from How Not to Play Chess by Eugene A.
* Avoid Mistakes.
- It is better to understand a combination, the
principles underlying it, than to memorize it.
Analogous combinations may be possible in other
positions, after other opening moves.
Provided you have an understanding of the
combination, you can take advantage of the position,
or avoid the danger, even if you have forgotten the
game. If you have only learnt it by heart, nothing can
help you, if you forget it.
* Do not make the opening moves automatically and
- I think that there are several reasons for these
mistakes. The first is that amateurs often make the
opening moves quite automatically, without thinking of
their meaning. They have seen them being made in many
earlier games; they repeat them as being good
moves, but without understanding the idea which is
behind them, their possible weaknesses or dangers, or
what they may threaten; so that if their opponent
makes some unfamiliar move, possibly a very weak one,
they are at once at sea, and know not how to reply to
it, or take advantage of it.
- If you have grasped the spirit of the opening, you
will seldom be at a loss for a good reply to an
unfamiliar move of your opponent's.
* Do not memorize variations, try to understand them.
* Do not believe all that you are told. Examine,
verify, use your reason.
- The simplest rules are subject to many exceptions,
and even one that is fundamental may, in certain
cases, find itself in contradiction with others..
- There is nothing hidden; everyone can see all that
is on the chessboard, and what is more,
no piece can remain unnoticed.
- It is foolish to think that suddenly inspiration or
some sort of auto-suggestion will produce beautiful
winning ideas. They are in the position itself and we
must learn to look with greater attention and care
for them, and then as a result of our examination of
every detail we grasp an idea.
* Do not abandon the centre to your adversary.
- To hold the center, it is not always necessary to
post pieces there; it is sufficient that the center
should come under the influence of "your" pieces, so
that the opponent may be prevented or hindered from
establishing his pieces there.
- It will also be obvious that if you occupy the
centre squares with "your" pieces prematurely, that is
without proper preparation, they will
likely be exchanged, or driven off by the opponent,
and you will have wasted valuable time. A preliminary
preparation is therefore indicated.
* Do not give up open lines, seize them and hold
- When there is no clear forced win in sight, you must
do all you possibly can to strengthen your pieces,
i.e., your position, which you can best do by getting
"control" of as many squares on the board
* Do not create weak points in your game for the enemy
- If "you" place a piece on a square which can be
attacked by an opponent, that piece can never feel
quite secure, and you cannot say that you really
occupy the square. You are only doing so on
sufferance, so to speak. A square can only be said to
be occupied when it cannot (or will not) be attacked.
Such a square will be weak and a source of danger to
the player in whose camp it is, and conversely, a
strong point for his opponent.
If therefore you see such a weak square in your
opponent's position, you must try to occupy it
with one of "your" pieces, and the nearer that square
to his base, the more dangerous will the
occupation be to him.
* Do not lose time
- Just as you can get an advantage in space by
occupying or controlling strong points, so too you can
get an advantage in time, gain a tempo, as it is
called, if you are earlier in completing your
development than your opponent, or press home your
* Unless you analyze your position, you will achieve
- Is it really necessary to make such an analysis, and
if so, why? It is indispensable. In order to determine
on your proper course, you should know exactly how you
How often have I heard players say: I knew that
I had the better position, but I did not know what to
do to take advantage of it; I made some bad moves and
lost the game.
I would then ask them: Did you really analyse the
position? Did you know in what precisely your
advantage consisted? If you had done so, you would
have known what to do, and you would not have lost
- You see, it is not enough merely to have the feeling
that you stand better or worse than your opponent; you
must know and understand exactly in what consists this
superiority or inferiority.
If you have the better position you can take the
initiative; If your opponent has the advantage,
you must concentrate on defense. If your advantage is
very great, play vigorously, if it be only small, be
prudent, play carefully, do not attempt to hasten
Only a thorough analysis of the position can guide you
to your proper path.
- Examine everything on the board, note those pieces
which are well or ill placed, you will then see
whose pieces are the most effective and therefore
stronger, yours or your opponent's.
- Next, estimate the strength or weakness of the
various squares, the result will show you which has
the advantage in space.
- Lastly, examine the time element to ascertain
whether either side has gained tempi over the other.
- If, as a result of your analysis, you find that you
hold the advantage in all three elements, you need
not trouble, and you may play to win. If, however,
your opponent holds the advantage in all or some
of these elements, there is something wrong with your
position, you must play circumspectly, and
endeavour to rectify what is amiss.
