Strategy in chess guides you as you navigate your way through the three phases of a chess game and should be only a chess middlegame strategy. The three phases of a chess game work and build upon each other.
Although it is easy to think of the opening strategy in chess as separate from the middlegame strategy in chess, the two are very closely related.
In fact, it is possible to pick a strategy in chess and base your entire game around it.
For example, you could focus on centralization in the opening, middlegame, and endgame. Another winning strategy in chess might be to avoid pawn weaknesses in all three phases.
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
1) Centralization is a Powerful Winning Middlegame Strategy in Chess
Centralized pieces can reach other areas of the board quicker. Time is a crucial element of any winning middlegame strategy in chess.
Another advantage centralized pieces have is that they control more critical squares in your opponent’s ranks.
The importance of central control cannot be overemphasized.
Anatoly Karpov became famous for many reasons, but one of them was his constant use of centralization as a primary strategy in chess middlegames.
Before you begin any action on the sides of the board, make sure your opponent cannot counter your attack by taking action in the center.
When looking for weak squares in your opponent’s position, start with the center.
Any piece you can establish on a central outpost will significantly impact the game more than one on the flanks.
In the next game, it is interesting to note that up until move 22, both players remained faithful to the chess strategy of centralization. The engine more than doubles the advantage for white after 22…Qb5.
The engine suggests 22…Qd7 as being better, which keeps the queen in the center. On move 25, white gets a winning advantage after a second black piece moves from the center to the flank with 25…Nh7.
White allows black into the game with 35.Bb2. Once again, moving a piece away from the center loses the advantage.
When analyzing your games or games of titled players, note how many improvements the engine suggests involve centralization. Black holds on for a draw by bringing his pieces back into the center.
Samuel Shankland (2580) – Sergey Erenburg (2616), Philadelphia Open, 2012, 1/2 -1/2
2) Making Use of Strong and Weak Squares in a Winning Middlegame Strategy in Chess
Learn more about this winning strategy in chess middlegames from IM Elisabeth Paehtz.
Taking advantage of a weak square in your opponent’s ranks must become part of your middlegame strategy in chess.
Weak squares are those squares behind pawns that need to get protected by pieces. The most common squares to target are the e6/e3 and d6/d3 squares.
Sometimes white can target the c6 square as well in the opening, for example, the Open Sicilian when the white knight on d4 can sometimes occupy the c6 square.
While on the lookout for weak squares in your opponent’s position, remember to avoid creating weak squares in your own position.
Obviously, you need to advance your pawns to gain space for your pieces, but you must constantly be on guard when your opponent’s pieces get within reach of critical squares in your position.
A good chess strategy is to exchange pieces when they enter your half of the board. The more advanced a piece is, the more urgent the need to remove them must become.
The most dangerous of weak squares are those within your own ranks. That is why it is crucial to keep pieces that can protect these squares.
When an opponent has a knight defending their weak d6 square, consider an exchange sacrifice if your knight can reach this square. In a closed position, knights are sometimes more valuable than rooks.
Once you have exchanged the fianchettoed bishop, you will have weak squares around your king. Creating a weak color complex close to your king is not a winning middlegame strategy in chess.
The material advantage you have won’t be of any help if you are checkmated.
Remember to include the dynamic value of a piece when assessing a position. Sometimes keeping a fianchettoed bishop is better than exchanging it for a rook.
3) The Diagonal is Often an Underrated Winning Middlegame Strategy in Chess
Many people memorize opening moves without paying attention to the purpose of the move. Even at the start of the game, it is essential to ask, “Why?”
If you fail to ask “Why?” you could quickly lose your way and cost yourself time.
Always keep in mind the fianchettoed bishop doesn’t only provide protection for your king; it is a powerful attacking piece!
For example, the most natural developing square for the white knight is f3, but it isn’t always the best square if you have a bishop on g2. Now the knight blocks the h1-a8 diagonal, which it wouldn’t do if you played Nge2.
