Castle on the Safest Side

A general defensive strategy is to castle on whichever side is safest. The safest side is usually the one where:

  • (a) the pawns have not been moved,
  • (b) thereís no enemy pieces hanging around, and
  • (c) thereís no open lines against the pawns.

So donít push pawns on both sides, else your King wonít have a safe place to castle into. Kings need their pawns for defence.

And consider carefully when exchanging pieces or pawns that might create open lines against the side where you plan to castle. In particular, donít allow a piece swap that opens the rook file for the enemy rook.

It is almost always better to castle that to stay in the center. The King is far more likely to come under attack in the center than when castled. It is usually better to castle into a somewhat weakened pawn setup than to leave the King in the middle. There are rare exceptions when the King may be safest in the center, which is usually when there are blocked up interlocking pawn chains that block all of the central files.

Note that the choice of which side to castle can have a huge impact on the style of the game. Castling on the opposite side to your opponent is usually an attacking game (with pawn storms), whereas castling on the same side tends to lead to a slower more positional style of game.

Related Chess Tactics

Read more about these related chess strategies: