Priority System

Classic Principles

from Ideas Behind Chess Openings by Reuben Fine:

Two Fundamental Concepts in the Opening:

  1. Development (Time)
  2. The Center (Space)

General (classic) Principles for the Opening:

  1. Open with either the King’s Pawn or the Queen’s Pawn.
  2. Whenever possible, make a good developing which threatens something.
  3. Develop knights before bishops.
  4. Pick the most suitable square for a piece and leave it there once and for all.
  5. Make one or two pawn moves in the open and not more.
  6. Do not bring your queen out early.
  7. Castle as soon as possible, preferably on the king’s side.
  8. Play to get control of the center.
  9. Always try to maintain at least one pawn in the center.
  10. Do not sacrifice without a clear and adequate reason.

The Offer of a Pawn Must be One of 4 Reasons:

  1. Secure tangible advantage in development
  2. Deflect the enemy queen
  3. Prevent the enemy from castling, either permanently or for several moves
  4. Build up for a strong attack

Two Questions which Must be Answered for Each Move Played:

  1. How does it affect the center?
  2. How does it fit in with the development of my other pieces and pawns?

Priority System

By: FM Keith Hayward

The Priority System Questions:

  1. Can you mate your opponent?
  2. Can they mate you?
  3. Can you win their queen?
  4. Can they win your queen?
  5. The questions continue with Rook, Knights, Bishops, Pawns and general position look.

If all those questions are answered “no” then we break the evaluation down further:

  1. Can you make a move that weakens your opponent’s king, creating potential to mate, etc.?
  2. Can they make a move that weakens your king, should you play a preventative move, damage control, etc.?
  3. Can you improve your queen position, while threatening something useful, etc.?
  4. Can you threaten their queen, make their queen less active, etc.?
  5. You continue on considering all the other piece positions on a more subtle level.

One continues with this cycle several times, breaking the evaluation/investigation into smaller pieces each cycle. Other than the first question, it is rather important to complete this cycle several times. After completing these cycles, data has been gathered and candidate ideas/moves should be found. The next step is simply to ask yourself, if you make the potential move “what will my opponent do?” Part of the evaluation of your potential move is to again consider the cycle: “If I play here, can he mate me?” “Will I lose my queen, rook, knight, etc.” The cycle could be repeated several times with more subtle detail each pass. One might reject a move since they could double my pawns, create a weak square, etc. However, this process in theory kills the basic blunder. It is a priority system in the sense that if you answer question one with yes, then one is completely wrong to look at other questions. The first thing you should have looked for was mate. Nine out of ten times players that do see the mate on their own often see the mate when they ask themselves the questions in priority order. Opportunities are often missed when one forgets to use the system. With practice this system can be done in a second or two.

Dorfman’s Theory for Middlegame Play

If you are winning (or even), play “static” moves (plan). Static meaning to play low risk moves, seeking to improve your position in small increments.

If you are losing, play “dynamic” moves (plan). Dynamic meaning to play high risk moves, seeking to create immediate confusion for your opponent. The ultimate consideration is that if one is losing then it is no longer possible to play a losing move.