Chess Lessons by Lee Duigon: Lesson Sixteen

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Let me introduce the subject of chess openings. This is not cutting-edge opening theory. It’s just me, going by experience. And I think we ought to start with general principles. Way too many openings for anyone to learn, but these general principles pretty much always apply.

1. Try to be strong in the center of the board: either directly, by moving pawns and pieces there, or indirectly from somewhere on one or both flanks, stationing your men so that they can get to the center quickly.

2. Knights are best somewhere around the middle of the board. Chess saying, “Knights on the rim are dim,” is usually true.

3. Usually it’s wise to castle as soon as possible.

4. Develop as many pieces as quickly as you can–don’t leave them in their starting spots unless you have a good reason for it. “Develop” means to put them in position to attack or defend as needed.

5. Rooks do best when they have room to shoot to the other end of the board, and when they are in position to support or defend each other. Sometimes the Queen can join them, forming what we call a battery. Try not to cut them off from each other unless there’s a good reason for it. (Any chess move ought to be made for a reason. But you’d be surprised how hard that can be for a beginner to learn.)

6. Bishops like clear diagonals, the longer, the better. If your Bishop winds up bottled up behind your own pawns, we call that a bad bishop. Try to position bishops where they’ll have some room to operate. Unlike Knights, Bishops can be tucked into corner squares and still be powerful.

7. Remember that pawns can never move backward; so when you move one forward, it ought to be for a reason–either to defend something (Pawns are good at that) or to open up room for your stronger pieces.

8. Pawns that wind up back-to-back, aka doubled pawns, can’t defend each other and are best avoided–until you know a lot more about chess. Then it’s not such a big problem.
If you keep these principles in mind, practice them, and use them to direct your moves, you won’t be discomfited by any opening which your opponent might use.

– Lee Duigon on March 13th, 2019

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The Bell Mountain Series!!!

Chess Lessons by Lee Duigon: Lesson Fifteen

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All right, let’s try this–nothing ventured, nothing gained. My friends and I sort of invented this opening before we were old enough to read chess books. It served us well until we got better at chess.

We call this the Playground Opening. It will work if your opponent is inexperienced, or if he takes you so lightly that he isn’t really thinking. You have to be playing White to do it. Here it is.

1.e4, e5 2. Qh5, g6 [this is the careless move that kills him] 3.Qxe5 check, Ne7 4. Qxh8, $#@#$!

After this, your chief concerns should be to get your Queen out of there and develop more pies (Nf3, Bc4, etc.). The temptation is to leave the Queen in Black’s territory and pick off some Pawns–but don’t do that, she might get trapped.

Remember that the opponent, in chess openings, very often doesn’t make the moves he’s supposed to make. Don’t let that discourage you. Just keep playing and try to gain experience.

Let me know how you make out!

– Lee Duigon on March 3rd, 2019

I highly recommend the Bell Mountain Series by Lee Duigon!!

Lesson Sixteen is coming next Wednesday!

Chess Lessons by Lee Duigon: Lesson Fourteen

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I want to get you started on chess openings. It’s a complicated subject, and I’ll take it slow. Openings are probably my favorite part of chess.

A few general remarks. A lot of players don’t bother to study openings. For one thing, there are too many of them; no one can learn them all. For another, players get annoyed when they study and opening, want to use it in a game, and the opponent just won’t do what the book said he should do. I dream of the day when, as Black, I play the Albin Counter-Gambit and White stumbles into the Lasker Trap. This has happened for me only once, ever. *sigh*

I recommend two things. First, learn general principles that apply to most openings, if not all of them. Because you’re bound to encounter openings you’ve never seen before, and you don’t want to be confused and surprised. So learn the general principles that govern them all. More on that next time.

