Advanced Chess Rule Exceptions

There are lots of chess strategy “rules” like “develop your pieces” or “don’t put your Knights on the edge of the board”. But the grandmasters know that every rule has its exceptions. Here’s a list of some of these rules and some of the exceptions.

Rule Exceptions
Develop your Pieces Early attacks sometimes work
Castle early Never castling
Control the center Attack on the flank
Flank attacks are best met by a central break Flank attacks can be deadly
Attacking is easier than defending Most attacks are unsound
Strong supported knight (Knight outpost) Sometimes a centralized Knight is doing nothing (just ignore it)
Doubled pawns are weak Doubled central pawns control center squares
Grabbing material is dangerous Poisoned pawns can often be taken (most attacks are unsound; defend accurately)
Backward pawns on half-open file are very weak Defending the backward pawn at the base of a pawn chain with a Knight (or Bishop) is strong, even if on a half-open file

Endgame Rule Exceptions

And here’s some more advanced exceptions for the Endgame phase of the game.

Rule Exceptions
Passed pawns should be pushed Over-advanced pawns are weak and often lost
Passed pawns are strong. Passed pawns often weak in double rook endgames
Extra pawns are very valuable in endings Activity more important in Rook endings and Queen endings. King safety is more important than pawns in Queen endings, Q+R endings, Q+N endings, etc.
Centralize the King in the endgame Don’t centralize the King if too many major pieces around: Double Rook Endgames, Q+R endings, Q+N endings, semi-endings, etc.
Bad bishops: pawns on its color (i.e. put pawns on the opposite color to your bishop) Bad bishops can be good as they can defend their own pawns
Knight outposts need pawn support Invulnerable Knight between pawns (in Rook and Knight endgames)
Opposite bishop endings are drawish Invading with the King wins lots of “drawn” opposite bishop endings
Rook endings are drawish Only for grandmasters. Rook endgames are tricky!
Queen endings are drawish Only for grandmasters
Outside passed pawns are strong. Knights sometimes prefer central passed pawns
Pawns on only one side of the board are drawish Not usually true for Queen endings; also rarely true in social play
Swap Queens if winning Keep the Queen for attack if the enemy King position is weak (e.g. in Q endings, Q+R endings, Q+N endings)
Swap rooks if winning Exceptions: (a) keep both rooks for attack in “double rook endings” if enemy King is weak; (b) keep the rook in “Q+R endings” if enemy King weak; (c) keep a Rook in some simplified endgames (e.g. “R+B+N vs 2R” may be easier to win than “B+N vs R”; a R+B vs R+NFischer endgame” may be stronger than “B vs N”)
Extra pawns win the endgame Doubled pawns don’t really count as extra pawns. Passed pawns can be more important than who has the most total pawns (esp. in Queen endgames). Pawn majorities (potential passed pawns) are also more important.