It feels like the proverbial punch to the gut when you realize you can’t save the queen in your chess game.
No matter how long you play the game it remains a sickening feeling and no matter what face you try to present it hurts – a lot.
The queen is lost! And, usually, the game too.
Beth’s Second Game
In the continuing chess adventures of Beth Harmon, the protagonist of the Netflix miniseries The Queen’s Gambit, in game 2, we learn why you must safeguard the queen in chess.
The queen is your most powerful piece so keeping her safe is very important.
Still, keep in mind Beth has only started learning to play chess when she plays this game. Attacking with your most powerful piece makes a lot of sense. Why not use it as soon as you can?
We can understand why Beth Harmon wanted to get her queen in the game. Unfortunately, she didn’t do it very effectively and lost another game after only a few moves.
Here you will learn how to keep your queen safe. Thus, avoiding an early demise in your own game.
Exposing The Queen Cost Beth The Game
Rapid development is an essential aspect of playing a good chess game. However, when you develop the queen in chess you put her at risk of being captured for a piece of lesser value. Moving the queen around more than once in the opening loses valuable time – when you’re saving your queen, you aren’t developing those other important pieces.
In chess the pieces are assigned a points value as follows:
- Pawn: 1
- Knight: 3
- Bishop: 3
- Rook: 5
- Queen: 9
The standard advice beginners are given is to stake your claim in the center with your pawns and develop your pieces to support them.
The opening Beth plays seeks to pressure the center with minor pieces.
Always aim to develop your minor pieces (bishop and knight) before your major pieces (rook and queen). Safety first!
What Beth doesn’t realize is the opportunity she gives Mr. Shaibel to attack her queen. In this instance, he not only attacks it but traps it.
Protect Your Valuable Pieces In A Chess Game
In a chess game what makes the queen powerful is her range and the fact she can move in all directions – sideways, forwards, backward, and diagonally. She’s like a rook and bishop combined into one piece!
These two qualities make the queen a powerful attacker in chess and an excellent defender.
By the same token, remember the queen is your best defender of the king. As a reminder of this, the queen starts the game next to the king.
When you get the king to safety, usually by castling, then the queen can advance and join in the attack.
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Whenever you lose the queen in a chess game without adequate compensation it leaves your king very weak and subject to a strong attack.
Then your opponent can use their material advantage to attack you or defend against your attacks. Returning material is a good defensive technique.
Develop The Queen Cautiously
There are openings when the queen gets developed early. However, in these instances it’s usually to put pressure on an enemy piece or tie down pieces to defending a particular square.
For example in the Slav Defense, it’s usually okay for black to play an early ..Qb6. This stops white from moving the bishop on c1 because it must defend the pawn on b2.
Also, it’s not easy for white to attack the queen on the b6 square because moving the knight to a4 involves a loss of tempo.
But even if it’s safe to develop the queen early you must consider developing the other pieces first. Therefore, don’t rush to bring her out.
If you see the opportunity to win the game or material by bringing out your queen then you should do so. The thing to remember is there needs to be a strategic or tactical reason to support your decision.
Next to protecting your king, you must make it a high priority to save your queen in your chess game. If you lose your queen it often means losing the game.
In this case, Beth’s queen was not putting any pressure on Mr. Shaibel’s position. She wasn’t threatening to win the game. Also, the pawn her queen attacked was defended by a knight – a piece of lesser value.
Even if Beth captured the pawn she would have lost material because Beth would have given up her queen (9 points) for a knight and a pawn (3 points and 1 point, respectively).
In this case, leaving her opponent with a 5 point material advantage. As a result, white would have a winning advantage thanks to her failure to protect her queen.
Paul Morphy Attacks The Exposed Queen
Bringing your queen out early isn’t the only time it’s a bad idea. Even late in this game Morphy’s opponent leaves his queen exposed and pays dearly.
Here is an example of the dangers you face if you place your queen out in the open. In this instance, Marache’s queen was undefended too.
Also note, black lost material after move 13. Ba3. To save his queen Morphy gave up a rook for a knight and a pawn (5 points for 4 points).
This material imbalance is a lot less than the 6 point difference in Beth’s game. Morphy also got compensation in a strong passed pawn.
After 19. Qe4 Morphy was able to take advantage of the weak queen. He played Ng3 with a double attack on the queen from the black knight and queen. After white captured the queen, Morphy delivered a checkmate on the next move.
Napoleon Marache versus Paul Morphy
New Orleans, 1857, 0-1
We all do it at some point and we do it more than once. There are going to be times when you don’t save the queen in your chess game.
By keeping your queen well-protected and advancing her with caution you will minimize the number of times her demise brings an end to your game.
Let the discomfort of losing a game because you weren’t able to save your queen, spur you on to become a stronger player.
Every time you narrowly avoid losing your queen offer a silent thank you to Beth. Learning from others mistakes means making less of your own.