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Chess Openings For Dummies®

Table of Contents

Introduction

About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

What You’re Not to Read

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Part I: Principles of Play

Part II: Winning with Open Games

Part III: Having It Both Ways with Semi-Open Games

Part IV: Conquering with Closed and Semi-Closed Games

Part V: Advancing with Flank Openings

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I: Principles of Play

Chapter 1: Understanding Chess Openings

Identifying a Chess Opening

Distinguishing “the” opening from “an” opening

Seeing how a move turns into an opening

Watching an opening transform right before your eyes

Finding an Opening That’s Right for You

Reviewing Chess Shorthand

Describing the board and pieces

Describing the action

Chapter 2: Exploring the Elements of Chess

Getting Time on Your Side

When Spacing Out Is Good

Making the Most of Your Material

Structuring Your Pawns

Doubled pawns: Trouble on the horizon

Isolated pawns: 1 is a lonely number

Pawn chains: Only as strong as their weakest link

Securing Your King

Chapter 3: Picking the Right Type of Opening

Considering Naming Conventions

Examining Opening Types

Breaking open the board with open games

Counterattacking with semi-open games

Shutting down your opponent with closed games

Playing coy with semi-closed games

Playing on the sidelines with flank games

Part II: Winning with Open Games

Chapter 4: Gambling with Gambits

Why Gamble with a Gambit?

Trotting Out the King’s Gambit

The King’s Gambit accepted

The King’s Gambit declined

Delving into the Danish Gambit

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Lying in Wait with the Latvian Gambit

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Chapter 5: Opening Softly with a Big Stick: The Bishop Makes Its Move

Preying with the Bishop’s Opening

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Keying Up for the Giuoco Piano

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Attacking with the Evans Gambit

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Chapter 6: Workin’ on Some Knight Moves

Calling in the Calvary: The Four Knights

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Ambitious but a Bit Ambiguous: The Two Knights Defense

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Chapter 7: Employing the Royal Ruy

Running with the Ruy López

Closing the Deal with the Open Variation

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Staying Open-Minded with the Closed Variation

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Marshalling Your Forces with the Marshall Attack

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Stocking Up with the Exchange Variation

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Chapter 8: The Best of the Rest of the Open Games

Pouring on the Scotch

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Getting Gory with the Göring Gambit

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Dabbling with Petroff’s Defense

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Part III: Having It Both Ways with Semi-Open Games

Chapter 9: Sharpening the Sicilian

The People’s Choice

Entering the Dragon

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Accelerating the Dragon

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Knocking Around the Najdorf

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Shenanigans in the Scheveningen

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Fooling Around with the Four Knights

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Chapter 10: Parlez-vous the French?

Nothing Diplomatic Here

Charging the Advance

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Staying Classical

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Winning with the Winawer

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Taking Out the Tarrasch

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Chapter 11: Anyone Can Caro-Kann

Caring about the Caro-Kann

The Classical Variation

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

The Smyslov Variation

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Being Advanced

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Chapter 12: Rope-a-Dope with the Pirc and Modern Defenses

Picking the Pirc

The Austrian Attack

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Picking the Pirc Classical

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Thoroughly Modern Maneuvers

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Chapter 13: The Best of the Rest of the Semi-Open Games

Analyzing Alekhine’s Defense

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Striking Back with the Scandinavian

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Part IV: Conquering with Closed and Semi-Closed Games

Chapter 14: Offering the Queen’s Gambit

Considering the Queen’s Gambit

The Queen’s Gambit Accepted

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Remaining Orthodox

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Testing the Tartakower

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Trading on the Exchange

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Chapter 15: Declining with the Slav and Semi-Slav

Declining or Delaying?

Going Down the Main Line

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Meeting the Meran Variation in the Semi-Slav

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Betting on the Botvinnik Variation

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Chapter 16: Getting Hypermodern with the Nimzo-Indian

What Is the Nimzo-Indian?

Playing Differently with the Sämisch

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Kicking Off with the Classical Variation

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Running with the Rubinstein

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Chapter 17: Fighting Back with the King’s Indian

The Center Can Wait

Getting Classical

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Playing Differently with the Sämisch

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Going for It All with the Four Pawns Attack

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Chapter 18: Grinding in the Grünfeld

Hypermodern to the Max

Examining the Exchange Variation

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Rolling Out the Russian System

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Chapter 19: The Best of the Rest of the Semi-Closed Games

Considering the Colle

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Loving the London System

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Beginning the Benoni

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Going Dutch

The Classical System

The Stonewall Dutch

Part V: Advancing with Flank Openings

Chapter 20: Speaking the King’s English

The British Are Coming!

