10 Quick Chess Strategies Your Opponent Won't See Coming

Updated March 2, 2022
Hand of man playing chess game

Whether you favor a quick chess strategy to clinch a win in only a few moves or enjoy drawing out the game for as long as possible, there are a number of effective approaches you can employ at any point in the game to get a leg up on your competition. With these strategies, you don't have to worry about thinking five moves ahead of your opponent since you'll be able to stop them right in their tracks.

Quick Opening Chess Strategies for Immediate Effect

Beginners and chess prodigies alike can't go wrong with using any one of these beginning maneuvers at the start of their matches since they all give players a formidable opening position upon which to build a strong mid-game plan.

Control the Center of the Board

Chess Strategy - Control the center of the Board

If you're a newer chess player, one of the most consistently useful early game theories to with is controlling the center of the board. Specifically, target the squares D4, D5, E4, and E5. If your D- and E-file pawns occupy D5 and E5, respectively, you control C5, D5, E5, and F5. This helps you build a strong center to develop your pieces and attack your opponent's position.

This theory encompasses all the techniques that you can use to get more of your pieces on spaces in the middle of the board. When moving your pieces towards the middle, try to pick the spaces that have the most mobility, as this will help you make your opponent feel the pressure. Logically, the spaces on the edges and the corners have fewer routes for escape or attack, meaning that pieces on these squares can easily get pinned in. Thus, holding the center by having more pieces occupying center squares prevents you from letting your opponent force your hand and dictate the pace of the match.


Chess Strategy - Castling

Since the objective of the game of chess is to checkmate your opponent, castling can be a vital defensive maneuver. It's the only play that allows you to move two pieces during one turn, as long as you have not moved the rook king yet. Hence, this is why castling is considered an opening strategy.

In order to castle kingside if you are playing with the lighter pieces, move your king first two spaces to the right (from E1 to G1 for White), and then move your rook two spaces to the left, jumping over the king in the process (from H1 to F1). To perform a queenside castle if you are playing with the lighter pieces, move your king two spaces to the left (from E1 to C1 for White), and move your rook three space to the right, jumping over the king in the process (from A1 to D1).

According to chess analysts, castling kingside is preferred, as it takes two fewer moves to get your king to absolute safety. In contrast, castling on the queenside is effective, though usually only preferred to kingside when castling that direction presents a unique tactical opportunity. It's important when using castling to try to get your king to safety within the first 10 moves -- and preferably within the first five or six moves -- to secure his position.

Fool's Mate

Chess Strategy - Fool's mate

The fastest way to win a game of chess is to use the Fool's Mate strategy. Although no experienced player will make this blunder, it is essential to understand this mating setup so you can avoid it. Only the player using the darker pieces can complete the Fool's Mate: the same set of moves does not work for the player using the lighter pieces.

Sometimes referred to as two-move checkmate, Fool's Mate requires the fewest moves to win the game. While you can technically accomplish the Fool's Mate by a few different pairings of moves, the most common Fool's Mate happens when you're playing black and your opponent (who's playing white) leaves their king unprotected. If the opponent with the lighter pieces moves their F-pawn and G-pawn, clearing the dark-squared diagonal line starting on H4, you can move the queen along the unblocked diagonal and win. In shorthand, the fool's mate goes like this:

  1. White pawn to F3 - black pawn to E6
  2. White pawn to G4 - black queen to H4 and checkmate, as White has no legal move to protect the king

Unfortunately, because Fool's Mate does require your opponent to expose their king to a direct attack from your queen, you can only make this move if your opponent has played poorly -- i.e., like a "fool." Since consummate chess competitors aren't likely to make this obvious mistake, this move is considered pretty rare. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't keep an eye out for the chance to put it to use and claim a near instantaneous victory.

Attack the King Bishop's Square

Most opening strategies require more than a dozen moves before players begin to separate and establish their own layout on the board. So what if pieces are spread out, there aren't any distinguishable lines, the number of moves hasn't reached 10, and there're no obvious attacking routes?

At this point, check out your opponent's king bishop's square (F5 for White; F8 for Black), especially if they haven't castled their king yet. This square is often vulnerable and overlooked, and it can leave you with an early opportunity for a way to advance your side of the board. When planning to attack the king's bishop, you should consider several things:

  • Determine how many moves it might take you to overtake the bishop - If it's going to take you multiple moves to overtake the bishop, and you don't have any defensible pieces nearby, then it's probably not the best idea to move in for the bold attack.
  • Asses their pawn structure - If your opponent can easily defend the bishop by moving a pawn up one or two squares, or if they can defend while developing their other pieces in the process, then you should forego an attack.
  • See if your opponent has castled - If your opponent's king hasn't been moved to safety through castling, then their f-square bishop is in prime position for an attack.

