5 Ways to increase your control over the centre

centre control objective in chessAt this stage you have a better understanding of why it is important to control central squares and what the advantages of centralizing your pieces are.

Now we will look at 5 practical things you can do to help you achieve your centre-control objective. I’ll also show you a few examples of each.

They are:

  1. View central squares as targets
  2. Move your pieces towards the centre
  3. Chase enemy pieces out of the centre
  4. Attack enemy pieces that control central squares
  5. Exchange a flank pawn for a central pawn

Let’s see a few examples of each point.

1. View central squares as targets

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.

control the centre 10
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!

2. Move your pieces towards 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.

control the centre 11c
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.

3. 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.

control the centre 12
… 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.

4. Attack enemy pieces that control central squares

White would be pleased if he can land his knight on the d5-square. However, the Nf6 prevents this. Any ideas for white?

control the centre 13
g5. White gains control over d5 by chasing the black knight away from the centre.

g5! 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.

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?

control the centre 14
… c6. Black wants to exchange a flank-pawn for a centre-pawn.

After c6 (threatening to win a pawn on d5), dxc6, bxc6, black’s advantage will be mainly thanks to his pawn-mass in the centre.

Next Lesson – Objectives in Chess: Keep the king safe

Previous Lesson – The advantages of centralizing your chess pieces

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