Chess Middlegame Moves
middlegame is the most complicated part of the game. All forces have
been developed and are ready to fight. Players have to take into account
both the tactical possibilities and the strategic factors to make
sensible decisions. The analysis made will have to be summarized in a
simple and comprehensive plan which the chess player will have to
follow. Note that it is always better to play upon a bad or inferior
plan than on no plan at all.
When the position is getting wild, there is no need to care about
strategic factors. Calculation of variations is the only priority, for
strategic considerations will not compensate for the material lost due
to tactical inaccuracy. In the contrary, if the position is somewhat
"quiet" you should try to evaluate it based on its strategic factors.
Most of the positions lie somewhere in between, having both tactical
possibilities and strategic concerns.
There are several key strategic factors that affect one's evaluation of
the position. The most important are: 1. Open files, ranks, diagonals 2.
Well-placed and badly-placed pieces 3. Pawn configuration in the center
4. Space superiority 5. King safety 6. Strong and weak squares. All of
them will be discussed in brief.
1. Open files, ranks, diagonals: Possession of an open file, rank
or diagonal is important, since no enemy piece may step on it, unless
supported. If the game is closed, an open file may be the most important
factor and both players will try to control it by moving their rooks on
it, maybe the queen as well.
2. Well-placed and badly-placed pieces: Sometimes a piece is
ideally placed on a position, controlling important squares and exerting
pressure on the opponent. Its owner will try to exploit this fact by
constructing threats, while the opponent will try to either drive it
away or exchange it. On the other hand, a badly-placed piece will need
relocation, which will cost one or more tempi or just may not be
3. Pawn configuration in the center: The arrangement of the
central pawns often determines the best plan. If pawns are blocked (we
talk about a fixed center), there are few tactical possibilities in the
center and the play is transferred to the wings. If the pawns are not
blocked there may be thrusts, which will usually require tactical
consideration. Or there may be no pawns at all; then the players try to
control the center with their pieces. One needs to know all the pawn
types – free, blocked, backward, isolated, doubled and hung pawns – to
have a full understanding of the center type.
4. Space superiority: A player who has the space superiority has
more freedom in his moves than his opponent does. This gives him the
initiative, that is, the right to threat (or attack) first and have the
opponent defend. However, space superiority is not sufficient to
determine a big advantage.
5. King safety: An exposed or semi-exposed King may have serious
problems if the opponent attacks him. King safety is required to start
executing a plan or it will be suspended as soon as the opponent starts
threatening the King. The King is safer when he has castled and his
pawns have not advanced. One or two pieces around will help his Majesty
feel even safer.
6. Strong and weak squares: A square that can not be properly
controlled by a player is a weak square. On the other hand, the same
square is strong for the other player, who may exploit it to penetrate
into the enemy territory. Strong squares are ideal for placing pieces.
Note that squares occupied by pawns are not strong squares.
Some brief explanations about the various pawn types are given below:
1. Free pawn: The free pawn has somehow gotten rid of all
enemy pawns in his way and can march to the promotion square more
easily. A free pawn is a big advantage, especially if it is supported by
2. Isolated pawn: The isolated pawn is a pawn that has no pawn
support, for example a d-pawn with no e- or c-pawn of the same color. It
is considered to be both an advantage and a weakness. It usually offers
some space and increases the other pieces mobility, but it will be a
target for the opponent, since it can not be supported easily.
3. Double pawns: Doubled pawns are pawns of the same color on the
same file. It is a weakness that needs defending. In rare cases (central
doubled pawns) it may have some space advantages.
4. Backward pawn: The backward pawn has not advanced as much as
its neighbors and is always a target.
A principle that applies is that one should attack where he is better.
If the opponent has a weakness, it is correct to try to exploit it by
putting more pressure (eg. a weak pawn should be threatened). If the
opponent has no serious weaknesses, it is correct to try to produce some
for him (eg. pawn exchanges that will leave him with a weak pawn).