The Chess Project: Installment #5: Reinfeld’s Nine Bad Moves

Fred Reinfeld was a popular American chess writer in the second half of the 20th century, and a pretty accomplished player in his own right.  He wrote scores of books on chess, addressed primarily to players at the advanced beginning-intermediate level.  Unlike a lot of other chess books I’ve looked at which claim to be for players at this level–and this is probably the level of 90% of those people who buy chess books–I’ve found Reinfeld’s books to be comprehensible and useful.  I’m working through one of his books now.  It’s called The Complete Chess Course, and it purports to be, well, a complete chess course, taking the reader from the rules of chess to fairly advanced stratagems and tactics.  The course is divided into 9 sections, the second of which is called “Nine Bad Moves,” and which is Reinfeld’s list of nine cardinal sins in chess that beginners should take care to avoid.  I’ll summarize these moves in the next couple installments of this series,  borrowing liberally from Reinfeld.

Reinfeld’s Bad Move #1: Neglecting Development

‘Development’ refers to the opening stage of the game, when you need to get your pieces (the non-pawns) off the back rank so that they can do some damage.  Timing is of the essence here; in effect, you and your opponent are in a race to see who can most efficiently set up their pieces for attack.  There are lots of ways to screw this up and, consequently, to find oneself in a really bad position early on in a game.  Reinfeld mentions the following anti-developmental moves, all of which are prima facie ‘bad moves,’ according to Reinfeld:

a. Moving too many pawns in the opening.  (Reinfeld says that only the d and e pawns should be moved in the opening, as these pawn moves promote development by opening diagonals for the bishops.

b. Moving a piece more than once.  This usually indicates a premature attack.  It’s obviously anti-developmental because you should be getting another piece into play rather than moving one piece a second time.  Worse still, your opponent might be developing multiple pieces in the meantime, which puts you way behind schedule.

c.  Failing to Castle.  The point of castling is to protect the King, and it’s generally good policy to secure your own King before attacking the opponent’s King (it limits the opponent’s opportunity for counterplay).

D.  Allowing disadvantageous exchanges.  For example, you obviously lose ‘time’ by exchanging a piece you’ve moved more than once for a piece your opponent has only moved once (or not at all).  Likewise, you should generally try to avoid capturing pieces when your opponent can recapture with a developing move.

Here’s an ideal position after the first ten moves, indicative of good developing moves in the opening stages of the game:

Of course, you’ll rarely be able to achieve a position that looks exactly like this, because your opponent will have other plans that will command your attention.  But it’s a good position to keep in mind as an ideal, and one that you shouldn’t stray from without good reason.

In his discussion of the importance of early development, Reinfeld includes a short game which illustrates how the side that develops more efficiently can often form an overwhelming attack:

White makes several of the mistakes Reinfeld mentions and gets trounced as a result.  Note how Black’s pieces are out and coordinated, while White’s queenside is still in its starting position.



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