Reversing the Sicilian

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Staying Symmetrical

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Stampeding in the Four Knights

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Countering with the King’s Indian

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Chapter 21: Getting Réti

The Contemporary Réti

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

The Original Réti

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Chapter 22: The Best of the Rest of the Flank Openings

Winging It with the Bird’s

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Attacking with the King’s Indian

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Getting an Edge with the Sokolsky

When things go White’s way

When things go Black’s way

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Chapter 23: Ten Common Mistakes to Avoid in the Opening

Wasting Time

Leading with the Lady

Losing Material

Abandoning the Center

Creating Weaknesses

Pawn Grabbing

Exposing the King

Blocking Lines

Falling for Traps

Memorizing Moves

Chapter 24: Ten Best Ways to Study Chess Openings

Getting a Coach

Finding a Friend

Reading Annotations

Dragging and Dropping

Playing in Real Time

Blitzing It Out

Basing the Data

Revving an Engine

Studying Your Games

Buying a Book

Chapter 25: Ten Great Chess Web Sites

Playing Sites

Free Internet Chess Server

Internet Chess Club

ChessBase

Informational Sites

Chessville

Chess games

Chess Cafe

Chess Lecture

Jeremy Silman

The Week in Chess

U.S. Chess Federation

Chess Openings For Dummies®

by James Eade

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About the Author

Like many others, James Eade first got interested in chess thanks to legendary player Bobby Fischer. He played his first official tournament game in 1972, quickly became the top player at his high school, and represented the University of Massachusetts in the 1975 Pan-American Collegiate Games.

The United States Chess Federation (USCF) certified him as a chess master for over-the-board tournament play in 1981 and as a correspondence chess master in 1984. International organizations gave him the chess master title in 1990 (for correspondence chess) and in 1993 (for over-the-board tournament play). He represented the United States in a number of international correspondence chess team tournaments.

In the 1990s, he began to supplement his chess-playing career by writing about the game, organizing elite tournaments, and teaching. He has written several books on chess, including the bestselling Chess For Dummies (Wiley), now in its second edition, and The Chess Player’s Bible (Barron’s). He has written numerous articles for a wide variety of publications and has been the editor of two chess journals. He was elected president of the Chess Journalists of America in 1995.

James was also elected vice-president of CalChess (the Northern California Chess Association) in 1991 and became the CalChess president in 1995. In 1996 he was elected to be a member of the executive board of the USCF and served until 1999.

He was appointed zone president in 2000 to represent the USCF in Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE), the world governing body for chess, and served until 2002. He was elected to be a trustee of the U.S. Charitable Chess Trust in 2000 and became its treasurer in 2005, a capacity in which he continues to serve to this day.

Dedication

To Sheri, whose steadfast confidence in me has been amazing.

Author’s Acknowledgments

I’d like to thank Sheri Anderson for all her support and encouragement over the years. She may not be a chess player, but she puts up with one.

I’d like to thank Stacy Kennedy for coming up with the idea for this project, for pitching it, and for getting it approved. Todd Lothery was the copy editor for this book, and I thank him for all the work he did cleaning up my submissions. I really appreciated my project editor, Vicki Adang, and her many contributions. She knows how to push without ever being pushy.

I want to give a special thank you to John Watson, who was more than just a technical editor. John caught mistakes, of course, but he also gave me advice throughout the course of the project. I’ve been a big fan of John’s work, and it was a pleasure collaborating with him.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our online registration form located at http://dummies.custhelp.com. For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Victoria M. Adang

Acquisitions Editor: Stacy Kennedy

Copy Editor: Todd Lothery

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Technical Editor: John Watson

Editorial Manager: Michelle Hacker

Editorial Assistants: Rachelle S. Amick, Jennette ElNaggar

Cover Photos: © iStockphoto.com/Sven Hoppe

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (www.the5thwave.com)

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Sheree Montgomery

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Proofreaders: John Greenough, Toni Settle

Indexer: Cheryl Duksta

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

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Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

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Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services

Introduction

Chess openings have been written about for centuries, but new books on the subject appear all the time. The analysis of leading experts has been augmented recently by sophisticated software and blindingly fast processing power. New insights are causing reevaluations of even the oldest of chess openings.

Chess has so many possible move orders, even in the opening phase of the game, that it’s humanly impossible to commit them all to memory. Most players become specialists on a very small number of openings in order to avoid unfamiliar territory.

