Basic Chess Strategy: 6 Aspects Every Chess Player Should Know


The aim of this article is to provide a comprehensive overview of basic chess strategy that every player should be wary of. During this article, we will examine the wide range of elements that encompass strategy. These elements will help generate an idea when there is no concrete one.

What is the strategy in chess and its importance?

It refers to long-term planning in chess. By using it as a guide, players generate a decision-making process. Chess strategy enters in once there are no tactical shots in a position and no clear-cut plans. Usually, these slow-looking moves help improve the position according to different parameters.

Knowing the strategy enhances the understanding of the game. Many beginners might have a difficult time generating ideas where there is no obvious plan. Developing a plan and improving decision-making require knowledge and experience. By learning the main aspects of the strategic elements, players can apply them in their games and have their own experiences.

chess strategy example

Viswanathan Anand vs. Rafael Leitao · Sao Paulo Rapid (2004)

In the above diagram, it is White to play. Black aims to improve its pawn structure element by moving the f6-pawn with a tempo. Once the Bishop moves somewhere, the e5-pawn push will be unstoppable. This will create a harmonious pawn setup for Black (g7-f6-e5).

White Played Bc3, and now f6-e5 is impossible because the e5-pawn would be hanging. This is called prophylaxis in chess. These kinds of strategic ideas are abundant in this game.

«Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do; strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.» – Savielly Tartakower.

Basic chess strategy: a list of aspects

To learn advanced chess strategy, players need to comprehend simple chess strategy. These are different elements players need to be aware of during the game. By exploring them, evaluating the position and decision-making are shaped.
1) King protection is the most essential element of a simple chess strategy. As with any principle in the game, strategy prioritizes the King’s long-term safety because the game is over once the King has fallen.
Opening moves shape the game’s course. Different openings lead to various types of games. Hence, the strategy begins with the first move.
2) Material is the most obvious advantage to count. Once everything is equal, the side with better material is considered better.
3) Space Advantage allows players to maneuver their pieces more efficiently. Since there are more available squares on the board, the probability increases for that side.
4) Pawns are the heart of a chess game. Creating a proper type of pawn structure in that particular position is crucial. The pawn set-up in front of the King resembles the home of that King.
5) Piece Mobility allows dynamic play and flexible plans. Passive pieces are considered bad pieces. A piece’s value depends on its effectiveness.

1. King Protection

Pawns in front of the King are the King’s palace. The player should always keep the King safe and ensure it stays safe in the long run.

1.1 Do not weaken the squares near the King

Do not weaken the squares near the King.

Moving the pawns, such as in the upper diagram, without taking precautions allows the opponent to generate various tactical ideas.

1.2 Castle your King

Castle your king

Castling is one of the most essential moves in chess. It automatically puts the King in safety. Being restricted from the castling will make the game very hard to manage regarding King Protection.

1.3 Create Breathing Space to avoid Back-Rank checkmates

Create Breathing Space to avoid Back-Rank Checkmates.

White needs to create breathing room for the King in the upper diagram before activating the f1-Rook. This is called “Luft” and usually prevents back-rank checkmates.

1.4 Do not castle into danger

Do not castle into danger

The diagram above is a good example of a danger on the short side. White cannot castle due to Qxh2 checkmate. The best move is to kick the Knight by playing f3. If the opponent plays Nf2, Rf1 will trap the Knight. After Knight returns to f6, White can play Be3 and castle next.

2. Opening Moves

Opening shapes the flow of the game. Players must choose their first moves wisely, controlling the central space.

Opening Moves

2.1 Develop pieces towards the center

Players must control the four central squares to utilize the pieces more efficiently.

Develop pieces towards the center

«The Knight on the rim is dim» is a great quote resembling how ineffective a piece in the corner squares is.

3. Material Balance

Every player should know what the material values are.

3.1The Material Values

If we describe the value of each piece, they would be:




9 units (pawns)


5 units (pawns)

Bishop or Knight

3 units (pawns)


1 unit (the pawn itself)

Being up a pawn without any dynamic elements on the board would mean that one side is up 1 point. This is usually more than enough to push for a win at a high level.

extra pawn

The upper diagram shows that White is up one extra pawn. Since Black has no compensation for that pawn, White is much better and is close to winning.

Extra bishop

In the diagram above, White is up a full-Bishop. Black has no compensation for the Bishop. That means White is completely winning.

Two pieces for a single rook

Black gave up a Bishop and a Knight for a Rook and the f2-pawn in the diagram above. This is much better for White, because even though the total values are 6, two pieces are much more efficient during the game than a Rook.

Two pawns for a knight

Black is up a full minor piece for two pawns. Objectively, Black is much better.

4. Space Advantage

Space allows players to locate their pieces on the ideal squares. The side with the space advantage should maneuver the pieces to the best squares and oppress as much as they can.

The side with less space often needs to trade a couple of pieces.

Space advantage

5. Pawn Setup

Keeping the pawn structure intact is crucial to creating a passed pawn in the endgame. It is essential to know where to place the pawns. Pawn setups should be placed in harmony with the pieces.

Pawn Setup

6. Piece Mobility

Restricting the opponent’s pieces and activating yours is an essential strategy. If the pieces are passive, their values drop significantly. Once players think they have done everything needed, they should consider enhancing the worst-placed piece and trying to activate it.

Stuck for white

The diagram above shows a position where White has a dead Bishop on c1. Even though the material is equal, Black is much more active. Therefore, the game is completely winning for the Black side.

Final Thoughts

Knowing these basic chess strategy elements is crucial in deciding what to do when there is nothing to do. Strategy for chess is a deep sea, and knowing the basics will help players learn advanced concepts. We advise players to analyze the games attached to each strategic concept.

Written by
Emre Sancakli, Сhess Coach
has a rating of 2400+ on and, making him one of the top 5000 players in the world. He teaches many chess enthusiasts and even creates educational courses. As a writer, he keeps bringing his 'A game' to the content you will face on this website.
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