The Middlegame is where most of the adrenaline inducing attacks and tactics occur. The opening is complete. All the pieces are developed and active, or at least they should be if you followed the opening principles. The only thing left to do is attack the opponent. But how? Here are the most important middlegame principles that will greatly improve your midgame strategy in Chess.
7 Most Important Middlegame Principles
- Centralize Pieces
- Improve Pawn Structure
- Occupy Opponents Weak Squares While Avoiding Creating Them
- Avoid Pawn Weaknesses While Attacking Opponents Weak Pawns
- Place Knights on Strong Outposts
- Use Rooks To Control Open Files
- Favor Bishops over Knights
1. Centralize Pieces
The side that controls center of the board is often what determines who will win and who will lose the game. In the middlegame, centralizing pieces as best you can will help maintain control or start to gain control over the center. Inversely, decentralizing raises alarm bells to the opposing side.
Always seek to gain more control in the center of the board, even if the center is closed or has less activity than another part of the board. Furthermore, centralizing pieces will help with piece mobility since pieces tend to be most active in the center. Remember, the activity of the pieces is a crucial principle in the entire game of Chess.
2. Improve Pawn Structure
Improving pawn structure is crucial for overall position and gaining advantage leading into the endgame. One way to accomplish this is to trade flank pawns, meaning on outside of the central files, for central pawns. Doing so will strengthen your pawn structure while creating a weaker pawn structure for your opponent. You move a pawn that was away from the center, which is what we don’t want, to closer to the center allowing gaining more control in the center of the board.
If your opponent is overly aggressive with their pawns in the opening while neglecting their other pieces in addition to not castling, seek to shatter the center with a move like d5. Exchanging pawns in the center will open up the center of the board allowing you to gain control with your rooks and minor pieces. A position like this will be cause trouble for the uncastled enemy King. For more information, see the guide on how to castle in Chess.
3. Occupy Opponents Weak Squares While Avoiding Creating Them
A weak square is a square that cannot be defended. Furthermore, the closer a weak square is to your King, the bigger the threat an opponent occupying it will cause. When opponents identify these squares, they can become a game changing outpost for an enemy piece.
You can avoid creating most weak squares by becoming more cautious of pawn advances. Any chess piece can move forwards and backwards, pawns cannot.
4. Avoid Pawn Weaknesses While Attacking Opponents Weak Pawns
(Don’t make unnecessary pawn moves in front of your king. This weakens your position. Attack your opponent’s weak and backwards pawns)
An appropriate transition into middleggame principle number six from the previous is avoiding creating pawn weaknesses. One way to prevent creating these weaknesses is to avoid making unnecessary pawn moves in front of your king. This not only removes protection from your king, but weakens your entire position. Avoid creating backward, doubled, and isolated pawns when able to.
In terms of your opponent, identify their weak pawns or pawns that could be attacked or lured in attempts to making your opponent damage their pawn position. Look for opposing weak, backward, and isolated pawns to attack.
5. Place Knights on Strong Outposts
Knights are positioned best in the center of the board. In the center, they are able to move in either direction of the board. If they are position on an edge or corner of the board, their mobility is greatly hindered.
The key squares for knights being c3 and f3 in the opening while e5 and d5 are more optimal squares for knights to be placed moving into the middlegame.
Isolated pawns are powerful weapons that can be used by opponents since they defend pieces while controlling additional space. Knights are the perfect piece to prevent these isolated pawns from advancing wreaking havoc by moving up one square at the right time.
6. Use Rooks To Control Open Files
Rooks are made to dominate files, but can only do so when the file is more open than closed. Position rooks on the most open files or make room on a file so you can move a rook to control it.
The central e- and d-files are best for rooks to wait until they can safely move up the board. Safety is of concern for rooks because they are major pieces and they can be attacked by minor pieces and pawns.
7. Favor Bishops over Knights
When it comes to Bishops vs Knights in the middlegame and endgame, Bishops are more powerful. Even though the piece value of Bishops and Knights are equal, Bishops are preferred. Super Grandmasters will tell you lower rated players prefer knights over bishops and Grandmasters prefer bishops over knights. Maybe they know something a 1500 FIDE rated player doesn’t know. Garry Kasparov himself said that he believes the point value of Bishops is more around 2.5 to knights 2 point value.
One way to maximize the power of the bishop is to fianchetto them. Better yet, fianchettoing both bishops is that much more advantageous. Fianchettoes bishops will allow them to control as much of the longest diagonals on the board as possible. When a pawn race is undergo on the board, Bishops are also better than knights as well.
The bishop pair is especially powerful compared to knights. So rather than trading a bishop when you can trade a knight so you can keep the Bishop pair is ideal.
These middlegame principles will help you the most when it comes to your Chess middlegame strategy. If you’re a beginner, go back to this page often and re-read so you can memorize these guidelines.