I looked at all these dense, technical, highly specialized tomes on chess openings, and I decided I wanted to write a different kind of book. I wanted to give average chess enthusiasts a way to choose an opening that would suit their style of play.

But the question is always, which of the myriad chess openings should you adopt for yourself? This book is intended to help you find the right chess opening for you.

About This Book

No single book can comprehensively cover all the chess openings. Entire books have been devoted to a single variation on a single opening. You don’t want to spend hours trying to memorize chess openings; you just want to be able to play them well and get to the type of game you enjoy.

What this book does provide is a guide to the general principles behind playing a chess opening well, and specific examples of practical play. I break down the openings into different types and include examples of wins and losses in the most common openings, which help you develop a feel for what type of game you’ll be getting into if you decide to play one of them.

For each variation of an opening, I present a game in which White wins, followed by a game in which Black comes out on top. Throughout these games, I offer commentary that helps you see where a player’s strategy succeeds or fails. Remember, no opening gives you a 100-percent success rate — you need to know the good and the bad in order to make an informed choice.

The great thing about this book is that you decide where to start and what to read. It’s a reference work that you can jump into and out of at will. Just head to the table of contents or the index to find the information you want.

Conventions Used in This Book

I use the following conventions throughout the text to make things consistent and easy to understand:

I use italics to define chess terms that you may not be familiar with.

I use bold to indicate a move in a chess game. Bold type distinguishes the actual moves made in the game from moves that appear in my comments about the game.

Web addresses appear in monofont.

When this book was printed, some Web addresses may have needed to break across two lines of text. If you come across a two-line Web address, rest assured that I haven’t put in any extra characters (such as hyphens) to indicate the break. So when you’re using one of these Web addresses, just type exactly what you see on the page, pretending that the line break doesn’t exist.

What You’re Not to Read

You’ll notice a few gray boxes that contain information or anecdotes that supplement the chapter text. These are called sidebars, and you can safely skip the information in them and not miss anything essential, although if you do read them, I think you’ll find the info interesting.

Foolish Assumptions

I may be going out on a limb, but as I wrote this book, here’s what I assumed about you:

You’ve played chess before and are familiar with the game’s terminology.

You’re familiar with chess notation. (In case this is a particularly bad assumption, I include a short primer in Chapter 1.)

You want to better your game, whether that means being able to beat your nemesis, play in a chess league, or join your school’s chess team.

You own a reference work such as Chess For Dummies, 2nd Edition (Wiley). A reference is a great help for when you run into something unfamiliar.

How This Book Is Organized

This book is organized into six parts. The first part helps you understand chess openings in general terms. The next four parts get down to specific chess openings grouped together by opening type. The last part is the Part of Tens — a For Dummies staple that watchers of David Letterman’s show will be familiar with.

Part I: Principles of Play

In this part, I explain what an opening is, how openings vary from one another, and how they’re classified. I also identify the type of player who enjoys playing the openings in each category so you can skip to the openings that sound like your style of play.

Part II: Winning with Open Games

Games that begin 1.e4 e5 open up lines for speedy mobilization of your pieces and allow you to attack quickly. The openings I describe in this part are some of the oldest in the game, but they’re also some of the most popular because they allow players to attack early and often.

Part III: Having It Both Ways with Semi-Open Games

When you’re playing Black and you want to shake things up, you can respond to 1.e4 with something other than 1.…e5 and establish a semi-open game. These openings have fewer open lines, but they still feature plenty of piece mobility. The resulting games feature imbalanced positions in which White and Black are trying to achieve different goals, which leads to fighting defenses.

Part IV: Conquering with Closed and Semi-Closed Games

When White’s first move is 1.d4 and Black responds with 1.…d5, you’ve established a closed game. Closed games require a lot of strategy and planning. You do more maneuvering and have fewer tactical battles in the early stages of the game with these openings. I also include responses to 1.d4 other than 1.…d5 in this part.

Part V: Advancing with Flank Openings

When you open with a flank opening, the pawns on the outer files make the first moves; you put the center pawns into play later in the game. The English Opening 1.c4 is by far the most popular flank opening, but there are others as well. These openings provide you with more flexibility in responding to your opponent’s moves, and confrontations often come later in the game, after you’ve moved your pieces off of their starting positions.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

The last thing you want to do is make an error in an opening, so I include a chapter on ten mistakes not to make. I also offer chapters on ten ways to study chess openings and ten great Web sites.

