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Chess for Beginners: 20 Common Mistakes to Avoid (from a Chess Veteran)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Though chess can be learned in just a few minutes, it can take more than a lifetime to become a master of strategy in this timeless game. New players make many mistakes while trying to master the game. 

Players taking up chess tend to make several mistakes. Many errors are related to the player’s lack of understanding of the game’s different strategies. Players can put too much emphasis on offense or be too passive. Lastly, beginners can lack the patience to calculate the best move.

Like in any game, beginners are prone to making mistakes. With enough practice, these mistakes no longer happen. Let us look at some of the most common mistakes chess beginners make.

These are 20 common chess mistakes you need to avoid:

1. Beginners Lack Patience

Perhaps the most common mistake amongst beginners is a lack of patience. After a long game, it is easy, especially for someone relatively new to the game, to get frustrated and make a move to get it over with. Patient players outlast their opponents in chess.

2. Play Hope Chess

It is common for beginners to make moves that will only be successful if the opponent makes a mistake; this is known as “hope chess.” When playing against better players, these moves end in disaster. 

3. The Mistake Of Drawing Too Soon

Beginners are too quick to give up the win, as they fail to see that there are still some options to claim victory. Draws are not uncommon at the highest level. However, beginners who do not take enough chances are too quick to give a potential win.

4. Forget To Protect The King At The Start

A chess game can quickly end if a player forgets to give their king protection right from the start. Leaving your king exposed can result in a checkmate in just a few moves. Most of the time, beginners who have left their king unprotected at the start have to sacrifice minor pieces, affecting their chances of winning.

5. Fail To Take Control Of The Centre 

Players new to the game can think that the only way to win is through elaborate moves and strategies. However, taking control of the center at the start gives you control of the board, opening up multiple attack possibilities. 

6. Beginner’s Rush To Move Their Queen

Though the queen is powerful, beginners make the mistake of using their queen too early in the game. Putting the queen on the offensive without developing other pieces for support can leave it vulnerable. 

7. Not Developing The Chess Pieces At The Start

It is crucial to get a good start in chess. Beginners can fail to understand that spending the first moves of the game developing pieces is key to gaining control of the game. Beginner players can rush to attack or be too slow with developing pieces, leaving them short on options later.

8. Move A Piece Twice During The Opening

Every move in chess counts towards the game’s outcome. Not knowing this, beginners can make the mistake of moving the same chess piece twice in the opening stage. Moving a piece twice slows development and allows the opponent to get a head start.

9. Not Establishing A Good Pawn Structure

Beginners make the mistake of underestimating the pawns’ importance. How pawns are structured on the board will dictate the game’s pace and strategies. Simply put, the pawn structure can determine whether a player is in a dominant or inferior position. Beginners often fail to set up an optimal pawn structure.

10. Copying The Opponent’s Moves

Copying the opponent is not an optimal strategy. Beginners who struggle in a game can resolve to copy their opponent’s moves, but this only results in the opponent having initiative and control.

11. Fail To Position The Chess Pieces Correctly

New chess players are unfamiliar with the various opening strategies. Thus, beginners do not realize that they often put their pieces on the wrong squares when going on the offense. They fail to understand that their piece will be trapped a couple of moves later.

12. Not Exchange The Right Pieces

In a game of chess, it is natural to exchange pieces with the opponent to establish a better position to win. However, a beginner’s lack of understanding of exchanges leaves them coming out of the exchange having lost a good piece. In contrast, their opponent lost an inferior one. 

13. Fail At Calculating Pawn Breaks

It is a common mistake for chess beginners to fail to anticipate pawn breaks. Getting the timing right for pawn breaks can put a player at a serious advantage. Still, it takes a while for beginners to establish well-calculated breaks.

14. Being Too Focused On Attacking

Beginners who remain too focused on the attack neglect their defense. Beginners are often dumbfounded when their opponent puts them on the back foot with a single counterattack move. Failing to account for protection can quickly turn the game around. 

15. Winding Up With Lesser Minor Pieces

New players in chess tend to end up with inferior minor pieces because they make the wrong decisions as to which pieces are more important in the current game. Sometimes, it is better to keep a knight over a bishop or vice versa. Beginners often fail to anticipate which minor piece will be more valuable later.

16. Forget To Protect The King Throughout The Game

The king should be protected throughout a game of chess. Some beginners avoid the common mistake of leaving their king vulnerable in the opening stages. However, they forget to leave the king protected as the game progresses, which can take a turn for the worse. 

17. Forming Weaknesses When Moving The Pawns

Pawns are more critical than beginners realize. New players underestimate the potential consequences of moving a pawn and fail to take the time to see which weaknesses will be exposed due to moving this piece. Towards the game’s end, every pawn move can make or break the game.

18. Chess Beginners In A Good Position Loosen Up Too Soon

Chess players can get too comfortable when they notice they are gaining the upper hand. Before they know it, their queen is taken because they are not attentive. Players who care about winning must maintain good focus from beginning to end. 

19. Rushing To Exchange Pieces

When an opportunity arises to take an opponent’s piece, beginners are too quick to exchange pieces. Though it may seem at present that this exchange does not hinder them, beginners fail to assess their position in the long term. Trading pieces too quickly can have the opposite of the intended effect. 

20. Being Too Passive

Beginners can make the mistake of remaining too cautious or passive as the game progresses. In chess, players who remain too passive often lose the game. Remaining active with chess pieces, even if it means sacrificing a piece, allows players to keep developing opportunities instead of narrowing their options.

Last Word

Chess is a game with many possibilities and strategies, leaving room for many errors for beginners. So, next time you have the chessboard in front of you, keep in mind these common mistakes new chess players tend to make.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.