Chess Strategy for Beginners: Openings (Part 2)

In yesterday’s “Chess Strategy for Beginners” lesson (here) we began to look at and focus on how rapid deployment of our pieces (aka development) is vital in the opening stage of the game.

We seen two examples of players who got caught not fully deploying their army and paying the price when a larger army overpowered their king.

Don’t miss this Chess Strategy  part 2

Today we’ll look at Control of Central Region and discuss why it is also vital to have at least some control over the centre in order to get a strong position from the opening, and thus have a good chance of success in the middlegame.

Firstly, let’s quickly compare the power of some pieces when they are in the centre and when they aren’t.

chess strategy for beginners - central control 1

Knight in the centre vs Knight in the corner.

As we can see, a piece’s mobility explodes based on its proximity to the centre.

Here a knights viable squares goes from 2 to 8 within the space of a few squares.

Here’s another interesting example.

chess strategy for beginners- centre control 2

The centralised Bishop traps the knight on the edge of the board.

Here we can see a bishop which has been placed in the centre completely dominating the poorly placed knight. Next move white will play 1.b4 and win the knight for free, since its mobility is 0.

I can hear you now…

“Wow! I know how to be a strategic genius now!

Just place pieces in the centre from the beginning!”

Not so fast cowboy…

If you simply place your pieces in the centre from the beginning, they’ll become targets!

What’s that you say?

“Brendan, stop confusing me! You just said that I need to control the centre!”

Ok guys, look what happens If you just throw minor pieces (bishops and knights) into the centre without preparation.

In the example below we can imagine our guy with the white pieces proudly flexing his muscles and gesturing towards his knights on e4 and d4, saying:

“According to my super-coach on Chess&Cognac.com, white stands much better now. Look at those knights!”

(this is your cue to play through the moves via the directional arrows)

So what the fork happened there?

Its a simple matter of the knights becoming easy targets at such an early point in the game.

Suddenly his knights are pushed out of the centre by those spiky pawns and white is left with no space.

The black centre pawns now exert a tremendous cramping influence.

Therefore, strong players choose to control the centre (at least in the opening) in one of two ways.

Control the centre either with pawn occupation or indirect influence from the flank

  1. Pawn Occupation

    A player simply places his pawns directly on central squares with the idea of using them to push his opponent backwards.

    Another benefit of controlling the centre with pawn occupation is that moving your e+d pawns releases your bishops for rapid deployment.

    Here’s an example of one player completely dominating the centre with his pawns, using them to gain space and pushing his opponent backwards.

    With these advantages he wins a clean game.

    Note: This game also illustrates how allowing your opponents central pawns to be fully mobile is deadly! You  must slow them down or challenge them.

    Leonhardt, Paul Saladin vs Bern, Ivar

  2. Indirect influence from the flank

    A player allows his opponent to occupy the centre with pawns, only to undermine this control by indirect means (often with the help of a bishop fianchetto).

    Observe in the example below how white has what we’d consider beautiful pawn control of the centre, but with some intelligent and alert play black is able to make a strike in the centre and lessen the mobility of the white pawns (the main risk associated with allowing an opponent pawn control of the centre).

    The “Fork Trick”

    Another way to destroy the opponent’s central pawn mobility is with the so-called “fork trick”, where one temporarily sacrifices a piece before regaining it with a gain in central control.

Takeaways

From what we’ve seen above you’ll easily be able to conclude the following things;

  1. In the opening, I must aim to exert as much influence over the centre as possible, preferably with pawns.
  2. If pawn dominance in the centre for some reason isn’t possible (you’re black, for example), I must deliver a well planned strike at my opponent’s centre with some form of undermining method.
  3. An unchallenged central pawn mass is like a snow avalanche coming down a hillnothing will stand in its way!

Homework

  1. Continue to play through the games of Morphy from yesterday and this time, pay attention to the central control ideas you learnt today and how Morphy was so far ahead of his time in his understanding of this.
  2. Come back tomorrow for Part 3 of “Chess Strategy for Beginners: Openings” when we will take a deeper look at King Safety in the opening.

After that my Chess Strategy for Beginners series will move into the realm of Middlegame Strategy where the content will be much more difficult, so stay tuned.

I hope you’ll join me.

Your coach,

Brendan  😎