Middlegame Strategy

Introduction

You should know that it's in the middle game where most all chess players faultier and fail.

Yes even the Masters and even the Grand Masters too. Why is that? Because only in the middle game are there no grand plans of study principles to learn such as is in the Opening and in End Game theory. In the middle game there are many decisions to make that just can't be calculated all that well. Sure you can calculate out a string of moves but in the middle game there are just too many variations and more variations upon those variations that can lead you amuck. Masters after playing many thousands of games and making many thousands of mistakes can look at a possible position to play and think that if they were to enter into that position surely it would be like entering into quick sand and is just to risky to try to go there.

You on the other hand do not have that advantage. So how should you play the middlegame then? That is exactly what took me months of research to try and find the answer to that question. Below is what you will find is what I finally concluded was the best way to handle going into the middle game based on games that I found to be successful because of what was done before hand before entering into the middlegame.

You might say it's much like trying to build a skyscraper. If you don't plan on building a very solid foundation down to bedrock it's just going to topple over in time. And that is as close as to any analogy that I can think of to describe my plan of how to succeed in playing the middlegame.

Part One

Why you must stayed focused

Caution: What is about to be reveled here to you is going to be the most valuable advice you will ever find about the Middlegame and I promise you it will go to the heart of gaining an advantage in the Middlegame. But only if you apply it.

If you quickly skim over this material here with out slowly reading and studying it, then you are just wasting your time in our club and I have wasted my time working hard to present it to you.

So if you wish to be successful in the Middlegame you will have to give of your self in time and concentrated study to use all of these ideas if you are sincerely interested in improving middlegame play.

However;

Can you handle the truth? Can you take criticism? Does your arrogance and ego prevent you from reading what is necessary to help you succeed? Maybe you are lacking patience and motivation or just too lazy to slowly read a lengthily article on what could make the difference in your playing well?

One of my purposes here is going to be to try to motivate you and build a fire under your butt, to try to get you to think hard about how you have been thinking about playing chess in the past.

In the following text I am going to do my best to deflate your ego and criticize you toward following some of the advice here that you may have just ignored in the past. I am going to try to shock you in to being a believer to do that what is necessary to succeed. If your feelings get hurt in the process then I have succeed in getting my point across. I have been successful in telling you exactly what you need to do to succeed in the Middlegame and now it is going to be entirely up to you to decide if you want to heed this advice.

Hate me for doing this if you want, and get mad and call me names too, but if after reading this text you improve your game, I will feel I have been successful, I have succeeded in accomplishing what I have set out to do, and that is for you to be more successful in Middlegame play.

What I am about to disclose here is necessary thinking and the truth about how the majority of chess players who play on FICS rarely ever think about these kinds of concepts and ideas.

These valuable ideas and notes are not going to be easily remembered by you. Especially in the heat of a game your not going to be thinking about these ideas and principles simply by reading about them here once or even a few times as most people actually do.

In fact these ideas could take you weeks or months of concentrated study and practice and placing all of your focus in their use before you can say to your self that with out looking at this page you could easily make an outline of everything on this page with your word processor.

These ideas may not at first reading going to seem significant enough to you to really concentrate on them and place a great deal of thought about them. You may just glance over them and say, tell me something I don't know. I have heard all of this before and I do know the principles of opening play. It's the Middlegame I have a problem with and want to know how to be more successful dealing with it.

But believe me this is why you are having a problem dealing with the Middlegame because of your present attitude about the opening phase of the game. It's the subtleties of opening play that you may not be paying enough attention to that is at the root of your Middlegame problems.

Only after reviewing what is on this page many, many times to the point that these ideas are so ingrained into your head that they come to mind just as easily as breathing in and out will you put all of them into action during game play.

There is no better way to insure that what is on this page is learnt well than to print it out and paste or staple it on large pieces of stiff, thick cardboard. Then place them in some very conspicuous place so that you see them every time you sit at your desk.

At bedtime take them to bed with you and review them every night before going to sleep. When you go to the can take them with you and review them. On the train, in a plane, on the bus or in a car pool you must be reviewing your Middlegame text cards. Before going on the net review them. Even before having sex you must say, Wait, before we have sex I must review my Middlegame text cards or else afterwards I will be too tired to do so. Every day it will be necessary to review them so that your forgetting process does not lose what is contained here.

