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How to Win Chess Almost Every Time

Three Parts:Winning As a BeginnerWinning as an Intermediate PlayerWinning as an Advanced Player

Mastering chess is a long process, and will take you several years, but you don’t have to be a master to win at chess almost every time if you understand the mechanics of the game. By learning to spot certain moves and read your opponent, you can learn to effectively protect your King, attack your opponent’s and come out as the victor almost every time.

This guide assumes you already know the basics of playing chess. If you are just starting, click here to read a guide for your first few games.

Part 1
Winning As a Beginner

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    Understand the value of each piece and protect them accordingly. Obviously, your King is the most important piece on the board, since you lose if it's taken. However, the rest of your pieces are not easily dispensed cannon fodder. Based on the math and geometry of a chess board, certain pieces are always more valuable than others. Remember these rankings when taking pieces. You do not, for example, want to put a high-value Rook at risk just to take an opponent's Knight.
    • Pawn = 1
    • Knight = 3
    • Bishop = 3
    • Rook = 5
    • Queen = 9[1]
    • Chess pieces are sometimes referred to as "material." You want a lot of high-quality material to win each game.
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    Understand the goals of a good opening move. Chess openings are the first couple of moves in the game, and they will determine your general strategy and positioning for the entire match. Your goal when opening is to develop, or move off of the starting squares, as many strong pieces as possible. There are several key considerations in a good opening:[2]
    • Move your pawns toward the center of the board, while opening up your stronger pieces for easy movement. The most common yet very efficient path would be to move the king's pawn 2 paces forward and then the queen's pawn forward 2 paces, if it is not at risk after the opponent makes his move. This opening develops bishops, increases castling speed and with the right moves forms a defensive but less offensive fortress.
    • Your opening moves will also be dependent on whether you are black or white. Since White moves first, you'll want to move in on attack and try and control the game. Black should hold back and wait a bit more, letting white expose themselves with a mistake before attacking.
    • Never move the same piece twice, unless it gets in trouble and could be taken. The more pieces you can move, the more your opponent needs to react to you.
    • Keeping these principles in mind, check out the list of opening moves used by Grandmasters at modern tournaments.
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    Think 4-5 moves in advance, using each move to set up more complicated attacks. To win at chess, you need to be constantly thinking a few moves in advance, setting up longer, more complicated attacks to outfox your opponent. Your first move is about setting up the rest of the game, leading to your first attack or controlling certain sections of the board. The best way for a beginner to learn how to plan ahead is to practice some common opening combinations:
    • The Ruy Lopez is a classic opening to get bishops out and attacking. Move your King's Pawn up two spaces, then your Knight up F3 (as white). Finish by pushing your King's Bishop all the way until it is one space in front of the opponent's pawn.[3]
    • The English Opening is a slow, adaptable opening. Move the C2 pawn up 1, then follow with the G2 Pawn to free your King's Bishop (if black moves to the center) or the Queen's Knight, (if black moves along the sides).[4]
    • Try the adventurous King's Gambit. Used by Grandmasters from Bobby Fisher onward, this exciting opening can put beginners off-balance early. Simply move both King Pawns (E2 & F2) up two spaces with the opening move. Black will frequently attack early, feeling like they have you opened up, but your pawn wall will quickly cause them problems.[5]
    • Try the Queen’s Gambit to control the center of the board. White move the Queen’s Pawn to d4 drawing out black’s pawn to d5. White typically retaliates with Bishop’s Pawn to c4. This maneuver brings the game out to the center and opens up the lanes for your Queen and Bishop to move.[6]
