I have a question about Chess, and the efficacy of Castling early

Let me preface this by saying that I am NOT an accomplished Chess player.

My bro has suggested that castling as soon as possible - ie, 5 or 6 moves in, is a good idea. He hasn’t justified this beyone saying that its good to protect your king, and castling frees up the rook.

FWIW, my brother is a VERY accomplished Chess player and I’m assuming that he wouldn’t steer me wrong - I’m just curious what you folks have to say on the matter.

I am not very accomplished either, but I have read a few chess books, and they are all pretty much unanimous that it is a good idea to castle early in the game. If you wait until there is a clear threat to your king, it’s probably to late. Also, castling isn’t purely defensive - it also brings a rook into a position where you can start using it to influence the centre of the board.

If you are not a very accomplished chess player, then I would agree with your brother: accept “castle early” as an axiom and try to do it unless you feel you have a really, really good reason why not. As you get better, you will start learning exceptions to this general rule, until you reach grandmaster status when your rule becomes “Whatever works in this position”.

There’s a few reasonable generalities which argue towards castling sooner rather than later: if you’re castled, then your Queen’s Knight can’t get pinned (when it is on the square Queen’s Bishop’s Three); your rook will be available to move to a ‘good’ file should you be able to open up some lines; the intrinisc weakness of your King’s Bishop’s Two square will become somewhat less alarming; and your king will no longer be quite so subject to tactical tricks and traps with strange forks and double-checks ‘suddenly appearing from nowhere’.

It also ties in with two much more defensible first principles that are often ignored: you have to develop (get your guys off the first rank and into battle) and you have to fight for the centre.

Disclaimer:I myself haven’t played competitive chess for years; at the time I gave it up, I was at the “expert” level (one rank below master) … which is a good skill level to be at, really, because I understood enough of the game to appreciate at least some of the artistry; could beat most (non-tournament) players; and yet had no difficulty finding lots and lots of people who could clean my clock with ease.

Well, those are two reasons to castle, and so you want to castle when it’s desireable to achieve either (or both) objectives in a given position. I’d also add that a third reason to castle would be for immediate tactical reasons; either you want to castle so that your king and/or rook defends something, or you want to castle to attack something with the rook.

I’m not sure “as soon as possible” is necessary correct; as every budding chessplayer hates to hear, it all depends on the position. If you’re castling to secure your king, it’s no use castling into your opponent’s line of fire. If you want to free the rook but the rook is already serving a useful function where it is, there may not be much point in freeing it further. And so on.

IMO, the castle-early-rule is taught because aspiring players make more mistakes than accomplished players. And saying “whoops” when you accidentally lose a pawn is a lot less severe than saying “whoops” when you overlook an attack on your king.

If you want to keep your strategies simple, then working toward the goal of castling is also advantageous because it develops your bishops and knights. I would say if you had to pick a single goal for your first 10 moves, it would be to castle.

And castle queenside if you can, so that your rook has a semi-open file.

Actually, for a beginner I’d advise castling King-side. It takes fewer moves to accomplish, is much, much more common than queen-side castling, and, IMHO, creates a “solider” protection for your king than queenside castling.

One of the reasons why castling is so important isn’t just the castling itself. As others have pointed out, development is one of the most important aspects of the opening. By castling, you MUST move at least a pawn, a knight, and a bishop. That’s getting development on your pieces.
It’s crucial to get your army out there and working together and castling helps to ensure that goal. Once you’ve castled, you have, by default, gotten at least a quarter of your fighting force into the mix.

These are all great answers guys! Thanks.

I think the point my bro was making is that, for me, a beginner, castling early is a good idea.

I’ve never actually seen him do it - however, I’ve never seen him play anyone really good, either.

I dunno if hes an expert or a master or what, but he seems to beat just about everyone he plays.

Castling on Queens side can be risky as you may end up with it in action far earlier in the game than is wise, your opponent might well see advantage in sacrificing two pieces such as a knight and a bishop to get it.
At first it seems to work, as the queen commands and supports other pieces in the middle but a good player will feignt and draw her on.

That’s true casdave, but it’s my experience that beginners tend to err on the side of caution and never develop offensively. So they never even learn to use their queen, because they lose it in a fork 12 moves in or something.

All good answers. However, I don’t think the advice to castle as soon as possible is good advice even for a beginner. Castle only where you know which side you are going to castle to, no other urgent developing moves are present, and when it is safe to do so. If you castle too soon, before your opponent has, your opponent may decide to launch an immediate attack. (He knows where you live.) He/she will then eventually castle on the other side (if necessary) or not castle at all. It’s a common motif to pin the King Knight at f3 (or f6) with your Bishop against the Queen, and when the opponent attempts to break the pin with h3 (or h6), you play your King’s rook pawn to protect the Bishop. You lose a piece, but open the king’s rook file for an attack against the King. You, of course, have not castled or have castled to the queen’s side. Also, I will submit to a pin on my knight before I castle kingside and joyfully break the pin with my king’s side pawns, as I have not castled there, and if he does castle on that side, I have a kingside attack in the making.

So, it’s not always good to castle as soon as possible, unless you are also playing a beginner. (I also used to be an expert, but haven’t played tournament chess in years. Glee, who posts here, may pop in. He is a master.)

I was with you right up until here:

This part was just a tad confusing.

Well, I’m sure as heck not playing my brother - its more fun to play when you at least have a hope in hell of lasting more than 10 moves.

