A question and answer column by National Master Andy Lee
Q: When I start a chess game, I like to move my side pawns and rooks first. My friend likes to move his center pawns and then his knights. Which one of us is right?
- Alex W., Boston, MA
A: Let's take a quick look a what your two plans of development look like when played against each other. We'll give you the white pieces and your friend the black ones:
So, four moves into the game, you have both moved two pawns and two pieces. This might seem pretty equal until you look at the power of your bishops compared to his. You will need to make at least two more pawn moves to bring your bishops out, while your opponent is ready to move them where he pleases - including a possible capture of either one of your rooks!
An important rule for the opening: your queens and rooks are often uncomfortable coming out too early, since they can be harrassed by the less valuable bishops, knights, and pawns.
Most importantly, in the above diagram, your opponent has greater control of the center. Why is this important? Simply because your pieces (other than rooks) can move to more squares when they are located in the center (or, in chess lingo, they have greater mobility.
Again, this is easiest to see on an actual chessboard:
The white knight on d4 is sitting pretty: it controls eight squares and can move forward to attack, or backwards to defend. It's black counterpart on h5, on the other hand, has only four possible moves. A knight in the corner is even worse (only two possible moves)!
The basic rules of the opening are generally good guidelines: break them only when you see a really good reason to do so. And don't forget to send your questions to FalseNarwahl!