Remember that within a few hours after reading something you most likely will easily forget approximately 70% or more of what you have read. And after a few days you will be lucky to remember even 5% or less. The only way to insure this does not happen is to keep reviewing the material over and over again and again each day until you actually can say you think you have committed to memory at least 75% to memory two weeks later. No one, not even you has perfect recall on what you read, unless you are some kind of abnormal nut.

So important are these facts that you must print them out and place them in a conspicuous place or you will surely forget to use them and then you will ask, Why do I fail in the Middlegame?

Remember that out of sight is out of mind, and out of mind is out of use. Failure should not be an option in succeeding after thoroughly reading and understanding what you are about to read here.

If you are too lazy to do this, or think its just to time consuming and not necessary to do this, then you are not really serious about wanting to improve and then you must ask yourself these tough questions.

How serious are you about improving?
a) How badly do you really want it?
b) What are you willing to give up to get it?
c) What sacrifices are you willing to make to get it?
d) How much value do you place on it?
e) How much time are you willing to spend to achieve it?

If you answer not much, then stop here and go no further because what you are about to read will absolutely be useless to you.

To succeed you must really become a tough taskmaster on your self and do what ever is necessary to succeed or you will never rise up to the challenge of succeeding at this task.

If you think that there is some magic silver bullet and quick fix to become proficient in the Middlegame you are mistaken. If you don't have the patience to carefully read and take to heart all the material on this page you have little hope of ever improving much in the Middlegame. If you just speed read it and glance over it then don't' expect to improve, your wasting your time here.

No one, no matter how high is their rating is going to be able to analyze your games and be able to tell you that to become more successful in the Middlegame you must concentrate on doing this or that because each game you play is going to be completely different and requires many different types of proficiencies in many different chess skills to win and thoroughly knowing some of these chess skills are very critical to improving.

If you want to become a more skilled chess player you must realize that just like in any profession you will be required to thoroughly study and learn every aspect of chess that you can and practice what you have learnt. Only then can you hope to gradually improve over time.

One way to find out just how serious you are about improving is to put your money where your mouth is. You may say you are serious about improving but are you really? What are you willing to give up to get that improvement? What are you willing to sacrifice for it?

If you are the type who thinks you can get what ever you want in life for free you will never be a successful chess player.

The test of course is what you actually do, not what you say you will do. For example, If you don't value succeeding enough to spend $60 or $70 to buy the latest Fritz program to help you improve you are not really as serious about improving as you say you are, because you are not willing to sacrifice for it, You are hoping to get that improvement for free any way you can.

I seriously doubt that few who have risen to the ranks of Master play has not spent hundreds of dollars in Chess Programs and books to get to where they are. They were very serious about improving and proved it with their pocketbook. They were more than willing to sacrifice to get that rating. They studied very hard, they spent many long hours in going over important principles and aspects of the game, they spent many hours going over important games of the masters before them.

Can you say the same?
What do you really know about the Opening Phase of the Game?

How much time have you spent to thoroughly know it?

If I ask most any one who plays chess if they know and understand how to play the opening phase of the game, most will immediately tell me that they do not have any problems with the opening, it's the Middlegame that gives them a problem.

But just because some one says that they think that they are proficient in Basic Opening Principles and know how to play the opening well does not mean that they are and that they do. What they are really saying is that in their opinion they feel that they are knowledgeable and play the opening sufficiently well to satisfy them in opening play.

After all this is a question of degree. How well one plays an opening could in fact be compared to Master or GM play and be given a rating of from 1 to 10 or by looking at their present rating or ranking. There is always room for improvement is there not?

Human nature is such that few want to really admit their ignorance in anything that they are asked about and simple find it easier to stretch the truth. In other words this is an impossible question to answer either yes or no to. It is based on their opinion and not tested as such.

However what few realize is that the real reason why many are really having a problem with the Middlegame is that they really did not properly prepare for and lay down a solid opening according to all of the most important Basic Opening Principles.

