The central squares are most important squares on the board.
You’ve heard it before. The 3 famous opening principles:
- Develop your pieces.
- Get the king safe.
- Control the center.
This advice seem to make sense but I remember one day asking myself:
“Is the center really as important as the books try to tells us?”
And if it is, why is it? What about attacking the centre from the sides?
Understanding The Principle of Center-control
There are numerous ways to describe the principle of centre-control, but in the end it comes down to this:
The central squares are most important squares on the board because most of the action takes place in or through the centre.
The principle may appear very simple but don’t let its simplicity cause you to under-estimate the importance thereof. The reality is that unless you are a master-player, this principle probably doesn’t mean as much to you as it should.
This article will give you a deeper understanding of why the center is so important.
The advantages of centralizing your chess pieces
Lets look at a few obvious (and a few not-so-obvious) reasons as to why the principle of center-control is so important:
1. A centralized piece controls more squares (and more important squares) than a non-centralized piece
This is an obvious one and most chess players knows a piece near the centre covers more squares than a piece on the edge of the board. However, it’s also important to understand that the central squares are in fact also more important than squares on the side of the board.
2. Centralized pieces can attack in multiple directions
It is easier for a centralized chess piece to make threats on both sides of the board. Even though material is equal in this position, white has a fairly large advantage due to his centralized knight. White is winning a pawn soon (either b5-pawn or h6-pawn).
3. Centralized pieces can fulfill multiple roles
The white knight moves to the central square, e4, and performs an defensive role (defends f2) as well as an attacking role (adds pressure on d6).
4. Centralized pieces can dominate enemy pieces
The last example shows a unique case where a centralized bishop totally dominates a knight on the rim of the board. Similarly, controlling central squares with your pawns will make it almost impossible for your opponent to occupy central squares with their pieces.
There are numerous advantages to centralizing your forces:
- Centralized pieces control more (and more important) squares,
- they can more easily attack in 2 directions,
- they can fulfill multiple roles and
- they can dominate the movements of enemy pieces.
The examples on this page where simple to illustrate clearly how the principles work. In more complicated positions it might not be so easy to notice the effect – but in the background they will work in your favour if you respect them!
Here’s some practical advice that will help you in your games:
Treat the central squares as targets!
So to answer the question: “Is centre-control overrated?”
No. The principle of centre-control is one of the most important principles in chess. As with any other principle there may of course be exceptions in some situations, but the only reason why anyone would underestimate the principle of centre-control – can only be because they lack a deeper understanding of it.