Opening Principles of Chess


These general opening principles in chess can be followed to play a solid game in the opening stage of the game:

  1. Control the centre.
  2. Develop knights before bishops.
  3. Never move a piece twice.
  4. Develop both knights before the queen bishop.
  5. Do not bring out the queen too early.
  6. Do not develop exclusively on one side of the board.
  7. Castle sooner than later – remember the king’s safety.
  8. Clear the back rank (except king and rooks) and connect both rooks.
  9. Do not permit the opponent to open a file on your king after castling.
  10. Rooks belong on open files.
  11. Avoid exchanging bishops for knights early on.
  12. Avoid premature attacks – sometimes the threat is more powerful than the capture.
  13. Always try to realise your plan while preventing your opponent from realising his.

However, every chess player must remember there can be no mechanical thinking in chess. This means the above principles cannot be followed regardless of the other player’s moves. It is for this very reason some chess masters do not care for opening principles:

‘Note that I propose a few principles rather than provide a whole list of outmoded opening do’s and dont’s. I feel that such a list inhibits creativity in the opening, and inhibits beginners to play like automatons, almost never deviating from the Giuoco Piano. […]

Strong players will not always adhere to the standard principles – but they will have a reason if they do not. Indeed the real sign of a great player is the willingness to go against tradition, and play strictly in accordance with the specific position, whether this means sacrificing material, accepting horrific weaknesses, or whatever.

How to Survive the Opening

  1. Make only as many pawn moves as are necessary to develop your pieces.
  2. Put all your pieces on active squares as soon as possible.
  3. Arrange your pieces and pawns so that your pieces are not exposed to attack.
  4. Do not waste any time.

What Constitutes a “Good” Opening

  1. It must not lose by force.
  2. It should not involve too much simplification.
  3. It should be reasonably promising.’

– Burgess. G. 2002. Chess Tactics and Strategy New Jersey, United States: Castle Books (1997) p. 110-111