Chess Lovers and players – The Middle Game

Experienced chess players know that almost 90 percent and more of the game is won or lost in the middle game. But explaining what constitutes as the middle game is slightly difficult because the transition from the opening game to middle game and from middle game to end game is not highlighted with any bell, beep, or light. By playing chess regularly, such demarcation is automatically is registered in the mind. For now, a brief recap of the opening game is necessary to understand when the player moves into the middle game of the chess.

In the opening game, the player tries to capture the central four positions directly with pawns, and ensure that the powerful pieces in the row behind the pawns row come out in defense of such pawns. A few of those pieces, such as knights, and bishops reach the squares that touch any of the central four squares. Some pawns protect these powerful pieces or reinforce protection to the pawns in the center. On the whole, the player tries to pull out most of the forces from the back row so that castling is possible, and the king is somewhat safe, in one corner. The rooks and queen usually remain in the same row at such time. This is where the opening game ends and the middle game begins.

Before venturing into middle game, it is necessary to understand some dangerous combination of pieces that can be formed in middle game and some vulnerabilities to watch out for.

Dangerous combinations:-
a. Queen and bishop in that sequence, in the same diagonal row attacking a square near the king. If that square is not covered by another force, and there is no possibility of doing that, or bringing in any of the forces, this can be very dangerous indeed;
b. Similarly, two rooks in a row or column, two rooks and queen in three rows or columns , and queen and a rook in a row or column can corner the king with their walk. The possibility is more when such forces are there in consecutive rows or columns.
c. Bishop being protected by pawn is also a difficult combination to break
Therefore, attempts to prevent such combination is made in middle game.

Some vulnerabilities to watch out for:
a. Even after castling, king may need a way to escape if attacked within the fort. Exactly which pawn needs to move can be decided based on how the opponent’s pawns are moving.
b. The pawns lying diagonally to the rook, i.e., in B2 and G2 squares of white and B7 and G7 of black, are vulnerable, especially after bishop moves out. Placing a bishop in that square saves the rook but bishop remains vulnerable;
c. The squares identified as C7 for black, and F2 for white need to be defended in the middle game as knight of the opponent can give a check from there, and pick the rook.

What is to be done in the middle game?

In the middle game, the powerful pieces such as bishops, and knights try to corner or attack the weaker positions of the opponent. While doing so, the cardinal rule of tit for tat continues, meaning each of those squares where such forces are placed, should be covered by another force of the same color so that if the piece is killed, then retaliation is possible. Retreat is mandatory when the pawn is used for attacking a more powerful piece.

Note that the focus has shifted slightly from castling and cornering the central four positions to attacking, even though those central four squares still remain coveted.

What constitutes as weaker position?

A weak position is a square that leaves king vulnerable to attacks as mentioned above and when
a) It is in a position that when it is attacked, it has little choice but to move ostensibly to a more vulnerable square;
b) It is attacked simultaneously with another powerful piece in its army. Knights are extremely useful for this type of forking. When this happens, one of the powerful pieces is invariably compromised. Since, knights are lower in power hierarchy when compared to rooks and queens, the exchange is acceptable and knight is sacrificed.
c) Forcing a more powerful force to intervene in defense of the king.

Is it only the king that needs to be attacked?

Of course not! Even the queen can be targeted. It is the question of opportunity. If there are no vulnerable square around the king, then it obviously means that some other piece has to be targeted, and eliminated, so that another way of entering the impregnable “fort” is found.

What else can be done in the middle game while playing chess?

Immobilizing the powerful forces of the opponents? Force the opponent’s pieces to block their way out. For example the black queen may be on D8, but if C7 and E7 are filled by black pieces, its movements are restricted. Similarly, force the opponent’s pieces to obstruct rook to rook linking.

My queen is in trouble!
Yes, she can be too. Look for opportunities to attack the king, and give a check. If that is possible, then you would be sacrificing another force and if possible remove queen from dangerous square.

Is killing or capturing allowed in middle game of chess?

Yes, it is. Provided, you are not the loser. You would be a loser, if you lose more powerful forces, and capture or kill less powerful forces.

You will also need a little bit of math and dynamic memory
Before you make any move to kill or capture, remember to calculate the number of your forces attacking that square and number of opponent’s forces attacking that square. If both are equal then power hierarchy takes over. Ideally increase the forces on such a square if it makes king or queen vulnerable. Remember pawn also qualifies as a force.

What should you keep in mind when playing middle game?

Here are a few tips to make some matters simpler in middle game.

a. Long drawn plans are more risky. This is because the player remains focused on the long plan, and overlooks some move from the opponents.
b. All plans should be dynamic. This is for obvious reason. You are not the only player, and not everything on the board is static to allow you to get away with your plan. You could, in fact, find a better way of going for the kill. Keep your options open. That is the idea.
c. Ruminate over the position of every piece, pawn or otherwise, whether belonging to your color or that of opponent, before making a move. This is middle game, and not opening game where somethings can be done mechanically. Even if you have gone through the exercise in the immediately previous move, repeat it. Sometimes, the reason for not moving a piece is accidentally forgotten and that become the nail in the coffin.
d. Always think of the next two steps that each of the opponent’s piece can make, following your move, for better defense. Offense however, is usually the better approach.
e. If there is an opportunity for equal exchange, take it, provided it does not result in pulling away forces from the square that makes your king vulnerable. Equal exchanges reduce the need to think about two or more pieces. However, the rule does not hold good always for the central four squares. Here, you need to avoid losses and retain control. Similarly, if that piece to be exchanged is the only force remaining with you, you might want to retain it. You should also avoid exchange if you are likely to lose more powerful pieces, even if the overall number of pieces eliminated is the same. In general, in the learning stage, equal exchanges help to learn the game faster because it becomes easier to understand few other moves, which get etched in memory and become easier to read at a later stage.

Conclusion:

Though the middle game is indeed the major part of the game, the player should not lose heart till end game is completed, even after losing the queen, and or rook, because even opponents can make mistakes. Secondly, the moves that you plan may also be the moves the opponents has in mind against your king. Effectively, you also need to continue thinking about protecting your king at this stage. All such thinking, planning, moving, and killing or capturing of pieces make the middle game. It is difficult to elaborate on every such move or plan, because sequence of moves emerge as the game progresses.

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