Many players possess a broad understanding of how to play in the opening. They follow the good old opening principles:
- Develop your pieces.
- Castle your king early
- A knight on the rim is dim.
- Control the center.
- Don’t push too many pawns.
- Develop knights before bishops.
- Don’t move the queen out early, and some more general guidelines.
They try to recall the theory or ideas involved, which seems to do the trick for them.
But after the opening, many of them get stuck because they don’t know how to proceed, what plans or strategies to adopt, or the best squares for their pieces. So they start making funny moves, and checkmate lands on the board before long. Have you ever been in this kind of situation? Then this article is for you.
The chess legend Rudolph Spielmann once said, “Play the opening like a book, the middle game like a magician and the endgame like a machine.”
From this quote, it can be deduced that the middlegame is where creativity matters the most. The opening isn’t tough to master. One just has to play by the book. The endgame can also be played perfectly when one follows the pre-analyzed lines like the King and Pawn endgame or the Rook versus Rook and Pawn.
However, when it comes to the middlegame, you have to play like a magician. Your creativity has to shine, as this is the only way to beat your opponent.
The middle game is one of the most challenging phases of the chess game. It combines tactics and strategy and determines how the game will proceed. This article will look at some actionable tips you can take to improve your chess middlegame.
When Does The Middlegame Begin?
A chess game is divided into three stages, the opening, the middlegame, and the endgame.
The middlegame begins when you have completed the development of your pieces, castled your king, and connect your rooks. At this stage, you begin to come up with plans and ideas to hold on to as the game progresses. Whatever strategy you adopt will impact the rest of your game.
It’s necessary to always have a strategy whenever you play a chess game. You should never move pieces because you feel like it. It should always be based on a carefully calculated decision and plan. In his book, former world champion Garry Kasparov said, “It’s better to have a bad plan than no plan at all.”
Here are 9 tips that will help you triumph in the middlegame stage:
How To Improve Your Chess Middlegame
- Ensure You’re Benefitting From a Piece Trade
- Centralize Your Pieces
- Play Through The Middlegame of Experienced Masters
- Start Playing Correspondence Chess
- Learn how to Identify Closed and Open Positions
- Know the Minor Pieces best suited to Closed and Open Positions
- Utilize Pins, Forks, and Skewer Tactics
- Avoid Isolated Pawns
- Create Outposts for Your Pieces
Ensure You’re Benefitting From a Piece Trade
Many beginners frequently make one grave mistake: They trade their active chess pieces for their opponent’s inactive ones. Learning to exchange pieces that will benefit your position will significantly improve your chess middlegame.
For example, it’s generally known that knights excel in closed positions, so you try to retain your knights whenever you’re faced with a closed position. Similarly, bishops excel in open positions, so you should know that bishops are superior to knights.
Never swap your active minor pieces for your opponent’s inactive minor pieces. Similarly, it would help to improve your chess middlegame if you strived to trade your inactive pieces for the active ones of your opponent.
You should also look to trade for positional advantage. You should go for it if you’re sure a trade will grant you a considerable positional advantage.
One of the most fundamental concepts to remember in the middlegame is that you should trade as many pieces as possible except pawns if you have a material advantage, this aids in reducing your opponent’s counter-play and bringing you closer to converting the win.
Centralize Your Pieces
In chess, the player that controls more squares will, more often than not, control the flow of the game and ultimately win the game. Therefore if you’re looking to improve your chess middlegame, you must understand the principle of centralizing your pieces.
Centralizing your pieces means bringing them to the center of the board, from where they can control more squares. There’s a saying in chess that “knights on the rim are dim” this means that the knight should not be put on the rim or in the corner or edge of the board, but instead in the center where it can control more squares.
The most powerful piece in chess is the queen. The primary reason for the queen’s strength is the number of squares she controls. When the queen is centralized, she controls many squares and can easily move across the board to deal maximum damage. Some advantages of centralizing your pieces include the following:
- Centralized pieces can quickly access more parts of the board than when deployed on edge.
- When you centralize your pieces, they can quickly attack different sides of the board as they control more squares.
- Centralized pieces can also effectively restrict the movement of enemy pieces.
A player who has his pieces centralized will have an easier time playing the middlegame and, by extension, gain a sizable advantage going into the endgame.
Play Through The Middlegame of Experienced Masters
You can begin by studying the games of the more experienced players like International masters and Grandmasters in the openings where you play. It aids in improving your opening understanding, but it also aids in identifying the various plans and concepts in the ensuing middlegame.
While doing so, you should note how they try to keep their pieces on certain squares. Which pieces are maintained, and which ones are exchanged? It’s necessary to keep an eye out for common patterns in these positions if you aim to improve your chess middlegame.
Start Playing Correspondence Chess
Correspondence chess is an excellent way to practice and improve your chess middlegame skills because there is no time limit to adhere to. By playing 2-to 3 correspondence games with a three-to-four-day time constraint for each move, you’ll have enough time to set up a chessboard to act out the game and think properly about strategies and plans to adopt. That’ll help in knowing how to devise a successful plan.
Learn how to Identify Closed and Open Positions
It is crucial for players looking to improve their chess middlegame to understand the difference between an open position and a closed one.
What determines whether a position is open or closed is the pawn structure. Unfortunately, most beginners find it hard to decipher whether a position is open or closed and how to navigate it.
A few things to look out for when checking if a position is closed or open will be discussed.
Ideas to look for in an open position include:
- Three or more pawn islands can be found (a pawn island is a group of pawns of the same color side by side, without any pawn of the same color diagonally adjacent to them)
- There are fewer pawn chains.
- More than two pawns have already been traded.
- Fewer pawns are blocking the squares on the board.