Do you remember what I said previously, about building a skyscraper and the necessary solid foundation beforehand?

What players really know about the opening phase of the game and what they think they know are too entirely different aspects of the game. Just because you know a few basic principles of opening play does not mean that you know enough about the opening to enter into a strong middle game.

How to be successful in the Middlegame

Are you aware that:
One important purpose of the opening is to prepare a solid position for a successful entry into the Middlegame.

The problem is that many players are having problems with the true Middlegame because they really never completed their development of the opening phase of the game. They stopped short and entered into Middlegame tactics before they finished their work in the opening phase of the game. They did not spend enough time in the opening phase of the game to prepare a sold foundation for entry into the Middlegame.

Do you know where the opening phase of the game ends and the Middlegame begins?

If you go to most any basic book on chess principles and look up the definition of the Middlegame you get:
Middlegame: The phase of the game that sits between the opening and the endgame. Or The part of the game that follows the opening and comes before the endgame.

Not very clear is it?

If we look up a definition of the Opening in a chess book we may get:
Opening: The beginning part of a chess game during which the players develop all or most of their pieces.

Opening: The beginning phase of a game, which is usually through the first dozen moves but can go much further. It is usually written that the main opening objective are 1) Develop your pieces in a quick and efficient manner; 2) Occupy as much of the center as possible; 3) Castle early and bring the King to safety.

These objectives may be basically correct but this in not the real purpose of the opening. And therein lies the heart of the problem because if this is all what you think you have to do in the opening phase of the game your falling far short of doing all that is required of you in the opening phase of the game.

The problem is that although most think that they know enough about the opening phase of the game to get by in the opening, they don't realize that just knowing the basics of opening play as stated above is far too inadequate to play the opening phase well.

And also what few realize is that the real reason they are having a problem with the Middlegame is that they really did not properly prepare and lay down a solid opening according to all of the most important Basic Opening Principles for the real purpose of the opening.

They are just not paying enough attention and giving enough time to the real purpose of the opening, and that is;

The real purpose of the opening is to create an IMBALANCE and DEVELOP your pieces in such a way that that they all work together in making that imbalance a favorable attribute.

In fact I seriously doubt that many really know just what a Imbalance really is?

Imbalance: Any difference between the White and Black position.

I seriously doubt that many really know all of what constitutes a imbalance.

One of the most important is Superior Pawn Structure. Others are but not limited to, Material advantage, Superior minor piece, Space, Development and Initiative.

Many more can be found in our page;

Point Count System

Here is a list of Pawn Structure concepts that you should know about.

Which ones can be considered to be an imbalance if they are violated?

Which ones are considered to be a plus if you have them?
1. Connected Pawns
2. Backward Pawn
3. Isolated Pawn
4. Doubled Pawns
5. Passed Pawns
6. Pawn Nail
7. Pawn Wedge
8. Pawn Chains
9. Pawn Cover of the Castled King
10. Isolated Pawn in the Center
11. Hanging Pawns

How many of these do you consider in your opening play? If your not making a concentrated effort to create an imbalance for your opponent in order to take advantage of it, your not preparing your self adequately for entering into the Middlegame.

Do you really know and understand all of what is in our page

The Opening Principles

Or do you just think you do?

This page was updated many times to insure and emphasize beyond a doubt just what the basic principles are that you cannot ignore or you will surly fail in your play.

Many only think that they know and understand them. Fewer still actually put all of them into use.

Proof of this lies in the fact that given their opening play to Fritz for an analysis for most players, Fritz will immediately tear apart their opening play and tell then of the many mistakes that they made that Fritz could take advantage of.

The most common is to not castle early, and bring out and develop all of your pieces before starting an attack.

Therefore King safety and a lead in development are very significant factors that are absolutely necessary and important factors in the opening.

A most important principle of the opening to lead to a advantage in the Middlegame is; Whoever gains control of the center has a distinct advantage in opening play. Does your opening play attempt to immediately take control of the center?

The true purpose, of the opening is to create a difference or series of differences, in the respective positions and then develop your pieces around these facts so that, hopefully, these differences or imbalances will eventually favor you.

Doing this is going to give you a decided advantage in the Middlegame. Not doing this will definitely give your opponent the advantage.