* Do not leave any piece where it has no range of
action or is out of touch with your other pieces.
- Although apparently strongly placed, a piece may yet
have no future where it is, since there is no way for
it to occupy, if need be, other perhaps more important
points, or to co-operate whether for "attack" or
defence. An isolated piece, out of touch with
"his" fellows, and therefore unable to come to their
support in time, may well lead to the loss of
the game. Hence the vital importance of this
"interior" analysis of the position.
- If all is not well in your camp, if one or more of
your pieces have no "future," or if between your
pieces there is no proper liaison, your course is
obvious, PUT YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER WHILE THERE IS YET
TIME. To do this under enemy fire is not always easy,
but the attempt must be made.
Above all, stay your "attack", if one has been
started, and concentrate on the problem of
co-ordinating "your" forces.
- And nevertheless the whole meaning of the position
is changed, and perhaps the game which was won in the
first case will be lost now.
* Do not play too quickly
* It is not a move, even the best move, that you must
seek, but a
- An isolated move has no meaning. It is only when
taken in its context as one of a sequence of moves
that it acquires significance. In playing we must have
a definite idea of the object which we wish to attain,
and then make our moves with this idea in view.
- If you have a definite plan, it will not be
difficult to find the move best suited to its
furtherance at any particular moment. It is just as in
a discussion. If one has no definite opinion on the
subject at issue, he just chatters on, makes, it may
be, clever remarks, but they will be of little or no
importance, since they lead to no conclusion.
If however, she has a definite opinion, her remarks
will always be to the point, and she will find the
right words with which to defend it.
- True, you cannot start a game with a complete
detailed plan in your mind, but you can have a general
aim, which will give you your orientation, and with
every move your aim will become more definite.
- You must not play your opening moves automatically
and without thought. You must give each move real
thought, and not only each move but the series of
moves depending on it. Thus only will you be able
logically to develop the idea which inspired your
This cannot too often be insisted on.
To make a sequence of isolated moves, having no
bearing on one another, is like beating the air.
* Do not despise the small details; it is often in
them that the idea of the position will be found.
- You have to decide which course is the better, or
rather which course you prefer. To make your
decision, you must be able to foresee the general
course which events will take in either case.
For again, it cannot be repeated too often, a move
to be good must be one of a series of moves which
logically furthers your plan.
- If it bears no relation to this, it will be
useless, and having moved a piece, to a square which
looks good and commands perhaps a file or diagonal,
you do not know what to do with it afterwards, as it
is out of the picture of your plan.
* Do not think too soon about what your opponent can
do; first get clear what you want to do.
- You will have noticed that so far we have given no
consideration to what our opponent can do. And this is
right, for we must first get clear in our mind what
our general plan is to be. If you have the initiative
you must strive to keep it. You must construct your
plan, which, do not forget, will be based on the
actual position facing you without giving too much
thought to what your opponent can do
whether in defence or offence.
You must determine to make him dance to your tune.
If you are forever thinking of what he may possibly
threaten, you will soon lose your will, the initiative
will pass out of your hands, and it will be your
opponent who then will call the tune, and you will be
lucky if you save the game.
On the other hand, if your opponent has the
initiative, you must obviously give careful thought to
his moves, so that you may meet his immediate
threats, and fathom the plan which he is forming,
while all time you will keep your eyes very open for
the chance to seize the initiative from him.
* Do not lose confidence in your judgement.
- Optimism is a great asset, but confidence in oneself
is literally essential if we want to play the game
at all. A defeatist spirit must lead to disaster.
* Never lose sight of your general idea, however thick
- However hard pressed you may be, never forget the
general plan of action which you had formed.
- Faced by a serious threat, many content themselves
with finding a move which will parry the immediate
danger, without considering whether that move will
serve their plan, or actually make it impossible to
execute. They forget in the stress of the fight that
they too had a plan, and perhaps a thoroughly good and
sound one, and throw away all their chances of
carrying it out.
When the immediate danger is past, they will likely
again remember their plan, and try to further it, but
it will then generally be too late. They may have
temporarily repulsed the attack, they will be lost
nevertheless, for their game will have been
compromised by their inattention to their main
* Do not modify your plan.
- Hold to your main idea, however difficult the
position may seem. If you are forced to abandon it,
you will have to bow to the inevitable, for necessity
knows no law.