Knowing why you fianchettoed your bishop will help you realize the importance of the diagonal in your winning chess strategy. You will know to keep pieces from obstructing the diagonal and how important it is to keep the diagonal open.
Opening a diagonal for your bishop will provide you with sufficient compensation for a sacrificed pawn.
Keep the Diagonal Open for Greater Attacking Potential
Your fianchettoed bishop has a lot more attacking potential if you get it active. Unless you have an excellent reason for doing so, avoid blocking your bishop on g2 by placing your own pieces on the h1-a8 diagonal.
In the King’s Indian Defense, white often plays Be3 and Qd2 creating a battery aimed at the h6 square. If the bishop on g7 is blocked by a pawn on e5, black will often play …Nh5 and …Nf4, even though white has a bishop and queen battery covering the f4 square.
After Bxf4, exf4, and Qxf4, White wins a pawn, by black has activated the full attacking potential of his bishop on g7.
In the position below, see how white sacrificed his e4-pawn to open the diagonal.
4) Pawns Play an Active Part in a Winning Middlegame Strategy
If you ask many chess players, they will tell you a passed pawn is powerful in the endgame. This is true, but it is essential to realize the passed pawn is also powerful in the middlegame.
The power of a passed pawn is an underrated middlegame strategy in chess.
The main difference between a passed pawn in the endgame and the middlegame is that there are more pieces to block or capture it in the middlegame. You must adjust your chess strategy accordingly.
The piece blockading your passed pawn in the middlegame is one piece your opponent can’t use to implement an attacking or aggressive chess strategy of his own.
The passed pawn becomes an even more critical element of your chess strategy if it reaches the sixth or seventh rank!
Apart from being very close to promoting, the passed pawn gives your pieces more space to implement an attacking strategy in chess games.
Not only is it easier to mobilize your forces in the extra space behind your passed pawn, but an outside passed pawn can draw a piece away from defending your opponent’s king.
Never underestimate the value of a passed pawn. Your opponent will be well aware of the potential danger it poses if you transitioned from the middlegame to the endgame.
The more your opponent has to worry about, the more likely you will be successful with your strategy in chess.
5) Harmony is the Foundation of All Your Winning Middlegame Chess Strategies
Unless there is harmony within the ranks of an army, it is impossible to launch a cohesive attack. The more harmony there is between your pieces, the more likely you are to launch a winning attack.
Although harmony is an abstract quality, there are ways to express it in your chess strategy.
The two main principles of creating harmony are:
- Ensuring all your pieces are developed so you do not launch an attack with only half your army.
- Playing moves you know you will play before playing moves you might play.
Although developing as quickly as you can is essential, you must develop with purpose.
Although …Bg4 is often an excellent move to pin the knight, it doesn’t make as much sense if white has fianchettoed his bishop on g2 and moved his queen to c2.
In this instance, a better development plan is …Be6 and …Qc7, forming a battery and aiming to exchange the fianchettoed bishop with …Bh3.
Developing with a purpose will create harmony among your pieces.
When you are uncertain if you will play Rc1 or Rd1, but you know you will castle kingside, then castling first is the harmonious way to play.
Improving the position of your poorly placed pieces will naturally lead to greater harmony in your position. However, you must always move them to squares where they have a purpose.
An excellent-looking piece is also doing good. Make sure your pieces are doing good, and they will automatically look good.
In the next game, look at how Reshevsky took time to create a weakness in black’s position with the intermezzo 17.Ng6. Even though the knight was captured, it made a weakness in the pawn structure in front of the king.
Reshevsky, Samuel Herman – Fine, Reuben, Western CA-34 Masters, 1933, 1-0
These 5 winning middlegame strategies will help you find the right plan in your middlegames. Once you have found the right plan, you will find it easier to find the right move.
These chess middlegame strategies will help point you in the right direction and keep you headed towards your goal.
The games of the first world chess champion Wilhelm Steinitz are well-worth studying to see how these strategies can be applied to your games.
Although modern play might differ in style and we have chess engines helping us, the principles of a winning strategy in chess remain unchanging.
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