Remember that to create a difference or imbalance is just that, an imbalance. It's now up to you to find a way to take advantage of that imbalance.

Doing this is going to give you a decided advantage in the Middlegame. Not doing this will definitely give your opponent the advantage.

How do you ever expect to successfully go into the Middlegame with an unprepared and weak opening play?

You may be convinced that you have played a solid opening but if you are not succeeding in the Middlegame then you had better take another look at what opening weaknesses your opponent took advantage of that prevented you from gaining the advantage in the Middlegame and instead gave it to your opponent.

Go back to your successful games and see what weaknesses your opponent gave you that your were able to take advantage of. Were any of these violations of opening principles?

And conversely do the same with games that you lost to see what Basic Opening Principles you violated that gave your opponent the opportunity to take advantage of.

The PURPOSE of the opening is to get a SAFE KING and seek an equilibrium or obtain one or more of the many basic opening advantages, space advantage, control of the center, superior development, prevent your opponent from castling, etc.

Do you really know all of them? Have you taken the time to find out what they are and their importance to the opening?

In other words they who failed in the opening, did not create an equilibrium in the opening that neutralized any advantage that their opponent had or may be planning for.

They built a shaky house of cards for a foundation and it did not give them the base necessary to build on to go forward with a successful plan.

To be successful in the Middlegame you must first be successful in the opening, and that means to pay close attention to the Opening Basic Principles and more importantly to not create any weaknesses or an imbalance that your opponent can take advantage of.

A very important page to read about preventing and creating weaknesses is our page;

Making Plans

And in that page is:

Middlegame Planing

Understanding Pawn Weaknesses
A very important point here to remember is that;
It is pawns that are at the root of most weaknesses that can cause an important imbalance to take advantage of, either for you or against you.

Most weaknesses are caused by pawn moves. Every time a pawn moves, at least one square is weakened, forever unprotectable by a friendly pawn next to it.

So creating weaknesses this way is a sure way to go into the Middlegame giving your opponents a imbalance to take advantage of, and conversely if you can make your opponent create a imbalance this way you can have the advantage.

These pages give you many hints on both. Read them:

Making Plans

Point Count System

1. Opening Weaknesses

If you create weaknesses in your opening moves then you will be immediately starting the game off with a disadvantage that will put you on the defense forcing you to defend your position instead of concentrating on your opponents weaknesses and you wont be able to concentrate on creating an imbalance for your opponent to take advantage of.

You must, repeat, must, know our page The Opening Principles by heart, inside and out, or you will never gain an advantage in the Middlegame. How many times have you read all of it? And I don't mean just quickly skim over it, really read it and try to remember all that is in there.

Do you really know the purpose of the opening, or do you just think you do?

The true purpose of the opening is to create an IMBALANCE for your opponent and develop your army in such a way that your pieces, working together, can take advantage of these imbalances.

The true purpose, of the opening is to create a difference or series of differences, in the respective positions and then develop your pieces around these facts so that, hopefully, these differences or imbalances will eventually favor you.

The true purpose of the opening is to take control of WEAK SQUARES, FILES AND RANKS.

The true purpose of the opening is gain control of the center.
The purpose of the opening is to;
Fight for centralization so that you will dominate the center and try to take control of it early in the opening. It is most important to try to use your pawns in the opening to quickly seize control of the center.

The true purpose of the opening is also to take control of WEAK SQUARES, FILES AND RANKS.
1. Try to take away control of the important key squares from your opponent.
2. Try to make key-squares for your pieces. See Weak Squares and Outposts
3. Make anti-knight moves to prevent your opponent from placing his knight into your camp or on key squares.
4. Try to wreck havoc on his pawn structure.
5. Pay attention to avoid weakening your pawn structure, and If possible at an early stage to provoke a weakening of your opponent's pawn structure.

To gain an advantage in the Middlegame you must first pay attention to not letting your opponent obtain the edge of some advantage you did not pay attention to prevent in the opening.

What is important is in the prevention of your opponent in getting some significant advantages against you, like him making a freeing pawn move. A protected passed pawn could easily decide the game latter on.