Icons Used in This Book

To make this book easier to read and simpler to use, I include some icons that can help you find and fathom key ideas and information.

tip.eps This icon appears next to ideas that can help you understand a chess opening, or the game in general, a little more easily.

remember.eps Anytime you see this icon, you know the information that follows is so important that it’s worth reading more than once.

warning_bomb.eps This icon flags information that means a mistake is about to be made.

whoshoulduseit.eps This icon lets you know what type of chess player typically likes the opening under discussion.

Where to Go from Here

This book is organized so that you can go wherever you want to find complete information. Want to know about the various types of chess openings? Go to Chapter 3. Want to know about the Sicilian Defense? Go to Chapter 9. You can use the table of contents to find broad categories of information or the index to look up more specific details.

If you’re not sure where you want to go, you may want to start with Part I. It gives you all the basic info you need to understand chess openings, and it points to places where you can find more detailed information.

Part I

Principles of Play

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In this part . . .

This part helps you understand what a chess opening is. First, I explain the various types of openings. Then I describe the style of play that’s suited to each type of opening and provide a general overview of the principles of play in the opening phase of a chess game.

This part gives you the ammunition you need to understand specific opening strategies employed in different types of games. It helps you zero in on the opening that’s right for you.

Chapter 1

Understanding Chess Openings

In This Chapter

Understanding what a chess opening is

Choosing openings that fit your playing style

Getting familiar with chess notation

Chess is typically divided into three phases: the opening, the middlegame, and the endgame. Although the exact point of transition from one phase to another can sometimes be ambiguous, each phase of the game has properties that distinguish it from the others. The opening phase of the game is all about mobilizing your forces as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

In this chapter, I explain how you know when an opening has been established. I also ask you to sit back and think about your style of play, because how you play the game helps determine what type of openings you favor. Finally, I include a quick review of basic chess notation.

Identifying a Chess Opening

The first phase of a chess game is called the opening. Players concentrate on the rapid mobilization of their forces during this phase of the game.

In the following sections, I explain what makes an opening an opening, and I show you how one move turns into an opening.

Distinguishing “the” opening from “an” opening

In chess, opening can mean two different but related things, and it all depends on whether the or an comes before opening.

The phrase the opening refers to the phase of the game when you get your pieces (by pieces, I’m referring to the rooks, bishops, knights, queen, and king — basically, everything but the pawns) off the back rank and reposition them where they can do the most good. (The other phases of the game are the middlegame and the endgame.)

The phrase an opening refers to a specific sequence of moves. When a move or a specific sequence of moves, by pawns and/or pieces, is given a name, you have yourself a chess opening. These openings are what I cover throughout this book.

remember.eps There are many, many chess openings. Some are named after players. Some are named after locations. But to be considered an opening, for the purposes of this book, a sequence of moves has to have a name. (I cover chess naming conventions, which are frequently a source of head-shaking, in Chapter 3.)

Chess players and scholars generally agree on what to call a particular opening, but sometimes it depends on where you are. For example, the Ruy López, which I cover in Chapter 7, is called the Spanish Opening in some parts of the world. Throughout this book, I refer to the generally accepted opening names as they’re used in the United States.

Seeing how a move turns into an opening

Openings are defined and categorized by their pawn structure and piece placement. Although the pawns may not appear to have a lot of power when you’re in the thick of a game, at the start of the game, they open lines for your pieces to take advantage of.

The most frequently played opening move is 1.e4 because it does the most to help you develop your pieces (or move the pieces off of their starting position). However, the move 1.e4 is not considered an opening (see Figure 1-1).

Figure 1-1: An opening move, but not an opening.

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Ranks, files, and diagonals are collectively referred to as lines. The move 1.e4 opens a line for both the queen and the bishop. They’re now free to move off of their starting positions.

If Black responds to the move 1.e4 with 1.…e5, you have a position that can be classified as a double king pawn, which is a type of opening known as an open game. (I cover the variety of chess opening types in Chapter 3.) But these opening moves are not yet an opening, because they don’t have a name.

If now, however, White continues with 2.Bc4, you have yourself a named opening! This position is called the Bishop’s Opening, which I cover in Chapter 5 (see Figure 1-2).

Figure 1-2: The Bishop’s Opening.

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Watching an opening transform right before your eyes

According to Wikipedia, The Oxford Companion to Chess lists 1,327 named chess openings and variations. A variation is an alternate line of play within a particular opening.

