The Three Principles of Chess

In chess, there are three main principles by which we can define and explain all other aspects of the game. It is important to your growth and development as a chess player that you thoroughly understand each of these principles, and how they relate to the game. In this article, we will take some time to discuss what the three main principles are, as well as discuss how they relate to one another and how they impact the game.

The purpose of these principles is to help you in discovering new ideas and creating new strategies to enact as you play the game. While there are many more important aspects and concepts to learn, these three principles are the ground on which we will build and will help solidify your understanding of the lessons to come.

Principle One: Development

The first principle of chess is that of development. Piece development is the concept of advancing your pieces to more valuable and exploitable squares on the board. The entire concept relates to figuring out where on the board your pieces will be most useful, and then developing them to those squares. These positions are not fixed – they will depend entirely on the layout of the board and the strategy of your opponent, as well as your own strategy. Development is the means by which you enact your strategy.

Additionally, the optimal placement for each piece will depend on the individual strengths and weaknesses of each piece. Rather than thinking in terms of which squares are the most advantageous, you will want to recognize where each piece can be placed to maximize its effectiveness and firepower. Again, this is going to depend heavily on how the board is laid out and what the current situation in which you find yourself is.

As you progress, you will begin to intuit which pieces are most effective in which positions. Then you will begin to develop tactics to maneuver your pieces into the positions you desire, and strategies for each game as you play it. This is what these lessons are about – helping you to recognize each situation on the board and respond in the most effective manner.

Principle Two: Center Control

Even among chess novices, the idea of controlling the center is commonly known, if not understood. The second principle we look at is that of center control. Since most action in the game of chess takes place through the center of the board – or in the center itself – virtually all action you will take against your opponent will take place via a path leading through the center. This is why control of the board’s center is so important – control the center, and you can control the game.

Many of your openings in chess will move to control the center, as will those of your opponent. Learning these movements and motifs will serve you well not only in enacting center-controlling openings of your own, but recognizing when your opponent is moving to control the center and how to combat such action. The 7 Skills we teach here relate heavily to the concept of controlling the board’s center, so be sure to keep this idea in mind as you progress in your studies.

Remember that controlling the center is a means to an end – not an end in and of itself. You control the center so that you can control the game; you don’t play the game so that you can control the center. Equally important to gaining control of the board’s center is knowing what to do when you have center control.

Principle Three: King Safety

While eliminating the enemy’s king is the goal of chess, keeping your own king safe is equally important. The third principle we’ll discuss in this article is that of king safety – the process by which you ensure that your own king is protected and not left vulnerable to threat or harassment by your opponent. For many reasons, the king is the most vulnerable piece on the board. Because of this, you have to incorporate his safety into any strategy on which you embark to conquer your enemy.

King safety doesn’t just extend to later in the game when your opponent is making moves to directly attempt a checkmate; you need to think about the safety of your king from the very beginning of the game in order to ensure a victory. There are many positions we will study which show you both common vulnerabilities of the king, as well as common and effective defenses of your king. Understanding these principles in relation to the rest of the game will not only help you to keep your own king safe, but to undermine the attempts of your opponent to do the same.

It may seem like a bother to constantly have to be worrying about your king’s safety while you attempt to attack your opponent, but there is no such thing as a successful strategy in chess which doesn’t take king safety into consideration. You cannot win the game if you have no regard for your own king’s safety – after all this exact lack of concern is what you will be hoping to exploit in your opponent. They will be doing the same for you.


The overarching purpose of mastering the three principles we discussed in this article is to guide the way you think about chess as a whole. Having a firm grasp of these three principles will help you identify better strategies, positioning, and tactics as you play the game. Be sure to think about each of these three principles and how they relate to one another – lest you fall into the trap of having memorized the principles without actually understanding or enacting them.

Remember that these lessons are all about helping to shape your thinking into that of a master chess player – not simply for you to memorize motifs and tactics and then follow them exactly. Becoming a masterful chess player is more about the mindset and firm grasp of the principles involved than just following the strategies of other players or famous matches.