dominate a rook in closed positions. Rooks are at their best on open files and are very limited in any position without them.

They are especially dangerous on the seventh rank.

Bishops are very powerful in an open position where there are lots of unobstructed diagonals. They can easily move from one side of the board to the other.

One of the best chess moves you can make is placing your bishop on an open diagonal.
Notice how the pawn on b6 restricts the bishop on the queenside but how powerful it is on the b8-h2 diagonal.

Remember, bishops and rooks are long-range pieces. They can attack from further away than a knight.

A knight is a close-range piece so it prefers positions where the pieces are closer together. They can attack and defend more squares if you place them in the center.

There is a saying in chess “A knight on the rim is dim.” A knight on the edge of the board can only attack four squares but in the center it attacks eight squares – twice as many.

Knights are very good at blockading pieces, especially pawns, because their range of movement is not restricted. The further a pawn advances the more it restricts a blockading rook.

knight blockade
Knight blockade

Here is a checklist you can use to find the best squares and position for your pieces:

Rooks – open files and seventh rank.

Bishops – diagonals, and open positions

Knights – outposts, centralized, closed and semi-closed positions

Queen – best centralized or defending the king.

Prophylaxis – One Good Chess Move After Another

A simple yet highly effective strategy is to combine prophylaxis with improving the position of your pieces. Prophylaxis is making moves to prevent your opponent from carrying out his plan.

Develop the habit of asking “What is the purpose behind that last move?” Question your moves as well.

“Resist the urge to make too many moves with the pawns in front of your king.”

When making a move, even an obvious move like 1.d4, ask yourself why you are playing it. Asking “Why?” for the obvious moves helps develop this habit for all the moves in the game.

The Safety of Your King Is All-Important

The knight on f3, or f6 if you are playing as black, is a great defender if you castle kingside. Making certain you have a knight on f3 is good prophylaxis play against a possible attack on h2.

A common prophylactic move is h3 to free up space for the king. This prevents you from being checkmated on the back rank.

You can also play g3 if your opponent no longer has a light squared bishop. Otherwise, the move g3 will create weak squares around your king – f3 and h3 aren’t defended.

weak diagonal
White has played g3 to give his king an escape square but it’s controlled by the bishop on b7. A better move would have been h3. Black can play …g6 because white has a light-squared bishop and can’t attack g7 with it.

Resist the urge to make too many moves with the pawns in front of your king. Once the pawns advance you will need to defend your king with pieces.

When you have stopped your opponent’s plan it’s time to improve your position. This is best done by asking “Which is my worst placed piece?”

If you are unable to identify a good square for your bad piece, move it closer to the center or nearer to your king. Having more defenders around your king is always a good thing.

“To improve at chess you should in the first instance study the endgame.”

Jose Raul Capablanca

Another good prophylaxis technique is to ensure your pieces are always defended.

This is unlikely to be possible throughout the entire game. When you have to leave a piece undefended make certain it can’t be easily attacked.

Best Chess Moves for Beginners in the Endgame


Along with tactics, any time you spend studying the endgame will reap rich rewards and continue to do so long after you shed the beginner title.

Jose Raul Capablanca, the third World Chess Champion, said “To improve at chess you should in the first instance study the endgame.”

Many club players neglect studying the endgame or do not take their endgame study seriously. Treat the endgame seriously and you will turn many potential losses into draws.

There are going to be games when you fall behind in material during the middlegame. Wouldn’t it be nice to know you can simplify to an endgame you know how to draw?

Being down the exchange (that is having a knight or bishop against a rook) doesn’t mean the endgame is lost. You also need to know how to win an endgame when you are ahead in material.

No matter how few pieces remain on the board always look for tactical opportunities. Always!

There is a very good example of the skewer in this endgame article.

Four Helpful Rules of Endgame Play

These four rules will help you play better in the endgame:

  1. Passed pawns are key.
  2. Now is the time to activate your king.
  3. Control of the open file is important in the endgame.
  4. Get your pieces to their best squares.

The importance of piece activity in the endgame can’t be emphasized enough. Yes, it’s scary to sacrifice a pawn this late in the game but that’s why studying endgames is so important.

Playing through endgames is the only way to learn how to make the best use of piece activity. Even if you are watching a training video, keep asking “Why did he make that move?”.

Understanding why something works is easier than trying to remember lots of different chess moves. What if the position on the board doesn’t match the positions you have studied?

Three Essential Checkmate Techniques

Here are three essential techniques you must know to deliver checkmate.

In addition to these, you must learn how to deliver a checkmate with two bishops and a bishop and knight.

Checkmate with two rooks

and checkmate with one rook.

Checkmate with a queen.

Be careful not to allow your opponent to get a draw with a stalemate. There’s no rush in the endgame so give the lone king plenty of space.

If white played Qc7 instead of Kb6 it would be a stalemate. When the enemy king is close to or in the corner be extra careful.

Final Words on the Best Chess Moves for Beginners

Congratulations on starting this great adventure! You have already made the very best chess move you will ever make – learning how to play chess.

There is a long and fascinating journey ahead of you on the road to chess mastery. Step-by-step, little-by-little, you will get there.

And if you want somebody to help you take the next steps in improving your chess there’s no better coach than GM Susan Polar.

Act Now! Get 50% Off! GM Susan Polgar is both a world-class chess player and coach. Her many years of playing and teaching are clearly evident in this exceptional course. Get both volumes of “The Susan Polgar Scholastic Method” for only $69.99!

Also, be sure to read

Chess Mentor

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