      • A good defense to a Queen’s Gambit is the French Defense. As black, start by moving your King’s Pawn to e6. White will typically then move his Queen’s Pawn to d4, allowing you to retaliate with your Queen’s Pawn to d5. You’ve now opened up a path for your Bishop to attack. If White takes your Queen’s Pawn at e6, he leaves his King exposed, so he may move his Knight to c3. You can now move your Bishop to b4, pinning the Knight.
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    Try out the four move "Scholar's Mate" to win the game almost instantly. This trick only works once per player, as a savvy chess player will spot the move and get out of the way. That said, Scholar's Mate is a great way to catch a beginner opponent off guard and snag the game from them quickly.
    • As White: King's Pawn moves up 1 (E7-E6); King's Bishop to C5; Queen to F6; Queen to F2.
    • As Black: King's Pawn up 1 (E2-E3); King's Bishop to C4; Queen to F3, Queen to F7.[7]
    • Countering Scholar's Mate: Pull your Knights out as blockades if you see Scholar's Mate happening-- chances are good they won't sacrifice a Queen just to take your Knight. The other option is to use a nearly identical move, but instead of pushing your Queen up, leave her back on E7, in front of your King.
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    Control the center squares to control the game. Your biggest concern when playing chess is controlling the center tiles, specifically the four in the very middle. This is because you can attack anywhere from the center of the board, allowing you to control the pace and direction of the game. The Knight, for example, has eight potential moves in the center of the board, but only 1-2 on the edges. There are two general ways to do this.
    • Supported Middle is when you move slowly into the center of the board with several pieces. Knights and Bishops support from the fringes, able to move in and take pieces if you get under attack. In general, this slow development is more common.
    • Using the Flanks is a very modern style of play that controls the middle from the outsides. Your Rooks, Queen, and Knights run up both sides of the board, making it impossible for your opponent to move into the middle without being taken.
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    Develop your pieces one at a time. Once you’ve made the opening moves, it’s time to start developing an attacking position. You want to give each of your pieces the best possible square to move to, getting pieces off of the starting squares.[8]
    • Unless you are forced to, the best method is to move your pieces in turn. Don’t move the same piece twice unless you must defend it from an unexpected attack or make a vital attack.
    • You don’t have to move each piece, however. Advancing all of your pawns won’t help you win as it breaks down a vital line of defense protecting your King.
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    Learn to castle. Castling is when your hop the King over a Rook, effectively using the Rook to form a wall against attack. Above the King you still have a line of pawns protecting you as well. This is an incredibly effective tactic, especially for beginners learning the game. To do it:
    • Clear the path between your King and Rook by moving the Bishop and Knight (and potentially Queen). Try to keep as many pawns as you can in place. You can do this on either side.
    • In the same turn, move the Rook and King together, where they meet, swap their positions. So, if you're castling on the King's side, you would end up with the King on G1 and the Rook on F1.[9]
    • Note that the King and the Rook can not have moved once before castling. If they do, the move is no longer allowed.
    • Part of what helps you to win at chess is your ability to read your opponent without letting him read you. Don’t begin your move until you are sure it the right move.
    • You want to be thinking several moves ahead at all times. This means knowing where each of your pieces can move in any situation and being able to predict how your opponent will react to your moves. This skill isn’t always easy to gain and will take practice.