The positional player sees to it that he arranges his pieces in such a way as to prevent it from happening.

You must at all times try to play like a skilled positional player, and read our page on becoming one.

Positional Play - Part One

Positional Play - Part Two

Principles of Center Control - Controlling the Center

The positional player knows how to take control and fight for control of the center early in the game. He knows of the importance of gaining the occupation of the central squares and of keeping that occupation. He knows he must be most concerned with demobilizing the forces that control the center.

Part Two

Making Opening Plans

To be successful in the Middlegame you absolutely must make a plan based on any imbalances you either found in your opponents camp or that you created. Lacking this there are many other goals you may strive for, like using the Minority Attack, creating and taking advantage of Weak Squares and Outposts. etc.

NEXT: After you have successfully played a strong opening or defense your next task is to make a solid plan.

We have several excellent pages on making a plan that you must read and understand.

Making Plans

Clear - Hold - Build

Making a Plan

Middlegame Planing

Progressive Training Opening \ Making a Plan

Your plan will be based on a weakness, or imbalance that your opponent has made or one that you have created to take advantage of, sometimes by making a sacrifice.

For more information about these imbalances you MUST read and understand this page;

Point Count System

In the opening you will see many different opening situations. But once you grasp that everything is geared in one way or another, to this idea of opening imbalances, the solutions will be easier to find or, at the very least, far easier to understand when you turn to trying to create a imbalance or difference in your development to that imbalance.

1. Master One Opening and One Defense

if you have taken the time to try to master just one opening and one defense and thoroughly know the basic underlying ideas behind them and their main variations you have gone a long ways to improving your chess play.

Few do this. The point here is that you should strive to become proficient in just a few openings and defenses so that at least you are not mediocre in all openings.

After you feel you have studied one opening and one defense to the point that you feel you are more prepared than most in them, only then should you go on to another opening and do the same thing again. At least this way you can have confidence that you are advancing in the right direction toward opening proficiency.

2. Making Basic Middlegame Plans Only after you succeed at finding or creating a imbalance in the opening can you proceed to the next step towards planning for the Middlegame.

Making The Plan

The first thing you should do in the opening phase of the game is to make a plan and then follow it. If we define the word plan for the opening it does not necessarily mean that we know how to create one. We first have to find a way to make a plan and then develop our forces around it. We should never just mindlessly develop and then expect to find a plan at some later point in the game that is poor planning.

To make a plan we have to either find or create an IMBALANCE in our opponents position. An imbalance is not necessarily an advantage. It is simply a difference. It is our responsibility to turn that difference into a advantage.

Here is a breakdown of the most important seven different imbalances that are a must know.
1) Superior Minor Piece. (The interplay between Bishops and Knights)
2) Pawn Structure. ( A broad subject that encompasses doubled pawns, backward pawns, isolated pawns, etc.)
3) Space (The annexation of territory on the chess board.)
4) Material (Owning pieces of greater value than our opponent. Our knight on a outpost, occupying a weak square.) 5) Control of a key file, square or diagonal. (Files and diagonals acts as pathways for our pieces, while squares act as homes for our pieces.)
6) Lead in development (More force in a specific areas of the board.)
7) Initiative ( Dictating the tempo of the game.

NEXT: You must play positional chess and read and thoroughly understand these two pages about Positional Chess.

Positional Play - Part One

Positional Play - Part Two


Seeing What the Masters See

To be successful in the Middlegame you have to try to think like the Masters do.

What do masters see that you don't?

Just how keen are your powers of observation?

Could you tell me the color of eyes of any people or a favorite girlfriend who you see frequently?

How many times have you looked at her/his face?

Could you tell me of what kind of heating system is used in a frequently used classroom or any other room you visit frequently?

Is it a hot air system, electric baseboard system, steam heat, hot water baseboard system?

If it is hot air could you tell me where the hot air outlets are placed and where the air return intake registers are placed?

How many times have you sat in that room and not noticed this?

The point here is that you must retrain your self to be more observant than you are now. You may be looking but you are not seeing. You have not taken the trouble to see like a Master sees. In the example game the Dutch Championship 1993 it is explained how the master notices quite a bit more than the amateur does.
Dutch Championship 1993

Is this how you see the board too like the amateur?

