Mesmerizing Chess Middlegames Get You the Edge

It's time to consider chess middlegames if you want to create the conditions for basic checkmates. We know what advantages we need for a winning position. We now need to develop the strategy and technique to bring a winning position about.

There are two ways of approaching chess middlegames and indeed chess in general. You may prefer to play short term tactical maneuvers that attempt to gain an advantage of some sort over your opponent.

Or you may prefer a more long term strategy based on gradually assuming positional dominance. We will examine both approaches. This is the stage of the game where the two armies fight for supremacy. Game replayers open in a new tab.

Forming A Plan

Chess Middlegame: Forming A Plan

Chess Middlegames: For White to move, a weak plan beats no plan every time

In order to maintain any possibility of victory, you must devise a feasible plan of action. This must be a plan that when executed is superior to that of your opponent. An experienced player will be quite familiar with a wide range of variations from most positions.

So he or she will be able to calculate and select fairly accurately the best course of action. It is good idea to formulate an idea and stick with it. Even if it is not the best plan a poor plan is better than no plan at all.

The worst idea is to drift aimlessly through a game. Never having any goal to achieve from one move to the next is the best way to ensure that nothing is achieved. Defeat is then almost inevitable. There are a couple of things we must consider for the chess middlegame.

Material And Position

Chess Middlegame: Material And Position

Black holds a material advantage but more crucially, White, to move, enjoys a dominant position

The chief considerations when playing chess middlegames should be to play for a strong and if possible winning position in the endgame. The pawn structure is formed and the minor pieces (knights and bishops) are developed (this was done in the opening).

These do battle for control of the center while the major pieces (rooks and queen) wait on the edge of the action. They will join the battle at the latter end of the middlegame when significant material has been exchanged and they have more space to exploit.

There are two forms of advantage that chess players struggle for. They are material and position. A material advantage is useful because a numerical superiority can lead to a strong position.

Pawn Structure

Chess Middlegame: Pawn Structure

Chess Middlegames: Black's pawn structure is compromised following the exchange but White has a vulnerable backward pawn at d3

You should also remember to scrutinize your pawn structure. It is of the utmost importance that you maintain your pawns positions so that they provide a good defensive shell for your pieces, especially your king.

As you will later see it is advisable not to advance your outer pawns (files a,b,c,d,e,f) without good reason. If they are advanced before the endgame it is preferable that they form a pawn chain so as to receive support from adjacent pawns. Isolated pawns is the last thing you want. A good pawn structure makes it more difficult for your opponent to break through your defensive shell.

It is especially critical not to move the pawns in front of your castled king if at all possible. This without exception compromises his security.

Controlling The Center

Chess Middlegame: Controlling The center

White has assumed a vice-like grip on the center and it is this powerful center that paves the way to victory

The battle for the center begins to heat up. The center pawns are pushed on. Using knights and bishops to support the pawns, both players attempt to win control of the center.

If the center can be taken, it gives the aggressor the high ground in the battle. He then has his pieces posted on the best squares. His pieces have command of more squares than his those of his opponent. They also have more mobility, freedom of movement. The player who takes the center seizes with it the initiative and the freedom to attack.

He who loses the center finds his pieces forced onto poor squares. They have limited mobility and get hemmed in, blocking each other. Unable to mount any pressure on the opposition, it is they who must grimly defend.

Positional Strategy

Chess Middlegame: Positional Strategy

Chess Middlegames: After a fierce struggle Black's positional strategy has proved sound and he has gained a position of strength

One school of thought when deciding on a playing style is the slow burning positional strategy. This is when a player, after the opening, assesses the situation, ponders all of his options or possible plans. He then selects the best one and sticks to it rigidly. This kind of player can be regarded as a strategist.

There is no worth placed on several individual attacks by individual pieces. Solo forays always fail. The strategist will mould his pieces into a single attacking force. Working together and supporting each other, their power increases exponentially.

The strategist seeks out the weakest point in his opponents position and concentrates his force there. Everything he does from this point onwards is based on slowly strengthening his own position while gradually weakening that of his opponent.

Tactical Manoeuvres

Chess Middlegame: Tactical Manoeuvres

Having already secured a material advantage, White will increase it further with this fork

Alternatively, instead of having an all encompassing master plan, a player can play a series of three to four move combinations or tactical maneuvers in the chess middlegame. This can gain a material advantage or a positional advantage of some sort. A player who engages in this type of play can be thought of as a tactician.

The tactician can use a fork to attack two pieces at once. He can pin his opponents pieces. He can also capture enemy pieces by means of a skewer. Discovered attacks are another useful way of whittling down your opponents forces.

It is also possible to gain positional advantages by sacrificing pieces. Remember material is important but position is infinitely more so.

When To Exchange

Chess Middlegame: When To Exchange

Chess Middlegames: White to move should exchange queens. This will deny Black the option of castling

There are a number of circumstances when it's good to exchange pieces and some when it's not a good idea. A big part of mastering chess middlegames is learning how to profit from the exchanges.

You should exchange pieces of equal value when you've managed to gain a lead in material. This is done to hasten the endgame. In the case of queens you should exchange if it can force the king to move like in the diagram, robbing your opponent of the opportunity to castle.

Or you should exchange queens if you have good possibilities of promoting a pawn. Other reasons to exchange could be to pull your opponents pawn structure out of shape.

Moving On

Now you have seen what the middlegame is all about. You understand that this is where the main struggle for dominance takes place. We have explored in detail the various tactics used to gain the upper hand. We have also seen the value of the patiently played long game.

The exchanges is another important area that we have covered. You are now aware of the aspects of this to be mindful of. The consequences of coming off second best in the exchanges are now clear in your mind.

If you can say yes to every part of those two paragraphs you are well on your way to mastering the middlegame. It will come with match practice, putting the things you have learned into practice. With such practice you can hone the craft of positional chess.

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