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The 3 Golden Rules of chess strategy are:


Control the Centre

Develop your Pieces

Keep the King Safe


These are strategies that apply throughout the whole game, though they tend to be thought of as opening strategies. There are openings which can make the game more open, or more closed, and by trying these different ideas, we can see if we prefer positions where the centre has no pawns (Open Centre), or is blocked (Closed Centre). Games that start with both sides pushing their pawns into the centre 1. e4 e5 can often lead to fairly open centres, while the French Defence is an opening that can easily block the position up.



The French Opening 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 where white has advanced 3.e5 closing the centre. Do you know what strategy you should be using here? I tell you what, have a practice from this position and I’ll tell you the strategy for closed centres next week.

Last week’s puzzles were quite hard, as both had stalemate ideas which is one of the most difficult tactics to work out. We have to lose our pieces to save the game.

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Of all the things you might think about doing to get better at chess, the only sure way to improve is to play as much as possible. If you play every week at your school you will get better, but if you also play somewhere else then you will twice as good, as you will have double the chance to put your ideas into practice. If you’re lucky enough to have family members to play with, or friends, then that is great, but even then it can get a bit boring playing the same person lots of times. It is better to play lots of players and then see loads of different strategies being used.


There are other ways to play new people though. In Melbourne, Chess Kids runs a series of tournaments throughout the year called RJ Shields which is a great introduction to competitive chess. Kids have to use a clock, play touch move, and they get to play 7 games in a day all against different players. The RJ Shield tournaments are finished for this year now, but check out the results from the most recent event in Melbourne. Find out about more tournaments you can play in from this page.


Another way to play is online, though we have to be careful and smart as some sites may not be appropriate. Luckily, Chess Kids working with one of the top American sites can help kids to play safely online against other kids from around Australia and New Zealand and even further away. You can find out about this on our Chesslings site.


Every time you play a game you should try to learn one thing from the game. This can be anything from a new trick or checkmate to a new opening move, or a new strategy in the middlegame.  Then if you play just in your school class for 10 weeks per term you should learn 10 new things that you will remember and use in your games. If you play outside school once a week, that will be double the things learned, and the more you play the more things you will have to use in your future games. Also, when you solve puzzles, remember how you did it, and it will another thing you can use in your games. So the more you play, the more you will learn, and the better you will become. Easy! Try these puzzles that happened in Chess Kids classes


White to play and win


What is white’s best move here?



Here are the positions from the last blog post I wrote. There was one unusual checkmate, and two that were based on the very usual checkmate on a back rank.

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I’ve taught people as young as 3 years old and older than 80 years old about chess. I’ve worked with people who have never played before and don’t even know how the pieces moved, and I’ve worked with some very strong players trying to win National Titles. So when I go around to my weekly classes in schools and at the Chess Kids Centre, I’m always on the look out for some great play and great ideas. This past week I’ve been really lucky. Most of my classes have been playing a “Thematic Opening Tournament” which means that they all have to play the same first few moves. All the kids learn some strategy and tricks about the opening and then try to put it into practice. Our opening of the week was called the Italian Opening and was invented by Italian players in the 1500’s and 1600’s. It is a great attacking opening for white who will try to dominate the centre of the board. The centre is really important in all chess positions, but especially in the Italian Opening. Mostly I’ve noticed that the player who has been controlling the centre is the one that usually goes on to win. Not always, but mostly.

See how our best under 8 players used this opening. There were some very interesting games.

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Also we have to remember tactics, and checkmates. I’ve seen hundreds of pins this week, and some excellent checkmates. Take a look at these positions:


Checkmate of the Week! Look at black’s king, stuck in the centre and trapped by white’s knights and bishop


Black’s queen is attacked, but he didn’t move it. What piece do you think black moved and where to?


White threatens checkmate in 3 moves. Can you see how? The boy who was white saw it and won an excellent game!

Did you get the answers to the pin tests I set last time? I’ll give you all one more week before I give the answers, and I’ll give the answers to these positions at the same time.