It’s also possible to arrive at a particular opening or variation by different move orders, or to start out in one opening and end up in another, which is called transposing. Many opening systems offer the possibility of transposing from one opening into another, and top-notch players use this possibility to keep their opponents guessing.

remember.eps It’s not so much the exact sequence of moves that matters, but the position you arrive at. As long as you understand the general ideas behind that position, you’ll be able to navigate through the maze of possibilities at your disposal.

Finding an Opening That’s Right for You

People have different styles of play when it comes to chess. Your style doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with how you behave in real life. You may be shy and retiring in your everyday encounters but a real tiger when it comes to chess, or vice versa.

I first became serious about chess when Bobby Fischer challenged Boris Spassky for the World Championship in 1972. I had suffered a skiing injury and spent some of my enforced downtime with a chess book that featured a lot of Nimzo-Indian Defenses (see Chapter 16) and French Defenses (see Chapter 10). They became the openings that I chose to play in tournaments.

I noticed, however, that the majority of players in those tournaments played Sicilian Defenses (see Chapter 9) and King’s Indian Defenses (see Chapter 17). It became clear to me that this was because Fischer played those openings. Fischer was a trendsetter.

But what about you? Do you want to play something that’s in fashion now, or do you want to go your own way? Out of all the available openings that exist in chess, which ones are right for you?

There is no right or wrong chess style. Two great players became World Champions in the 1960s, and their styles could not have been more different. Mikhail Tal (1936–1992) became World Champion in 1960 and was one of the fiercest attacking players of all time. On the other side of the ledger was Tigran Petrosian (1929–1984), who became World Champion in 1963. He was a staunch defender who was extremely difficult to beat.

Ask yourself what appeals to you the most about chess. Do you always want to be the aggressor and go on the attack at all costs? Check out the openings in Chapter 4. They may be right up your alley.

The different openings can be grouped together by type, as I explain in more detail in Chapter 3. In general terms, openings that feature open lines and easy piece development are grouped together in Part II of this book. Openings with closed lines and more limited piece mobility are grouped together in Part IV.

You may already know what type of player you are, and the organization of this book will steer you toward the type of opening that suits you best. If you don’t know what type of chess player you are, browse through openings from each type and see which one appeals to you the most.

After you figure out the type of opening you like, take a closer look at some of the specific openings in that section. You’ll find games where White’s strategy succeeds and games where Black’s strategy comes out on top. If you feel an intuitive attraction to any particular opening, pay attention to that feeling!

If an opening seems too complicated, or if it just doesn’t feel right to you, keep looking. Matching the right opening to your style of play makes you a better player, and it guarantees you more playing pleasure in the long run.

Reviewing Chess Shorthand

Throughout this book, I use game scores from notable games to explain how an opening influenced the outcome of a match. These game scores use standard chess notation. Unless you’re a chess novice, you’re probably familiar with chess shorthand, but I include the main points in the following sections just in case you need a quick refresher.

Describing the board and pieces

Chess players use an alpha-numerical system to record chess moves. Each file (column) is given a letter from a to h. Each rank (row) is given a number from 1 to 8 (see Figure 1-3). So the lower left-hand square is a1, the upper right-hand square is h8, and so on.

Figure 1-3: Each square can be referenced by its coordinates.

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The pieces are described as follows (note that capital letters are used to distinguish these abbreviations from the letters that describe the files):

Abbreviation

Piece

K

King

Q

Queen

R

Rook

B

Bishop

N

Knight

If the only designation is a square, such as 1.e4, that implies a pawn move. If on White’s second move the bishop moves in front of the king, it would be written as 2.Be2. If you’re not comfortable with chess notation, find someone who is, and ask the person to explain it to you. It’s much easier than it looks!

Describing the action

Chess is an action-packed game. Those who’ve played enough often comment on whether a move is good, bad, or fatal when writing about a game. The following chess symbols are the shorthand for conveying these ideas:

Symbol

Definition

?

A bad move

??

An extremely bad move

?!

A dubious move

!?

An interesting move containing some risk

!

A very good move

!!

A brilliant move

0–0

Kingside castling

0–0–0

Queenside castling

x

A capture has taken place

+

Check

++

Double check

#

Checkmate

1–0

White wins the game

0–1

Black wins the game

1/2–1/2

The game is drawn

If the only designation is a square, such as 1.e4, that implies a pawn move. If on White’s second move the bishop moves in front of the king, it would be written as 2.Be2. If you’re not comfortable with chess notation, find someone who is, and ask the person to explain it to you. It’s much easier than it looks!