At this stage in the free chess course you should have a good understanding of why it is important to develop your pieces toward the centre.
But what else can you do to increase your control of the centre? In this lesson I’ll show you 5 practical things you can do to achieve your centre-control objective:
- Fight for space in the centre
- Move your pieces towards the centre
- Neutralize enemy pieces that control the centre
- Chase enemy pieces out of the centre
- Exchange a flank pawn for a central pawn
Let’s see an example of each idea.
1. Fight for space in the centre
When you consider squares as targets it implies that you bring all your forces towards those squares in an attempt to take control of them. A halfhearted attempt will not succeed against an opponent who makes a wholehearted effort!
In the example below it is white’s turn to move. Both players are fighting for control of the centre. It seems that white is doing a bit better thanks to his knight on the strong f5-square, his central pawns and Bb2 that support the central pawns.
Diagram above: White plays d4 to increase his space in the centre. He can do this since all his pieces perfectly support the move.
You might be thinking here – even though white has an advantage in the centre how will this help him win the game? It is very important to understand that having an advantage does not mean you are going to win! Having the advantage simply means you have better chances than your opponent and by accumulating your advantages, you increase your winning chances,
When you are playing against a strong player there is no such thing as an easy win. To become good you must be willing to work hard for your victories!
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2. Move your pieces towards, or into, the centre
In the next example material is equal but black’s pieces are burdened with the tasks of defending his weak pawns (particularly a5, b7 and d6). White’s rooks and bishop already aim at the centre – which is good. White can further increase his advantage by centralizing his queen and taking control of the e-file.
Diagram above: White plays Qe4. You will usually get an advantage if your pieces can take control over central squares.
In the final position white controls the centre and is even threatening Bh4 since Qe4 defends the h4-square as well. White’s centralized pieces gives him an advantage.
Note: Before doing it, you have to consider how stable your piece would be in the centre. There is not much benefit if you can place your piece in the centre just to be chased out soon by an enemy piece.
3. Neutralize enemy pieces that control the centre
You can neutralize enemy pieces in 3 ways:
- Exchange enemy pieces that control the centre
- Attack enemy pieces that control central squares
Below is an example of each method.
Exchange enemy pieces that control the centre
If your opponent’s piece plays an important role in the centre, it may be useful to exchange that piece.
Diagram above: You should think twice before you give up a bishop for a knight. However, in this position white can increase their control in the centre by exchanging their bishop for the black knight on c6.
Attack enemy pieces that control central squares
An chess piece can control the centre from a distance, even if it doesn’t occupy the centre. You can indirectly increase your control in the centre by chasing enemy pieces that control central squares.
In the position below white would be pleased if he can land his knight on the d5-square. However, the black knight on f6 prevents this idea. Any plans for white?
Diagram above: White plays 1. g5. White gains control over d5 by chasing the black knight away from the centre.
By playing 1.g5! white chases the black Nf6 out of the centre and gives white control over d5. White will probably follow-up by playing f3-f4 so that his Bg2 can support the Nd5. White will have an advantage due to his control of the central squares – which he achieved by attacking the Nf6 that protected the central d5-square.
4. Chase enemy pieces out of the centre
Enemy pieces in the centre should be neutralized or chased away. The best way to chase a piece away is usually with a pawn. In this example white has a strong knight in the centre that forces the Be8 to defend the c6-pawn.
Diagram above: Black plays 1… f6. Enemy pieces in the centre should be chased out if possible.
Chasing the white knight out of the centre and improving the role of the bishop (Be8 can go to g6 or h5 now) brought new life into black’s position. In the ensuing endgame black will have a bishop vs white’s knight. The misplaced position of white’s knight and the fact that a bishop is generally a bit stronger than a knight (particularly in an endgame) gives black an advantage here.
5. Exchange a flank pawn for a central pawn
We already know that pawns play a very important role in centre-control and the centre-pawns play an even more important role than the pawns towards the sides of the board (flank pawns). Therefore it is often a good idea if you can exchange a side-pawn (flank pawn) for a central pawn. It would mean that you have an extra centre-pawn – which is to your advantage.
In the example below white has a seemingly strong pawn-chain in the centre. How can black destroy this pawn-chain and prove that he can counter-attack white’s strong centre-pawns?
Diagram above: By playing 1… c6, black wants to exchange a flank-pawn for a centre-pawn.
After playing 1… c6 (threatening to win a pawn on d5), dxc6, bxc6, black’s advantage will be mainly thanks to his pawn-mass in the centre.
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