Well that would be cool. I find the more info about strategy I get, the better I play. Not unlike Bridge.

Chess will repay any effort you put into it, like many, if not most things! If you want to improve your play, my recommendation is Lasker’s Manual of Chess, by Dr. Emanuel Lasker, who was World Champion for 28 years (1894-1921). My edition is published by Dover (1960 reprint of the 1947 English edition of the 1925 German original), “Standard Book Number” (maybe the same as ISBN?) 486-20640-8, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number CD62-223. It’s very well written and runs the whole gamut of instruction, from how the pieces move to why such-and-such World Championship game was lost. Others will have their own favourite recommendation, but this is mine.

As far as barbitu8’s advice is concerned … well, I’ll let him explain his (entirely valid) point. I personally would save that stuff for Lesson 2 - but there’s more than one way to skin a cat!

Alice: I am an amateur who has played many games and for the past 5 years, I have only played players who are better than I am. I would follow your brother’s advice as I think it quite sound for a beginner. My reasons would be the same as your brother and jiHymas’ reasons.
When you gain a little more experience, you will find that you can castle later in the game. When I play chess, I don’t always castle by the 6th move, but I start getting uneasy if my king is uncastled by the 12th-15th.

I also agree with jiHymas about the value of Lasker’s books.

Enjoy the game because it’s the best I’ve played. (Although L5R is a close second.)

It’s confusing if you are not versed in algaebric notation. If your opponent has brought his knight out to KB’s 3 square and is castled, and you bring your queen bishop to your king’s knight 5 square, pinning the knight against her queen, and your opponent then pushes her king rook’s pawn up one square to break the pin, you may bring your king rook’s pawn up two squares. If she takes your bishop and you have not castled, you have the open king rook’s file, plus a pawn on your king knight 5, and with a bishop on your queen’s bishop 4 square, the push of the pawn on king knight 5, along with other possibilities, such as a queen move can be devastating. Your pawn on king knight 5 threatens his knight, which has to move. The best defensive piece for a king side castled is the knight on king bishop’s 3.

I’ll give you the moves to the defense of the exchange variation of the Ruy Lopez. You may ask your brother to explain.

  1. e4 e5
  2. Nf3 Nc6
  3. Bb5 Bc5
  4. BxN QpxB
  5. 0-0 B-g4
  6. h3 h5!
  7. hxB hxg
  8. Nr2 g6!

I’d tend to agree with this.

I’m anything but a chess expert, but I did create a small stir in my NASA department by beating one of the early Sun chess programs. My method was to use highly unorthodox moves that exceeded the limited scope of the program’s “reasoning”. Castling was not effective (for this purpose) against even the simple programs of that day.

As barbitu8 points out, who are you trying to confuse? Somebody who knows about how to use castling effectively or somebody who doesn’t? Does castling improve your position or not? If you do it without gaining much of anything, you’re alerting the other player about your skill level.

Even better:
8. NR2 RxN!!
9. KxR Q-h4 ch
10.K-g8 P-N6 and mate next move.

When Americans speak of expert and master, they’re referring to a rating of their playing level according to the United States Chess Federation (USCF). Not sure what the situation is in Europe, there’s FIDE, Federation International something or other chess.

Almost all tournaments in the US are USCF rated. A player entering a tournament is given a provisional rating at first depending on the level of player he/she wins against in tournament play. After twenty games or so, they recieve their regular rating. Winning or drawing against someone of a higher rating causes the player to gain points- they lose points if they lose or draw against a lower-rated opponent. The only criteria for entering an open tournament (as opposed to a closed, “by invite only” one) is to pay the entry fee(s). I say fees because it is usually always a requirement to join the USCF, and the state’s chess group, as well.

Regular tournament players are stronger, usually, than casual players. They play more, they study more, and they play against stronger players. In my old now-defunct chess club, we used to have kids come in quite often who had (usually) learned to play recently, caught on quickly, proceeded to beat the tar out of all their family members, and acquired an ego about it. (I’m not speaking of your brother here, just of my experience.) We always sent the new kids to play the old guy.

The old guy was a lovely gentleman of about 90 or so, who had trouble seeing the board clearly despite enormous thick glasses, and couldn’t hear too well, either, despite the hearing aid, and had to touch the pieces often during the game because he tended to confuse the bishops with the pawns- and he would whup their asses, individually and collectively, every time. You could see the little egos deflating by the minute.

He actually had a pretty solid game, was probably about 1400-1500 rated, and had been playing since his college days (yep, 70+ years). But these kids- heh, thinking they were hotshots till they faced the old guy. We privately called it “Weeding out the Weaklings” because if you go to clubs or play in tournaments, you’re going to lose a lot before you start winning, and if you can’t deal with losing (particularly against a guy who can barely see the board) you probably don’t have the fortitude to stay with it. As they say- chess is easy to learn, difficult to master.

Thought I’m not a kid, it took me 6 months to beat the old guy. He sure was proud of me when I finally won. :slight_smile:

One more thing and I’ll shut down this ramble- if you’re a single woman, playing chess tournaments is a great way to meet guys. I got asked out all the time when I used to play, and was single.

In chess team, the joke was “castle early, and castle often” I usually castle, but timewise depends on the pace of the game. If there is clutter up the wazoo, a rook in the middle is less powerful than later when there are open files, and it might be smarter to jump around with knights and bishops to cause havok.