Although it's not always a possibility, attacking the king's bishop puts you in the position to potentially dislodge the king and prevent him from ever getting to a truly safe position on the board. In doing so, you can set yourself up for an easier chance of finding checkmate.

Mid-game Strategies to Keep the Competition Strong

Opening and endgame strategies are among the most publicized elements of the game of chess, leaving the mid-game to flounder somewhat. Unfortunately, this means that many intermediate and even some advanced players struggle with their mid-game. However, there are a few attacks you can fall back on during the mid-game that can get you out of a bind.

Attack with a Pawn

This quick chess strategy is useful if your opponent is formulating a plan and you need to thwart it. Use your pawns to attack by going on the offensive, moving them to squares that your opponent might attempt to hold in order to attack your pieces. Since this strategy is highly dependent on your opponent's style, try to only focus your efforts on one or two pieces. If your opponent is relying on one piece, re-double your efforts towards that individual piece. Going for a piece that an opponent has worked to put in a place of power will probably upset their plans and be a surefire way to quicken the pace of the game.

Quadrant Attacking

If you find yourself ahead of the competition by having even as little as a +2 piece advantage, there's a type of colloquial theory which you can apply in the mid-game to try to keep your material advantage. Visualizing the board into quadrants, with each quadrant having 16 squares with four rows and four columns, you can identify which quadrant of the board has the material superiority (the quadrant with most of your or your opponent's material in it).

If you haven't found a quick way to checkmate yet, but you're in a strong position, attack your opponents in the quadrant with the most material. This can give you some security if you don't sacrifice too many pieces yourself.

However, there's much debate within chess theory as to origins of this idea; some linking it to chess legend Garry Kasparov and others to before Kasparov's time. Yet, at its core, the idea of deconstructing the board into easier to digest areas can help you identify where you are winning, center your attacks, and help you avoid being overwhelmed. However, this practice will get increasingly more difficult to use as you compete against more advanced players, as the only way you'll be able to defend yourself is by attacking the board as a whole.

Break Open the Castling Pawn Formations

When a player castles, they typically have an established pawn formation in place protecting the king. Eventually, you'll have to bust through that formation if it hasn't already been deconstructed. If you find yourself in this position, there're two easy ways to approach getting to the king:

  1. Push your own pawns forward - Pushing your pawns forward has two results. One, you may exchange pawns, opening up files and the area around the king, and two, you may also force your opponent to move their own pawns, which would open up the space around the king.
  2. Make a sacrifice - If you have some momentum in attacking, then sacrificing a piece for a pawn around the king may be your best course of action.

Identify the Weakest Link

Another way you can approach the mid-game if you find yourself at a bit of a loss is to identify your opponent's worst piece in the game, and make sure that it stays weak until you can attack it. If you keep repeating this strategy, you can help clear the board faster and keep your opponent's side from gaining too many defensible positions.

Endgame Strategies to Secure a Win Every Time

The endgame is where all the fun is. Checkmate should be coming into view. Yet, you don't want to lose all sense of strategy moving into the final stage of the game and throw all of your hard work away. While there are countless endgame strategies you could use, these are a few easy ones to employ:

Minimize Brute Force

One of the best endgame chess strategies is to reduce your opponent's forces while you're ahead. Chess players usually rely on point values to quickly keep track of who has the advantage. Whether you're only one pawn or multiple pieces ahead, one of your goals should be to continuously exchange pieces with your opponent and get ahead in material in the process. Doing so will minimize what your opponent can attack or defend with, leaving them with an open board of possible attacks and limited pieces for defense.

Focus on Pawn Structure

Your pawn structure is especially important near the end of the game. Because doubled pawns (two like-colored pawns located on the same file) can't defend each other, think carefully about how you can avoid disrupting your pawn structure at this point in the game. As long as you hang on to as many pawns as possible throughout the course of the game, they can be strategically moved during the latter part of the game to help accelerate a win for you.

Roll the King to the Edge

As the board starts to clear and squares are easier to attack, you should attempt to get your opponent's king to the edge. Of course, the pieces that you have left will determine how easy this will be, but the king can be moved with almost any combination of pieces remaining. For example, rooks and queens work well together in shrinking the area where kings are allowed to move, reducing the king's mobility.

Impress Your Opponent with a Quick Checkmate

The game of chess is filled with choices -- when to move this piece, where to move that one, and so on. However, when you approach the game from a strategic standpoint instead of a reactive one, you've got a better chance of keeping control of the board and securing a checkmate in as few moves as possible. Each of these strategies can be used in combination with one another, as well as others, to create a formidable attack plan that'll have you winning in no time.

10 Quick Chess Strategies Your Opponent Won't See Coming