Advice on Playing Chess

Edward Winter


CHESS, January 1952, page 75

‘The object of the game is, of course, to checkmate the King, and before the first move, the player should determine in his own mind how he is going to do it and then develop the fighting qualities of his men accordingly.’

Source: page 67 of How to Play Chess by Charlotte Boardman Rogers (New York, 1907).

Even so, the books are not unanimous that developing pieces in the opening is necessarily a good idea. From page 106 of A Complete Guide to the Games of Checkers and Chess by Maxim La Roux (Baltimore, 1916):

‘Before you stir your pieces, you ought to move your pawns, and afterward bring out your pieces to support them. …You are not, therefore, to play out any of your pieces in the early part of your game …’

One apparent problem with developing pieces is that an excessively strong attack may result. That, at least, was the warning on page 20 of Chess & Draughts Made Easy by J. Bishop (London, circa 1860):

‘Do not crowd your adversary’s king with your pieces, lest you inadvertently give a stalemate, which is a drawn game.’


If an attack does develop, the opponent may buckle under the pressure and blunder away a piece, but should it be accepted? From page 22 of Chess Made Easy by J.A. Guthrie (London, 1922):

‘When your attack is in a prosperous way, never be diverted from it by taking any piece thrown in your way, as it may be a bait which your taking would cause your designs to miscarry.’

Castling is usually regarded as an important way of developing one’s game, but that has not always been the unanimous view. In C.N. 3119 Calle Erlandsson (Lund, Sweden) gave an English translation of the relevant passage of the first (1771) edition of C.W. v. Königstedt’s Kort Afhandling om Schack-Spel (‘A Short Treatise about the Game of Chess’). Chapter VII (About Castling) states, on page 23:

‘Great players never castle until the end of the game, and often never at all, as their king, although often in the middle of the board, nevertheless stands secure.’

Mr Erlandsson added that in the third, improved edition, printed in 1806, the start of the text was slightly different: ‘Good players seldom castle ...’

On the other hand, ‘castling often improves the situation when the game is crowded’ according to page 15 of the “Popular” Handbook of Chess by Professor de Lyons Pike (London, circa 1902). Some further extracts:


Another book with a stream of notable advice is Chess and How to Play It by B. Scriven, brought out by Universal Publications Ltd. in the 1930s. Some snippets:


Indeed, B. Scriven’s book offers, on page 49, what may be the single most valuable piece of advice for chessplayers of all levels:

‘Before making a move, note all the consequences.’

This article originally appeared at

Latest update: 29 July 2014.

To the Chess Notes main page.

To the Archives for other feature articles.

Copyright: Edward Winter. All rights reserved.