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It’s important for all chess players to have some tricks up their sleeves! The correct name for these tricks is “Tactics”. There are loads of tactics and we are all good at some special ones. It is most important to fully understand the 4 main tactics. These are called:




Discovered Attacks



First we need to work out what makes up a tactic. Then we need to find some examples so we can see how the tactic is used in a real game. I’m going to start with the tactic that happen the most, Pins. A Pin is when we aim at one of our opponent’s pieces, and that piece can’t move because there is an even bigger target sitting behind it.


Black has a bishop that wants to take white’s queen. But the bishop can’t move or white’s rook on e1 would be giving check. This is a Pin! The bad thing about a pinned piece is that it looks like it’s doing something but it’s not, as it can’t move. Here, black’s bishop desperately wants to take the white queen, but it can’t move!


Test 1: Black can win material here because one of white’s pieces which looks safe isn’t really safe. What can black take safely because of a Pin?


Test 2: This time it’s white to move and they have a deadly Pin. Can you find it?


Test 3: This one is a bit harder. First white has to make a Pin, and then they can win material. So, as white, pin it, and win it!


Solving tactical puzzles is a great way to improve. There is an excellent selection of tactics books at the chess shop, and there are even websites with thousands of puzzles for you to try (though some of these puzzles are so hard, the Chess Kids coaches even get some wrong) like this free site we recommend to our top chess students.

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When any player starts a game of chess they have to remember the basic goals of the opening:

Control the Centre

Develop your pieces

Keep you King Safe

These are called the “Golden Rules” of opening strategy and most sensible openings start in this way. Most experienced players start their game by pushing one of their pawns into the centre, and then they start to move their pieces off the back of the board, developing them to more attacking positions. Finally, an experienced player doesn’t feel that the game is going well until the king has been safely hidden, usually by castling.

These ideas have been known for hundreds of years. In the 1500’s and 1600’s the best players in the World came from Spain and Italy, and the opening moves that those players liked are named after those countries. All openings have names, some are named after countries like the “Spanish” and “Italian” openings, some after famous players such as “Alekhine’s Defence” and “Fischer’s Variation” and there are some odd names like the “Hedgehog Opening” or the “Dragon”. Getting to know some typical tricks and strategies is a good way to improve your game.


This will be the opening position that classes will be starting from next week. White has just played pawn to c3 which:

– Attacks the Centre and prepares the move d4 building a central pawn wall.

– Allows white’s queen to Develop to the safe side of the board, either b3 or a4..


Congratulations to the RJ Shield winners yesterday. Over 50 kids showed up to play in Melbourne  in 2 sections, an under 10, and an over 10. 12 year old Gal Dekal won the over 10 section while 9 year old Andrew Grieg won the under 10 section. The full results are on the tornelo website.  There are also tournaments around the state, and yesterday the winner in Yarrawonga was Samuel Trewin. As well as checking out the latest RJ shield results, you can also check on your self by typing your name, or school into the search box at the top of the page. There are also the main headings at the top of the page. My favourite is the “Players” button which takes you to a page where you can see the top rated players by age group.


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World Champion Capablanca playing lots of players at the same time. A “simul”.


Chess is a great way to help you think. You have to to work out your best move using all the things you’ve learned. And even then, the move you want to do will have to take into account your opponent’s sneaky plans. Working out great ideas, great moves, and great plans is part of the fun of chess.


Some players try to cheat a bit by copying their opponent’s moves. However, cheats never win in chess and if someone is copying your moves, the best thing to do is work out how to check your opponent, and then they won’t be able to copy you, as they will be too busy getting out of check.


How can white stop his opponent copying him with a check?

Who would be the best player to copy? The World Champion! The position above happened in a game that was played by World Champion Capablanca. It must have been pretty scary to play him, as people thought he was unbeatable. In fact, he didn’t lose a tournament game of chess for 10 years! In the position above, the player who had to face Capablanca tried the sneaky copycat plan using the World Champion’s own moves to play against Capablanca. But that isn’t really thinking, isn’t much fun or much of a challenge, and is bound to lose. Capablanca took just 4 moves to win from here!

All great players have 1 thing in common: they’ve played thousands of games of chess! In chess ‘practice makes perfect’, and it is always good to challenge yourself against new opponents. Chess Kids run a series of tournaments designed to give school players extra practice. These are called RJ Shields and the next one is coming up this Sunday.  These tournaments are a great stepping stone from school chess and are run in age groups so kids will be able to test themselves against their peers.

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