Strategies for Chessplayers and Other Warriors

by Brian Roche

The article was originally published in “Chess Life” Magazine during 80′s. I think the new generation of players will find it interesting and surprisingly modern.
It’s basically a translation of The Art of War by Sun
Tzu (500 B.C.), geared for chess players.

Brian Roche


Each new position should be assessed quickly in terms of: 1. Development, 2. Mobility, 3. Material superiority, 4. Tempo and 5. Space.

Strategy consists of shaping some advantage in terms of these five points. Whichever side wins more “points” in these areas will probably win the game.

The Art of Deceit

When able, seem to be unable.

When close, seem to be far off.

If opponent is seeking an advantage, entice them toward it.

If opponent is in disorder, attack.

If opponent is strong, prepare your defense.

Attack undefended, unprepared areas.

Never attack fortresses.

Develop in unexpected ways (i.e. change move order)


Make moves as quickly as possible. “I have heard of foolish haste, but I have yet to see a case of cleverly dragging on hostilities.”

Learn to assess positions quickly and use clock time only when you need it.


“It is best to keep one’s own side intact; to crush the opponent’s position is only second best. The highest excellence is to subdue the attacker without fighting at all.”

Types of Attack

1. Attacking opponent’s strategy

2. Attacking a menacing combination

3. Attacking individual pieces

4. Attacking a strong point

Of these four, the first is the most effective, the fourth is the least. Resort to attacking a strong point only when there is no other choice. Do not attack until pieces are aligned (supporting each other) and ready (developed). Similarly, do not retreat from a good position. Always ask what each piece (on both sides) is “doing.”

Strategic Positions

Make your own position invincible, then look for opponent’s vulnerable spots. You can always fortify your position; you cannot guarantee an opponent’s vulnerability. “The battle of the expert is seldom an exceptional victory. The expert only enters battles that are already won!.”

Practice playing with and without an advantage. Understand both perspectives. Practice offensive and defensive play, according to circumstances.

Use surprise and straightforward operations. “When used in combination, they provide inexhaustible possibilities.”

One must always adapt to changing circumstances, “There are no fixed strategic advantages or invariable positions.”

Strong and Weak Points

Attack areas where the opponent must hasten to defend.

“Against the expert of attack, the opponent does not know where to defend. Against the expert of defense, the opponent doesn’t know where to attack.”

“To be prepared everywhere is to be weak everywhere. One is weak while making preparations; strong while forcing the opponent to prepare.”

General Strategies

Strive for a “formless” position. A winning position more often arises from “no-form” than from an obvious strategy.

Out and out attack is always difficult and dangerous. Try luring your opponent into easy gains (gambits), thereby anticipating the position.

It is a great advantage to secure and fortify squares that are precisely important points in your opponent’s strategy.

“Do not depend on your opponent not attacking; depend rather on having a position that can’t be attacked.”

It is when your opponent is not attacking or changing position that you must be cautious.
Material inferiority is not necessarily a disadvantage. Advance carefully, consolidate pieces and anticipate attacks.

Always look at the advantage and disadvantages of every move (on both sides).
Try to use opponent’s pieces and position to your advantage.

“Command of a position involves wisdom, integrity, humanity, courage and discipline.”