Castling is one of those moves that often confuses people, there are in fact three ways to achieve castling. The first is long (that’s when you castle with the Queen’s side rook), the second is short (King’s side) and the third is artificial (which isn’t really castling but it’s where you end up with the same position – having moved each piece in turn – as you would through castling).
A mistake beginners often make is to castle without thought in the early period of the game – to which ever position opens up first. This can be a real mistake and it’s worth giving a little more thought to it.
In particular you should examine:
- The Safety of Your King – check out the way the pawns are positioned on the chess set, are you leaving your king open to attack. What about your opponent? Is he/she building up an attack on that flank. If so – don’t castle there unless forced to do so defensively.
- What’s Your Plan? – That means are you castling to open up new lines of attack or to clear a position so that other pieces can be more effective? This is a good way to start re-ordering pieces for maximum offensive power.
- Where are the queens? – Your king is an offensive weapon in his own right. In the endgame he can come in very handy particularly if the queens have been traded out early. If this is the case, you might want to keep him in the centre where he can do most damage and not castle at all.
In fact castling when done correctly can be a very powerful move, and though it’s good advice most of the time to castle early and develop the rook – it’s not always the right thing to do. It’s a sensible idea to weigh up the benefits before committing to the move.