Second, study a few favorite openings thoroughly–very thoroughly. I, for instance, like unusual openings that may make my opponent underestimate me. I favor gambits over safe, uneventful openings. As White I’ve carefully studied the Polish Opening, 1.b4, because most opponents see it and think I must be stupid. As Black I favor Philidor’s Defense (1.e4, e5; 2. Nf3 [or something else], d6) because Black’s second move, d6, makes him look timid–but you’d be surprised how quickly the Philidor can be turned into an offensive campaign. If White opens 1.d4, I favor the Albin Counter-Gambit (1.d4, d5; 2. c4 [offering the Queen’s Gambit], e5) which can turn a dull Queen-pawn game into a real brawl. The point is, I’ve spent much time studying these openings and little time on others, trusting in my grasp of general principles to see me through to the middle of the game.

Regardless of whether I’m playing White or Black, I try to go on the attack as soon as possible. Chess is more fun that way.

– Lee Duigon on March 2nd, 2019

Thank you, Mr. Duigon, for the chess lesson!

I highly recommend you read The Bell Mountain Series by Lee Duigon! It’s a Christian fantasy series and you will find it hard to put the book down once you start reading it!

Stay tuned for Lesson Fifteen!

Chess Lessons by Lee Duigon: Lesson Thirteen

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Quick chess lesson:For the time being we’ll skip check and checkmate, which you probably already understand, and move on to Stalemate.

Stalemate happens when it’s a player’s turn to move, he’s not in check, but he cannot make a legal move. The game is declared a draw.

For most of us stalemate is the result of simple carelessness, and it’s the most common way of coughing up a game you should have won.

Example: Black to move, and the only piece he has left is the King on h8. White has the King on f7 and the Queen on g6. It’s Black’s move, but he can’t make a legal move. Any square he can reach would put him in check, and thus be an illegal move.

The players might also have a bunch of Pawns still on the board blocking each other from moving at all.

It’s hair-tearing frustration when you’ve got the game in your back pocket but have to settle for a draw because you carelessly allowed a stalemate to occur. It’s something you have to think about as the game nears the end; and you can avoid it just by being careful about your moves. So don’t be overconfident and don’t be careless.

I expect you have some questions by now, about this and that and the other. We ought to address those before moving on to my favorite part of chess–the openings.

– Lee Duigon on February 8th, 2019

Lee Duigon is the author of the Bell Mountain series, a great series of books that I recommend for young adults (and all people)!

Stay tuned for Lesson Fourteen!

Chess Lessons by Lee Duigon: Lesson Twelve

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Chess lesson: the King; check and checkmate.

You probably know this stuff already, but I might as well be thorough. I’m sure you know that the loss of the King is the loss of the game.

“Check” is when your opponent makes a move that puts your King in danger of being captured on the next move. You are obliged to get your King out of check, either by moving it, putting another piece or pawn in the way of the attacker, or capturing the attacker. Note: It’s against the rules to castle out of check, or to castle “through a check”–that is, moving the King through a square subject to enemy attack. Any move that fails to get the King out of check is not allowed.

“Checkmate” is when the King is in check and can’t get out of it by any means. The game is then over.

What many beginners don’t realize is that late in the game, with most of both chess armies off the board, the King comes into his own as an attacking piece. The King moves one square in any direction, as long as he doesn’t move into check. Often the King gets the job of shepherding a Pawn to the opposite end of the board.

Castling is usually the best way to keep your King safe, so try to do it early in the game.

**Beware the back rank mate! If the King is all alone on the back row with Pawns in front of him, an enemy Rook or Queen can slide down and mate him.

**Beware the skewer, also known as the X-ray: in which you have a valuable piece adjacent to the King, and an enemy makes a move that would be check if your intervening piece weren’t there, Example: your King is on e1, your Queen on f2, and along comes an enemy Bishop to h4, attacking the Queen–which can’t move away, because that would put the King in check. And let’s say the attacking Bishop is protected by an enemy Rook on h8. The best you can do is to take the Bishop with the Queen, whereupon the Rook takes your Queen and you come out way behind. So be careful where you put your Rooks and Queen in relation to your King.
enough for now. Questions?

– Lee Duigon (January 18th, 2019)

Lee Duigon is the author of the Bell Mountain series, a great series of books that I recommend for young adults (and all people)!

Stay tuned for Lesson Thirteen!

Chess Lessons by Lee Duigon: Lesson Eleven

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Lesson 11: the Queen.

The Queen is your most powerful piece in your chess army: air-mobile troops with gunships. She combines the moves of a Rook and a Bishop–diagonal or perpendicular, as far as she can go (if there’s nothing in the way).

Many beginners make the mistake of expecting too much of the Queen, bringing her out too early, too aggressively, and wind up losing her. I like to save my Queen for a move that has a chance of being decisive. Like any other piece, the Queen can be sacrificed to achieve a strategic coup; but don’t bring her out early and let her get trapped.

The longer the game goes on, the more scope for your Queen to act decisively. In the opening game, Pawns, then Knights, then Bishops. In the middle game, Rooks and Queen. Wait for some of the troops to be cleared away before committing your Queen.

Of course, when you do see a chance for the Queen to strike a telling blow, think it over, and if it still looks good–take it! The Queen is your big bopper and ought to be used accordingly.

Before I take up the King, check, and checkmate, I’d like to answer any questions you may have.

– Lee Duigon, on January 4th, 2019

Thank you so much for this lesson, Mr. Duigon!!

Check out Lee Duigon’s blog and books at: https://leeduigon.com/ !!

Chess Lessons by Lee Duigon: Lesson Ten

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(This lesson was a Christmas present to me by Mr. Duigon! Thank you, Mr. Duigon!)

Lesson 10: More about Rooks

There are two important things to remember about Rooks. 1) They work best when they work together. Unlike Bishops, they can defend each other. Unlike Knights, they can do it at long range. Rooks at a1 and a8, for instance, provided there is nothing in the way, defend each other the length of the board. 2) The principal of “sliding Rooks”: although the Rook is a high value piece, it can often be sacrificed–for instance, by taking a Pawn that is protecting the opposing King, blowing a hole in the defense–when the other Rook is able to “slide in” to replace it on your next turn. Example: Rooks on h1 and g1. The g1 Rook sweeps down to g7 to capture a defending enemy Pawn and threaten (“check”) the opposing King. The King, due to circumstances we won’t go into here, has no alternative but to capture your Rook on g7. When it’s your turn to move again, your h1 Rook “slides” to g1 and again attacks the enemy King–who no longer has a Pawn in front of him to defend him.

There is a saying in chess, “When you can move either of your two Rooks, you almost always end up moving the wrong one!” So take the time to carefully consider your moves.

– Lee Duigon, December 25th, 2018

Want to read an engaging series? Well, I recommend the Bell Mountain Series by Lee Duigon! I guarantee that you will find it hard to put the book down once you start reading!

Read some sample chapters here!

Chess Lessons by Lee Duigon: Lesson Nine

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Chess Lesson 9: the Rooks (aka “Castles”)

Knights and Bishops are Minor Pieces; Rooks and Queens are Major Pieces, because they’re much more powerful. Your two Rooks start the game at opposite ends of your back rank, on the A and H squares. This is ironic: because Rooks work best when they work together, they could hardly start worse off than to be separated by the whole rest of your army. So as you make moves early in the game, you’ll want to position your Rooks so that they can work together and support each other.

The Rook moves straight ahead–forward, backward, right or left, as far as you want it to go, provided nothing else is in the way. Unlike a Bishop, a Rook has access to every square on the board and can often get there in a hurry. Think of your Rooks as self-propelled heavy artillery, well-suited to breaking open a defensive position.

Together, the Rook and the King can execute a peculiar move called “castling,” the only time in chess when you can move more than one piece at a time. There is Queen’s side or “long castling,” to the left of the King, and King’s side or “short castling” to the right of the king.