The saying goes that the truth can be found in the position. Its your job to find that truth.

If you look at a chessboard and don't take the time to see the whole board clearly you are going to miss a lot of opportunities.

This was the purpose of this page Compensation - Part Two with the problems in it to try teaching just that. To really look at the whole board and find the solution. And to maybe make you aware of just how inapt you may be at not being able to see solutions because you are just glancing at the board and not really taking the time to calculate out all of the possibilities.

To help you see what the Masters see that you don't see there are Problems in Compensation - Part Two and Mates to find that may help you.

The Problems

The Mates
From Advanced Chess Concepts\ Mates

Part Three

Middlegame Theory Explained

The greatest problem in playing the Middlegame is that you don't have an arsenal of theory for use in the Middlegame, as you do in the openings and endgame. The absence of any vast repository of standardized middlegame theory means that you are usually on your own during this phase of play. This is why the middlegame is so difficult to play correctly. But it also means that this part of the game is where your own personal creativity can shine through this part of the game and gain an advantage over your opponents.

Often players who are otherwise quite good at the game and play correctly find themselves unable to navigate murky middlegame waters adequately. They may know an opening well, but after they get through the basic opening moves of some opening play these players are at a total loss as to what to do next.

They don't have a clue because they did not spend the time in the study of Making Plans. They don't consider plan making an important necessary aspect of the game. They just don't have the patience to do this because they want to quickly win the game. They may feel over confident and they may underestimate their opponent. And because they have won many games beforehand with out making any plans they may just think it's just a waste of time to do so.

What takes priority in the middlegame is the elements of piece mobility and king safety. The rapid mobilization of your forces enables you to attack your opponent and if you can induce a weakness in the king's position, you may be able to win material or play directly for a checkmate. Even if your opponents safeguards his king, you still may be able to force some other sort of concession, which is usually enough to pave the road to victory.

However given all that, you may still lose if one mistake is serious enough to give your opponent an advantage that he can build on because you failed to make a long range plan based on one of his weaknesses or an imbalance he either created or you deliberately created for him.

Formulating a Plan

Why is formulating a plan so important?
It's because, Proper preparation prevents poor performance, that's why!

Trying to play chess with out a plan is like trying to drive to some far away obscure place with out a road map. You may go around and around in circles until you eventually run out of gas. Don't run out of gas. Make a plan and then follow it.

At this point if you are convinced that plan making is simply a waste of time and you have little intentions of doing so, then stop here and go no further. Your simple not going to succeed in the middlegame no mater how much useful information in the following text about plan making your going to find there. Maybe because of your prejudices and arrogances, your problem may be that your ego is preventing you from heeding the good advice that you think you don't need?

In simple positions you may have little trouble in understanding how to deal with that position and what next move is necessary, but in more complex positions with many pieces on the board and many choices to make you may struggle to put the total package together and come to an understanding of how to proceed. In other words you are not able to judge the position correctly enough to formulate a correct plan. In fact many don't even consider making a plan or think a plan is necessary to proceed and so they just don't do it.

For these types there is little hope in their redemption.
For the rest it is important to know that you simply must be able to judge a position correctly, or at least somewhat adequately before you can hope to formulate a correct plan. If you can't plan well in chess, you end up aimlessly shuffling pieces about, hoping for a serious error or blunder from your opponent to take advantage of. Or as most quick Blitz players do, that their opponents lose on time.

These players who are non-planers are commonly referred to as woodpushers or patzers.

Every position must be judged on its merits. Its simply impossible to formulate any hard rules in middlegame chess because there are just too many exceptions to allow blind adherence to any formula. You may think you are doing everything right according to chess principles and still lose. This is referred to as the equalizing injustice of chess because of the exceptions that can spoil your plans and then you may say that there is no justice in chess.

However in spite of the lack of hard rules in the middlegame there are ways to improve ones middlegame play.

