You got your pieces out of the starting gates, and now…
We have reached the middle game, a section many beginners – AND more experienced players! – find difficult to tackle. My goal with this article is to prepare you for this part of the game, and give you some ideas on how to go about it.
Welcome to “The chess middle game for beginners”, guaranteed to give you a winning game!
(Well, that’s a lie…but I can promise you that I will try to give you as much good advice as I can!)
When does the middle game start
Let’s start with defining when this part of the game actually begins. First off I’ll say this: There’s no specific move or point where one could say: “Here! The middle game has begun! Load your horses!”
Instead, every game lives its own life, and the opening lasts for a different amount of moves from game to game. Sometimes you’ll have games where both of you move your pieces quietly for 20 moves, tiptoeing around, just setting up and getting ready, while other times you’ll start fighting after 10 moves, and the middle game could already be on.
Let’s be ready for that part of the game!
“Have a plan!”
This is my #1 philosophy in all of chess! I discussed this earlier, and to me this is as simple and important as it gets!
No matter your level, this will (or should) constantly be in the back of your mind. When you move a piece, you should be able to answer the question “Why did you do this?” after the game.
You might think “Well, I’m not a grandmaster, so this doesn’t apply to me. That Joachim-guy is talking some nonsense sometimes…”
Although the latter part is correct, this time I’m not talking trash: You don’t need to have a high-level 10-move plan every time. I just want you to be able to tell me why you made a particular move. It can be as simple as “I had to, otherwise they would have taken my queen.”
In short: Your reasoning could be anything!
Just not nothing…
8 tips for the middle game
Now that we’ve established what I want you to do every move (and this gets automated, so you don’t have to worry about remembering to do this every move), we can move on to some tips and ideas for your middle game strategy.
I have made a list which consists of 8 general tips. One very important thing to note before you read this list, though:
Every game and every situation is different, so don’t read this list as “what you’re always supposed to do”. These are general guidelines and tips, and more often than not, you’ll be wise to follow them.
- Fight for the center! → You ideally want one or two pawns on the four center squares of the board (d4, d5, e4, e5). These pawns will allow you to control important squares in and around the center, which again will provide you with more space to maneuver.
- Control open files with your major pieces, preferably rooks (major piece = rook or queen)
- Keep your bishops attacking, not defending → Your bishops are so much better for you when they can attack, instead of having to defend a piece. Compare the two boards and tell me which position you like better for white.
- Also, try to ensure both your bishops stay on the board. The bishop pair can be quite a handful to your opponent due to their reach.
- Keep them on long diagonals if you can.
- Keep your pawns together (aka. pawn chains) → The pawns are valued the least (poor guys…), which is why they will often be the vanguard of your army. They are always stronger when they protect each other, when they can’t just be executed “for free” by an opponent.
- Point your pieces towards the center → A lot of things will happen in the center during a chess game, so this is where you will want to combat your opponent. (obviously this doesn’t mean point every piece you have towards the center…pinch of salt, guys!)
- Occupy outposts with minor pieces (minor piece = knight or bishop) → An outpost is a square where your piece can not be chased away by a pawn. From these squares different pieces can cause some serious agony to your opponent!
- Make your pieces work together (coordination) → This can be a hard one to master, and to some extent, nobody manages this flawlessly… Try your best, and practice makes perfect!
- Realise what your opponent is up to → Always keep an eye out for what they are doing, because – SPOILER ALERT! – they will be following these very same tips!
The headline is what you’ll get from this regarding your middle game play. It won’t make you a grandmaster. It will give you some solid hooks to hang things on, and as you practice these and get better, I’m sure your rating will show the same!
My advice is to spend some time internalizing these tips, so that it comes naturally every game. As soon as it does, you can focus on sharpening those tools. This means playing!
And I’ll give you some more advice I found very helpful, and you may very well have heard this about other things in life:
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes!
Not that I’m saying you should try to make mistakes, but at the same time, in my opinion it’s in many instances your mistakes that you can learn the most from.
I’ve played many games that I was very pleased with, but the astonishing thing is that these all derived from prior bad games and mistakes I had made. You do not want to do the same mistake twice! Right?
Get the upper hand!
I’ll leave you for now (just for now…I will be back!) with some final advice:
You will most of the time face just about equally skilled players (at least if you play online, because that’s how they will pair you with an opponent). That means you will probably not get a lot of games where you just sweep the floor with them, but instead you will need a steady and patient game to grind them down.
Follow all of the above mentioned tips, and you will more and more often do very good in a chess game! And as I said before, your rating will show just that.
And even though your rating neither determines how good you are (it’s just a number…) nor how you’re going to do in any given game, I got to admit:
It’s pretty cool to see my rating grow!
With that I’m signing out for now, and encourage you to leave a comment below if you have one (maybe you feel like my list is missing something obvious). And I would be absolutely thrilled if this was in any way helpful to you, and that you feel like this will improve your game!
See you next time,