Every time your opponent makes a move, you should stop and think: Why was that move chosen? Is a piece in danger? Are there any other threats I should watch out for? What sort of plan does my opponent have in mind?
Only by defending against your opponent's threats will you be able to successfully carry out your own strategies. Once you figure out what your opponent is attempting to do, you can play to nip those plans in the bud.
Pretend you're playing black in this position. White has just moved his queen to f3. What's the threat? How should you move to meet his threat?
When you are considering a move, ask yourself these questions:
Will the piece I'm moving go to a better square than the one it's on now?
Can I improve my position even more by increasing the effectiveness of a different piece?
Does this move help to defend against my opponent's threats?
Will the piece I move be safe on its new square?
If it's a pawn, consider: Can I keep it protected from attack?
If it's another piece, consider: Can the enemy drive itaway, thus making me lose valuable time?
Even if your intended move has good points, it may not be the best move at that moment. Emanuel Lasker, a former world champion, said: "When you see a good move, wait---look for a better one!" Following this advice is bound to improve your chess.
If you threaten something here in one move, something over there in the next move, and so forth, your opponent will have an easy time defending. Your pieces have to work together to be effective. Just imagine each instrument in an orchestra playing a different tune!
When you develop a plan, your men can work in harmony. For example, you might plan to attack your opponent's king; one piece alone probably wouldn't be able to do much, but the combined strength of several pieces makes a powerful attacking force. Another plan could be taking control of all the squares in a particular area of the board.
The chess men are your "team"; to be a good "coach," you have to use all of their strengths together.
When you are considering giving up some of your pieces for some of your opponent's, you should think about the values of the men, and not just how many each player possesses. The player whose men add up to a greater value will usually have the advantage. So a crucial step in making decisions is to add up the material, or value, of each player's men.
The pawn is the least valuable piece, so it is a convenient unit of measure. It moves slowly, and can never go backward.
Knights and bishops are approximately equal, worth about three pawns each. The knight is the only piece that can jump over other men. The bishops are speedier, but each one can reach only half the squares.
A rook moves quickly and can reach every square; its value is five pawns. A combination of two minor pieces (knights and bishops) can often subdue a rook.
A queen is worth nine pawns, almost as much as two rooks. It can move to the greatest number of squares in most positions.