Making a Plan

Planning
In every position you must be guided by some plan. This makes your play logical, purposeful and grants practical results. Lasker wrote. "a reasonable plan makes us heroes, the absence of a plan makes us faint-hearted fools" He even said, "a bad plan is better than no plan at all" Kotov said "To have a Plan in a chess game is the sequence of strategic operations, each of them having its own design and following from position's demands"
I can not stress enough that the most important strategy in becoming successful in middlegame play is in formulating a plan.

To judge a position correctly and recognize its peculiarities is an essential prerequisite for finding a suitable plan. In other words one must evaluate the position correctly before embarking on a plan, and to be successful, the plan must correspond to the demands of the position.

Your job is to find the truth in the position.

What are these factors to consider in evaluating any position for a plan.

!. The material relationship. That is the material equality or the material superiority of either side.
2. The power of the individual pieces.
3. The quality of the individual pawns.
4. The position of the pawns. That is you must consider the pawn structure's pluses and minuses.
5. King safety or the position of the King.
6. Cooperation among the pieces and of the pawns.

Now STOP right here.
What are the six factors to consider in evaluating any position for a plan? Can you name them with out looking at them? With out knowing them by heart how do you ever expect to make a plan with out knowing them? The answer is you can't. So now go back and commit them to memory. Donít read any more until you have memorized them now. Only then will you feel confident that when you are playing a game will you be able to formulate a plan for middlegame play.

To make your job easier to memorize them, simplify them to this.
1. Material relationship
2. Power of pieces
3. Quality of pawns
4. Position of pawns
5. King safety
6. Cooperation of pieces

A superiority in material tends to be a lasting advantage, as does a superiority in pawn structure, while an edge in piece placement may be a more fleeting advantage. Pieces can move around quite quickly and change the nature of the game. Plans may then need to be adopted or even dropped if this type of change occurs. You simple can't stick to any one plan that your opponent has thwarted you on, you must then readjust yourself to the new position instead. You must be prepared to change your plans many times in a game.

You must read and understand Making Plans in our page:
Advanced Chess Concepts

An Example Plan

1. Create a weakness or imbalance to take advantage of and work with of say a pair of Bishops over Knights or at least one Bishop of a color that homes in on most of our opponents pawns of the same color.
2. Create a environment that favors Bishops in a non-locked pawn structure so that the Bishops have open lines.
3. Change the pawn structure so that our Bishops home in on our opponent's pawns of the same color of our Bishops so that those pawns will be vulnerable in the Endgame.
4. Make anti-knight moves taking away the advanced squares of your opponents knights so that our Bishop can out maneuver the Knight in the Endgame.
5. Now it is possible for our Bishop advantage to gobble up our opponents pawns.

Our page Clear - Hold - Build, gives another fine example of how to make a plan.

Clear - Hold - Build

1. The Important Pawn Structure

Pawns are the soul of chess

One of the most important aspects in middlegame play is pawn structure. You will easily lose the game if your pawn structure play is not sound in the middlegame. The more you know about the dynamics of pawn play and pawn levers the more likely you will gain an advantage in middlegame play as well.

We have several good pages on pawns that are must reading if you expect to excel in the middlegame.

You must always keep in mind that once you move a pawn it can never go back to its former position, it is forever locked in its present position and then can only move forward or take diagonally.

Remember, it's the movement of pawns that are at the root of most chess weaknesses.

Pawns are less mobile than pieces, and so you can more easily fix the placement of pawns than pieces. The conclusion therefore is that the essential characteristics, mobile, locked, etc of a pawn structure at this point in the game is your most trustworthy guide to the feasibility and how to formulate a middlegame plan.

Making a plan around the pluses of your pawn structure and the weaknesses of your opponents pawn structure helps to simply how you can make a practical plan that although may need to be changed later at least for now you are not just aimlessly moving pieces around the board with out some direction to aim for.

One important concept in middlegame play and planning is to using such strategies as The Minority Attack. In this strategy your whole plan may be centered around using The Minority Attack by taking advantage of superior pawn play. See our important page on this.

Also is Hand in hand with the pawn-minority goes pawn-majority planning.

Planning for a passed pawn or pawns in the Endgame.
Planning for the Endgame Principles of Two Weaknesses, could mean that if you have the possibility of creating two passed pawns one on each side of the board that have the dynamics of queening. You then have created two weaknesses for your opponent to put him on the defensive and that he may find impossible to stop the advancement of at least one in the endgame. Planning for passed pawn endgame play in the middlegame is a very sharp planning procedure.