Part 2
Winning as an Intermediate Player

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    Watch your opponent's moves carefully. What pieces are they developing, and what sides of the board are they favoring? If you were them, what sort of long-term strategy would you be planning? Once you have the basics of your own play down, you should be constantly adjusting to your opponent's. If she's holding back, setting up pieces near her side for an attack, ask yourself what her end-goal is. Are there ways you can disrupt or put her plan on hold? Does he have the advantage, and do you need to fall back and defend some units to prevent a serious loss of material, or can you put some pressure on him?[10]
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    Know when to trade pieces. Trading pieces is obvious when you end up with the material advantage, such as giving up a Knight in order to get their Queen, but it is much trickier when you're trading off similar pieces. In general, you do not want to trade pieces when:
    • You have the advantage in position, center control, and development. The fewer pieces are on the board in total, the less of an advantage you have and the easier you are to defend against.
    • The opponent is cramped or stuck in a corner. When you have them locked in it is more difficult for them to move or maneuver many pieces, but fewer pieces can get them out of the jam and free again.
    • You have fewer pieces than your opponent. If you have more pieces than them and the advantages are otherwise similar, start taking pieces. You'll open up new attacking lanes.
    • You would double up pawns. A doubled pawn is when you have one pawn in front of the other. This makes them both much less useful and clogs up your side of the board. However, if you can make your opponent double pawns as a side-effect of an even trade then this could be useful move.[11]
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    Develop 5-6 moves in advance every time. It is easier said than done, but you need to be thinking long-term in order to win chess games with any regularity. Each piece you move should be done with three common goals in mind. If you keep these points in your head, you'll find you can easily start improvising multi-move plans to win the game:
    • Develop multiple pieces (Rooks, Knights, Queen, Bishop) early and often. Get them out of their starting spots to open up your options.
    • Control the center. The center of the board is where the action happens.
    • Protect the King. You can have the best offense in the world, but leaving your King open is a sure-fire way to lose at the last minute.[12]
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    Hold your advantage until you can get the most out of it instead of rushing in. Chess is about momentum, and if you have it, you need to keep it. If your opponent is purely reacting to you, moving pieces out of the way frequently and unable to mount any attack, take your time and whittle them down. Remember, you can win a match-up and still lose the game. Don't move in if you're opening up to a counter attack. Instead, pick off their defending pieces, take full control of the middle of the board, and wait to hit them until it really hurts.
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    Learn to pin pieces. Pinning is when you trap a piece or hold it hostage, keeping your opponent from effectively using it without losing the piece. This passive sort of warfare is a great way to control the game, and it will help you master your opponents. To do it, look where a piece can move. Usually, pieces with limited options are your best bet. Then, instead of attacking, position your piece so that you could take them no matter where the move, effectively making the piece useless for a period of time.
    • Taking hostages is when you give your opponent the opportunity to take your piece. The only catch is knowing that you can take their piece right back. They may take it, they may not -- the important thing is that you're in control.[13]
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    Evaluate each move objectively. You need to be looking at the entire board, evaluating every possible move you have. Don't make a move just because you have to -- take the time instead to look for the best possible move every turn. What makes a good move depends purely on context, but there are a few questions you can ask yourself before every move to see if it is the right one:
    • Am I safer than where I was before?
    • Do I expose this piece, the King, or another important piece?
    • Can the enemy quickly put my piece in danger, making me move back and "lose" a turn?
    • Does this move put the enemy under pressure to react to me?[14]
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    Take out your opponent's pieces as a unit. You want to maintain control of the center, but you also want to attack as a unit. Your pieces are like the parts of orchestra, they each serve a unique purpose, but work the best together. By eliminating your opponent’s pieces you have a greater chance at putting his King in check without a piece to hide behind, and by doing it with 2-3 units as support you ensure that you keep the advantage in material.[15]
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    Protect your Queen at all times with a Bishop or Rook. It is the most powerful piece on the board for a reason, and there are rarely good times to trade it in for an opponent's piece, even their Queen. Your Queen is your most versatile attacker and needs to be used as such. Always protect and support the Queen, as the most players will sacrifice just about any piece (other than their own Queen) to take her down.
    • Queens only reach their full potential with support. Most players instinctively watch the opponent's Queen, so use yours to force pieces into the line of your Rooks, Bishops, and Knights.[16]
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    Don’t close in your Bishops with your pawns. Bishops strike from long-range, and using the two of them to control the board is vital, especially in the early game. There are many opening strategies that you can learn, but the overall goal is to quickly open up space for your higher value pieces to move freely.
    • Moving your Pawns to either d4/d5, or e4/e5 opens up your Bishops to move and helps you claim the center squares. Get the bishops out early and use their long range to your advantage while developing Rook and the Queen.[17]

