During the opening you should aim to occupy the center with your pawns. The strategic purpose of controlling as many of the center squares as possible is to restrict your opponent's freedom.
Remember that, for their first move only, pawns can move forward two squares instead of one. Well-placed pawns can also be most effective in harrying exposed enemy pieces.
Study the moves in the following example:
Here White has already succeeded in cramping Black by taking away the development square f6 from his king's knight. Nonetheless, this is a recognized opening, the Caro-Kann Defense.
In the following example, Black's play is highly unorthodox.
1 e2-e4 feg8-f6
Black's opening has been a total disaster. White has been allowed to gain time by kicking the black knight around, with the i <-suit that White now has excellent central control with two of his pawns.
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