Rules of castling: Neither the King nor the Rook involved can have moved before: the castling must be their first move. None of the squares covered by the castling move may be subject to enemy attack at the time. No other piece can be in the way between the King and the Rook.

Short castling, if you are White: King on e1, Rook on h1, King moves two squares to the right, to g1, and the Rook hops over him to f1. This is all counted as a single move. For long castling, King on e1, Rook on a1, King moves two squares to the left to c1 and Rook hops over him to d1. If you’re Black, the squares are e8, de8, a8, h8, f8, and c8.
Castling tends to confuse beginners, but eventually they get it.

Reasons for castling: It puts your King in a safer position, and puts your Rook in a more advantageous position from which to cooperate with the other Rook and maneuver offensively.

There’s a lot more to it, of course, but this is probably enough for now.

Lee Duigon, on December 19th, 2018

Lee Duigon is the author of the Bell Mountain series, which currently has 12 volumes. I definitely recommend his books for both kids and adults!

Stay tuned for Lesson Ten!

Chess Lessons by Lee Duigon: Lesson Eight

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Chess Lesson: Introducing Bishops.

Bishops are the tanks and armored infantry of your chess army. Unlike a Knight, a Bishop can sweep from one end of the board to the other in a single move, provided nothing’s in the way. They do have one weakness, though.

You have two Bishops, one of which starts on a black square (C1 for White, F8 for Black) and the other on a white square (F1, C8). Bishops can only move diagonally, which means each Bishop spends the entire game on squares of the same color from which it started. Because of this, Bishops work best when you have both of them. That way, they can cover all the squares on the board.

A Bishop has a value of 3, same as a Knight. They’re often exchanged during play. But in the long run, two Bishops are more powerful than two Knights.

Generally Bishops are the pieces you want to bring into play after you’ve developed your Knights. Save your Rooks and Queen for a few moves later. Bishops work very well with Pawns because they can defend one another: a Bishop on E4 and a Pawn on F3, for instance, make for a defensive strong point.

A Bishop has the ability to attack two men at once, either by a fork or by a “skewer.” If your opponent, for instance, has one Rook on H8 and another on G7, and your Bishop moves to B2, you have skewered the two Rooks and one of them will be captured.

I should point out that in chess, unlike checkers, captures are always optional: you don’t have to capture an opposing man if you have a reason not to.

More on Bishops next time. Any questions?

Lee Duigon (Dec. 8th, 2018)

Thank you, Mr. Duigon, for the chess lesson!

Check out Lee Duigon’s site at LeeDuigon.com and make sure you read his amazing fantasy fiction series!

Stay tuned for Lesson Nine!

Chess Lessons by Lee Duigon: Lesson Seven

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Lesson Seven: More about Knights…

Now that you’ve mastered the L-shaped move, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Knights are your special forces, and the best place for them is near the center of the board on the fourth or fifth rank, defended by Pawns if possible. Old chess saying: “A Knight on the rim (of the board) is dim.” If an enemy Knight is posted on your third or fourth rank, it means trouble for you. Chase it away or capture it.

Among the most devastating chess tactics is the Knight fork: your one Knight simultaneously attacks two or more high-value enemy targets. Imagine your opponent has his two Rooks on squares B8 and E7, and you have a Knight on D4. If you move the Knight to C6, you simultaneously attack both Rooks; only one can escape, and you capture the other. Even if the Knight is then lost, you have come out ahead: a Rook is worth 5, a Knight worth 3.

Knight forks that include a check on the opposing King are especially deadly.
The Knight’s one drawback is its short range, so remember: the middle of the board is where you want to be.

Questions?

Lee Duigon (Dec. 1st, 2018)

Thank you, Mr. Duigon, for the chess lesson!

To my readers, thank you for reading, and make sure you check out Lee’s blog and books!

Stay tuned for Lesson Eight!