If you notice these four ideas in your middle game, you’re playing an open position.
However, in a closed position, the opposite is the case. You can identify a closed position through the following ideas:
- There are more pawn chains on the board.
- There are very few pawn islands (two or fewer)
- Less than two pawns have been traded, or no pawns at all.
- Most of the squares are blocked by pawns.
Know the Minor Pieces best suited to Closed and Open Positions
Chess pieces all have their different roles and characteristics. Each of them has a particular way they move and capture enemy pieces. Knowing how to coordinate your pieces in the middlegame and which piece is more suitable to open positions and which is best suited to closed positions is very important if you want to improve your chess middlegame.
The minor piece that is best suited to open positions is the bishop, while the minor piece that is perfect for closed positions is the knight. We will now examine the reason behind this.
We already know that an open position has abundant space on the board, and the pawns are not blocking a lot of squares. This setup is ideal for the bishop due to its range of movement. The white bishop can move diagonally on any white square on the board, while the black bishop moves diagonally on any available black square.
In an open position, there are many available squares. Therefore, the bishop is the minor piece best suited to the position.
However, in a closed position, the knight functions better. This is because, in a closed position, there are a lot of pawns blocking the squares a bishop will need to move around. This is where the knight comes into play. Knights are much more effective in a closed position because they can jump over chess pieces and occupy a square.
Therefore, it is essential to understand open and closed positions. However, knowing which minor piece is best suited to the respective positions is equally necessary and goes a long way to improve your chess middlegame.
Utilize Pins, Forks, and Skewer Tactics
Do you want to play the middlegame like a magician and destroy your opponent? Then you need to utilize pins, forks, and skewers. We will now explain what pins forks and skewers are.
A pin is a chess tactic in which a player makes sure an enemy piece cannot move without exposing a more valuable piece on its other side to the risk of capture by the attacking piece.
The act of bringing your attacking piece to pin an enemy piece is called pinning.
The defending piece that is restricted from moving is described as a pinned piece.
Only pieces that can move an indefinite number of squares in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line (pieces like bishops, rooks, and queens) can pin. Kings, knights, and pawns cannot pin.
The pin is a deadly move that can result in checkmate or severe material loss. The pin is such a strong tactic that Fred Reinfeld, a great chess writer, once said, “the pin is mightier than the sword.”
A fork is a tactic in which one piece attacks multiple enemy pieces simultaneously. The attacking piece usually aims to capture one of the forked pieces.
The opponent often cannot counter every threat and must lose at least one of the forked pieces. A fork is most effective when it is forcing, such as when the king is put in check.
The type of fork is named after the piece delivering the fork. For example, a fork by a knight is a knight fork. If the King is one of the attacked pieces, the term absolute fork is sometimes used. A fork not involving the enemy king is called a relative fork.
A fork of the king and queen, which is the fork that gains the highest material, is called a royal fork. A fork of the enemy king, queen, and one (or both) rooks is known as a grand fork. A knight fork of the enemy king, queen, and possibly other pieces is sometimes called a family fork or family check.
A skewer is a chess tactic that occurs when an attacked piece must move to safety but will expose a lower-valued piece behind it. A skewer is sometimes referred to as a “reversed pin.”
One crucial difference between a pin and a skewer is that in the case of a skewer, the attacked piece has a higher value than the piece behind it. This is in contrast to a pin where the lower-valued piece is in the front.
When you learn to spot and apply these tactics to your middle game, you will significantly improve and win many games.
Avoid Isolated Pawns
An isolated pawn is a pawn that has no friendly pawns supporting it. Friendly pawns are pawns of the same color. Isolated pawns are usually a weakness because other pawns cannot protect them. The square in front of the pawn may become a good outpost for the opponent to station his pieces and launch attacks.
You should try to avoid creating isolated pawns in your middle game. This is because, more often than not, they become a problem as they are pretty challenging to defend and will be a target for your opponent to attack. Therefore you should try as much as possible to connect your pawn with other friendly pawns, as it is easier to maintain a better pawn structure.
Create Outposts for Your Pieces
In the middlegame, you should always look for ways to create outposts for your pieces. An outpost is a square on the chess board where you can place your chess piece that will make it difficult for your opponent to attack or defend against it. Knights are the best pieces to place on outposts. An excellent example of an outpost is a knight and a backward pawn.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a good pawn structure?
A good pawn structure is one where all the pawns are connected and defending each other. Pawns are very important pieces, especially when it comes to the endgame. Therefore, it is necessary to maintain a good pawn structure where all the pawns complement themselves. This also makes it harder for enemy pieces to attack them.
When does the middlegame start?
The middlegame starts when both players have completed their pieces’ development and put their king to safety by castling.
What is the difference between the opening, middlegame, and endgame in chess?
A chess game is divided into three stages: the opening, middlegame, and endgame. The opening comprises the first moves made by both players. In the opening, players aim to develop their pieces, control the center and castle their king to safety.
The middlegame starts after the pieces have been developed and the king castles. Most of the action occurs in the middle game. This is where players show their skills and try to outsmart their opponents through tactics and strategies that either lead to checkmate or a significant advantage going into the endgame.
The endgame is the last stage of a chess game; here, very few pieces are left on the board. The pieces available are usually pawns and minor pieces. Also, the endgame is the last phase of a chess game, where the outcome of the game is decided.
Which is the weakest piece in chess?
The weakest piece in chess is the pawn. It also has a point rating of 1. The pawn is regarded as the most vulnerable due to its restricted mobility and considerably low strength compared to other pieces like the Rook and the Queen. However, the pawn is not to be underestimated, as it can become a huge threat when it gets to the other end of the board. There, it can be promoted to any other piece except the king.