But you must not readily submit to the conclusion that
you are so forced. This would mean that you considered
that your opponent had already outplayed you. If,
however, a careful analysis of the position convinces
that you stand as well as he does, do not tamely
submit to his will.
A way must be sought to meet the threat, and at the
same time, further your main plan. Of course, if
you have no definite plan, you are beaten before you
begin to play.
If you have, do not too readily admit to an
- Such is the game of chess! A broad plan, based on a
precise analysis of the position, which will at the
same time indicate the method to be followed in
carrying it out.
It is not in the heat of the game, when perhaps you
are menaced on every side, that this broad plan can be
quickly thought out. This must be done before
embarking on complications, at crucial stages of the
* Do not be content with "attacking" an existing
weakness; always seek to "create" others.
- In carrying out your main plan, which will be
directed against some weakness of your
opponent's, never, in working out the details,
neglect the opportunity to "create" other
weaknesses, if such occurs, as it usually will.
- All that is required of a player is that he think
logically, granted, not an easy thing to do, but one
for which no special gifts are necessary. It is pure
laziness of mind which leads to the distressing
sight, so often seen, of moves made without rhyme or
reason, having no bearing on the position, let
alone any relation to a settled plan.
- Chess, we must remember, is a battle of ideas, and
throughout our ideas encounter at every moment
those of our opponent. We shall, therefore, in the
event, often have to content ourselves with small
results, and be glad if in the struggle we can gain
some definite positional or other advantage instead
of the potentially commanding advantage, for which a
complete realisation of our aim might have led us
And even if we have realized our idea, it does not
necessarily follow that the game is won. Time alone
can prove whether our idea was really a sound one.
* Haste, the great enemy
- Haste is never more dangerous than when you feel
that victory is in your grasp. It is at this critical
moment that there is a terrible tendency to forget
ordinary caution, to become careless, to relax in
accuracy, or on the other hand to be over-timid,
giving the alert opponent his chance to extricate
* Do not relax in the hour of victory
* Do not entangle yourself in a maze of calculations
- It is worse than idle to attempt to anticipate every
possible reply your opponent may make to each of
your proposed moves. You will but waste your time, in
fact, you will only lose yourself in a maze of
calculations which can have no end. Never, therefore,
eternally put the question to yourself:
"If I do this, he will do that - or that -
or that," ad infinitum!
First form your ideal picture on the supposition that
your opponent does nothing. With this picture clear in
your mind, then is the time to ask yourself what
general plan your opponent may form to counter yours;
whether he may have some definite plan inherent in the
position, which you in turn will have to counter,
while keeping your own in view; whether finally
your idea is really capable of execution, and whether
it really carries the threat your ideal picture
- Reflect: Is your position so dangerous to your
opponent that he must prevent you from realising
it at any cost? If it is not so dangerous to him, as
this, what defence must be organized against it?
Will your opponent create any weakness in his own
position while carrying out this defense?
If we only think of finding a defense against each
isolated move, without considering that move as one
in a series made in relation to a general plan, our
defence must eventually break down, since our moves
will be out of relation to it.
* Do not leave your pieces in bad positions
- Each party had formed a plan, in itself sound, based
on the analysis of the position. If in the ensuing
struggle one side got a decisive advantage, it was
because he fathomed at the outset his opponent's
idea and could make his plans accordingly, while his
opponent failed to understand the full meaning of
the attack he had to meet. Hence in carrying out his
plan, he created weaknesses in his own camp of which
the opponent could take advantage in developing his
"attack," and recognizing the danger too late,
no adequate defense could be found.
Do not, however, close this little book with the idea
that if you analyse the position, and base a sound
plan on your analysis, you will never lose a game!
You will lose many a game, but even in the games
which you lose, your play will have been logical,
and your opponent will have to go to great trouble to
come out victorious.
If, however, you follow carefully the ideas developed
in this book, you will derive far greater pleasure
from the game than you had before, for you will
understand what precisely you are aiming at, and
the motive behind each move and series of moves, and
you will also understand your opponent's play, what
his plan is, and you will realise that Chess is indeed
a struggle between minds, not a matter of chance,
certainly not a mere haphazard moving of pieces.
Whether I have succeeded or not in my aim to explain
to you how you must not play Chess, I hope that you
will have learnt how to play the game. This will be a
still greater thing : and then, looking back
upon the days when you did not know how to play
Chess, you will be able to say, after a well-earned
victory, that now, at any rate, you really know, how
NOT to play chess!