What Kind of Chess Beginner are You?

Which of the following best describes your view of a chess game?

Early (“raw”) Beginner

I know how the pieces move and I know the rules of chess, at least most of them. And yet when I look at the board, I don’t know much about what to do. I can move pawns, knights, bishops, rooks, and the king and queen, but which one and where to move it? I know what checkmate is, but how do I achieve it?

Mid-Level Beginner

I know from experience that my opponent might leave a piece exposed. That’s when I capture it. The more pieces I have on the board, compared with my opponent’s, the better off I am during a game of chess. Yet it’s common for my opponent to do the same to me, when I get careless and let one of my pieces get captured, but I don’t let that happen as often as I used to. I do know a checkmate technique and watch for any opportunity to win the game with that pattern.

Advanced Beginner

I don’t automatically capture my opponent’s piece just because I can do it. I look more carefully than that, for if I capture something of little value, like a pawn, and my opponent captures something of mine that is more valuable, like a knight, then it would be better to avoid that line of play. I might play a whole game without being surprised at losing a piece, for I am careful to avoid leaving my pieces up for grabs. Still, some games I make that kind of mistake and my opponent captures something that I accidentally left unprotected. I know more than one way to make a checkmate.

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queen versus rook - black to move

Look at the chess position above. It’s a queen versus rook endgame, with black’s turn to move. Remember how long you looked at this position and what move or moves came to your mind. Decide on your choice of a move for black, for it’s black’s turn. Now look further down to see how well you did.

puzzled expression on a man's face

Do you feel sure about the move you chose? Let’s see:

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Did you see that the white queen can capture the black rook? That’s fine. Experienced players, including masters, would immediately see that capture. But it’s black’s turn to move.

Did you see that the black rook can move to the f4 square, checking the white king? Great! Is that the move you chose? Why did you choose that move? It’s not checkmate. Was it just because you like to make checks on your opponent’s king? If so, you missed the point here. Making a check is not necessarily the best move to make in a particular position.

But in this case it’s the best move for black. Why? Because the white king must move out of check, and after that king moves then the rook may capture the queen. Of course the white king would finally be able to capture your rook, leaving nothing but two kings on the board, ending the game in a draw, automatically. So why would you want to run that route?

Many beginners could fail to understand one basic fact in this position shown in the above diagram. The queen is much more powerful than the rook, though not quite twice as powerful. In almost all situations, the most reasonable perspective for the player with the black pieces, in this kind of queen-versus-rook end game, is to try to get a draw. It’s really not always reasonable to always try to win, at every stage of every game, unless you can play every game so well that you never get behind.

In other words, in the position shown in the above diagram, if black gets a draw it’s almost like winning. On the other hand, if white fails to win and the game ends in a draw then it’s almost like losing. Take things in perspective.

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"Beat That Kid in Chess" book by Whitcomb

Best chess book for the raw beginner: Beat That Kid in Chess

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Chess for Beginners

queen-versus-rook puzzles

Chess Book for a Beginner

It may be rare for two chess books to differ greatly inside when they look very similar on the cover. Yet that’s the case with ‘Beat That Kid in Chess’ and ‘How to Beat Your Dad at Chess.’ The first is for beginners; the second is for more experienced players.

Chess for Children

To be in checkmate, a king needs to be in check, with no legal move that can get that king out of check.

Chess in Movies

Harry, Hermione, and Ron are searching for a magic stone . . . The greatest obstacle is a giant chess set, in which enemy pawns will not let them pass before they play a dangerous game.

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