Part 3
Winning as an Advanced Player

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    Think about the entire game from the opening moves on. A game of chess is generally considered to have three stages, all of which are deeply linked. The best chess players are always 10-12 moves ahead in their brain, developing 3-4 strategies simultaneously depending on the moves of their opponent. They know that moves and pieces traded in the early stages will profoundly affect the end of the game, and they plan accordingly.
    • Opening: This is where you set the tone of the game. Your first 4-5 moves develop a lot of pieces quickly and begin fighting for the center of the board. You can go offensive, taking the fight to them, or defensive, holding back and waiting to for them to make the first move.
    • The Midgame: This exists purely to set up your endgame. You trade pieces, seize control of the middle of the board and set up 1-2 lines of attack that you can spring into motion at any time. A trade-off now may be beneficial, but you have to know how losing a piece effects your chances to win at the end.
    • Endgame: There are only a few pieces left, and they are all incredibly valuable. The Endgame seems like it is the most dramatic stage, but really most of the work has already been done -- the player who "won" the Midgame and ended up with the best material should wrap it up with checkmate.
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    Choose Bishops over Knights in the Endgame. Early on, Bishops and Knights are roughly even strength. In the Endgame, however, Bishops can quickly move across the entire, much emptier board, while Knights are still slow. Remember this when trading pieces -- the Bishop may not help as much in the short-term, but they'll be an asset at the end.
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    Utilize your pawn's strength in numbers on an empty board. Pawns may seem useless, but they are critical pieces as the game winds down. They can support stronger pieces, push up the board to create pressure, and are a wonderful shield for your King. This benefit, however, is lost if you start doubling them early on (put two pawns in the same vertical line). Keep your pawns close together and let them support each other horizontally. When there are very few pieces left on the board, a push upward to promote into a Queen can win you the game.
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    Know when to push for a draw. If you're down material, and you know you have no chance of getting checkmate with what you have left, it's time to push for the draw. In competitive chess, you need to realize when you've lost the chance to win (you're down to a King, a pawn, and maybe 1-2 other pieces, they have you on the run, etc.) and should instead go for a tie. There are several ways to cut your loses and grab a draw, even when things seem hopeless:
    • Perpetual Check is when you force the opponent into a position where they cannot avoid going into check. Note, you don't actually have them in checkmate, you just have them in a position where they are not in check, but cannot move in a way that doesn't put them in check. Frequently done with a last-ditch attack on the King, leaving the opponent stuck between attack and defense.
    • Stalemating: When a King is not in check, but cannot move without going into check. Since a player cannot willingly enter check, the game is a draw.
    • Repetition or Useless Moves: If 50 moves have occurred without a piece being captured or a player in check, you can ask for a draw. If both players only make the same exact move 3 times in a row (because they are forced to move back and forth) it is also a draw.
    • Lack of material. There are a few scenarios where winning is physically impossible:
      • Just two Kings on the board.
      • King and Bishop against a King
      • King and Knight against a King
      • King and two Knights against a King.[18]
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    Practice some chess problems in your spare time. You can vastly increase your chess skills without ever facing an opponent. Chess problems are sample boards that ask you to get checkmate with just 1 or 2 moves. You can practice on 100's of them in books and online, and over time you'll start to learn great piece positions and unexpectedly sneaky modes of attack. While you will, more likely than not, never see the exact situation on the board, chess problems develop your ability to see all potential angles of attack and how to best set up pieces.[19]
    • Look online for problem sets, or check out a book on chess strategy at the library, as they will all have practice problems.


  • Don't ever risk your queen, it's the most valuable piece on the board.
  • Play with the confidence that you are going to win.
  • Just keep practicing and don't give pieces away from foolish moves.
  • Press forward in groups. If you must go out to attack, have a plan to regroup.
  • You can play certain games online that will give you hints on how to move. Pay attention to these hints as they will be valuable when playing competitively.
  • When you are ready, play in tournaments, or in a chess club. It can boost your skills, while giving you an official chess rating.
  • Know the ratings of each piece and use those to help you:
    • Pawn's are worth 1, Knight's are 3, Bishop's are worth 3, Rook are worth 5 and Queen's are worth a whopping 9. It may be beneficial to exchange your Bishop in order to gain your opponent’s Rook.
  • You should plan properly before you move a piece.


  • Don't use cheap tricks like the four-move checkmate. If your opponent knows about those tricks, you have a high chance of losing.
  • Check before taking 'free' pieces. Your opponent may be sacrificing that piece so that he can then gain your more powerful one, or cause a diversion to advance.
  • It's okay if you don't win! It takes lots and lots of practice to become a pro!

Things You'll Need

  • People to play against, or computer program.
  • Chess board and pieces
  • (Optional) A online or real tutor to help hone your skills
  • (Optional) An online, downloadable, or preset chess program
  • (Optional) A regional or international chess membership
  • (Optional) A chess club to practice with.

Article Info

Categories: Chess