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How to evaluate progress in the center-control objective

This lesson will focus on how to evaluate the progress each side made towards controlling the center. As was the case with comparing the development objective, it is not always possible to give an exact evaluation of center-control. However, it is still worthwhile to evaluate it to the best of our ability.

A practical way to evaluate center-control is to compare the amount of pawns and the amount of pieces that influence the center.

The following 3 examples will illustrate how you can evaluate the progress each side made in the center-control objective.

Example 1

Use the 2-step process mentioned above and determine which side has more center-control in this position:

centre-control evaluation 1
  • Amount of pawns: White has 3 pawns that influence the center vs. black’s 2 pawns.
  • Amount of pieces: White has 4 pieces that influence the center, whereas black only 3 pieces. Notice how Be7 obstructs the role of Re8)

The conclusion: White has better center-control due to the fact that he has more pawns and pieces that influence the center. Notice also how the white pawns restrict the effect of the black pieces in the center.

Example 2

This position shows the board from black’s point of view. Who has better center-control?

centre-control evaluation 2
  • Amount of pawns: Black has 2 pawns vs. white’s 1 pawn that influence the center.
  • Amount of pieces: All 4 of black’s pieces aim to the center vs only 3 of white’s pieces. The kings of course have no influence on the center since the king-safety aspect requires them to remain safe during the opening and middle game stages.

The conclusion: By comparing the amount of pieces and pawns that influence the center we can clearly see that black has better control of the central squares.

Example 3

The 3rd example is harder to evaluate – who do you think has better center-control here?

centre-control evaluation 3
  • Amount of pawns: White has 2 pawns vs. 1 black pawn that influence the center
  • Amount of pieces: Only 2 white pieces influence the center vs. all 4 black pieces

The conclusion: Although white has more pawns in the center, these pawns don’t have much support from other pawns and have become targets that require support from the white pieces. Furthermore black’s pieces all bear down on the central squares and the white pawns aren’t very effective at restricting them. Although it isn’t very clear, we can probably argue that black has better control of the center here. However, the fact that black has 2 bishops vs. white’s knight + bishop gives black a material advantage, which implies that black’s advantage is clearer when you consider the material objective too.

This example again proves that in order to make a good evaluation of the situation you need to look at all the factors. The process of evaluating the progress in objectives step-by-step will give you the information you need to give a fairly accurate evaluation of the position as a whole.

In the next lesson we will look at evaluating the 4th important objective, king-safety.

Next Lesson – How to evaluate progress in the king-safety objective

Previous Lesson – How to evaluate progress in the development objective

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