The point here is that by simply using pawn play for your middlegame strategies you are now going to be able to think about formulating a plan around pawn play rather than just thinking about tactics alone.

For example you may think I am going to use my pawns to weaken my opponents pawn structure and then use my pieces to attack his weak pawns, and maybe in the process I may even create a strong outpost for a Knight in his camp. After you decide on such a plan you no longer are faced with the bewildering array of possible moves based on just tactic play and have narrowed your choices down considerably.

Most players who say they don't have a clue on what to play next in the middlegame and just rely on some tactical idea usually don't do well in middlegame play.

So the idea here is that anytime you don't know how to proceed in the middlegame, you must tell your self you need to start making some kind of plan and try to make the plan based on some imbalance you either find or try to create to formulate your plan around.

You then try to decide which moves you must make to best carry out your plan and then try to make those moves. After each move, both yours and your opponents moves, you then reevaluate the plan in light of the changed position. Maybe the original plan is still a appropriate one but maybe in light of a new idea that occurs to you that may even be better you change or modify your plan to suit those changes.

What could be a problem is that you may not be so sure about whether a change is needed or necessary. Changing plans aimlessly back and forth with out a good reason could prove disastrous to your original plan. If the new idea seems about the same as the old one stick with the old one.

If you think you have a good idea and a fair plan, then improve it and make it better and more of a sound plan that has more of a probability of succeeding. Use a improvement plan to make it a good plan.

Don't waste time thinking about other plans that might be better. Try to strengthen the dynamics of your plan by using the principles of positional play, use prophylactics to strengthen your grip on key squares or pieces on key squares, bring in more pieces to ensure that your whole army is working together in harmony and strengthening your position for a attack that will be very hard for your opponent to negate or weaken.

If you intend to annihilate the protection of your opponents king's castled pawn shield, you may plan on using a sacrifice, like the famous Bishop Sacrifice in the famous Greco's Sacrifice that we explain in great detail.

For you opponent to deny the existence of your plan and make it ineffective, he must have a position that has no weaknesses or a imbalance that you can take advantage of.

Concentrating all of your forces on a single point helps to ensure success.

But also remember Steintz's rule, that there is little chance of an attack succeeding against a solidly positioned opponent, it most likely cannot succeed.

This is why it is so important to thoroughly know how to create an imbalance and weaken your opponent's fortress before attacking it.
This is why you must study and know all the aspects of creating an imbalance and thoroughly know all of the important imbalances to create or see.

This is why you must study and thoroughly know such pages of ours as:
Mating the King

This is why if you expect to become successful in the middlegame you must become a imbalance specialist, an expert in either creating or spotting imbalances of your opponent to take advantage of.

For a good example of how to weaken a pawn structure look at this classic game in Larsen vs. Spassky in our Classic Games. Larsen took a knight to weaken Spassky's pawn structure and create a weakness, doubled pawns. But he lost anyway because he violated too many chess principles.

Larsen-Spassky

Important Rules for Middlegame Attacking.
In the middlegame there are a few generalizations that can be made as long as you understand that every position is unique and exceptions are possible.

Below are a few of these generalizations.
1. Attack only if you control the center.
If you attack without controlling the center, you are exposed to a counter-attack in the center and your forces may be split.

2. Meet a flank attack with action in the center.
You can best meet a flank attack on either side of the board with action in the center.
If your opponent attacks on either side of the board, your attack in the center divided your opponents forces and may then conquer them.

3. Be prepared to develop quickly to any area.

A rapid deployment of pieces to one side of the board may be decisive if the defender cannot respond as rapidly.

4. Place queens in front of bishops and behind rooks during an attack.
The bishop is not powerful enough to lead an attack, and the queen is too powerful to risk losing in an attack, so place a rook in her place to do the dirty work.

5. Knights positioned on the rim are grim.

6. Opposite colored bishops usually help an attacker.

7. Exchanging pieces eases the burden of defense.

8. Put the rooks on an open file and put them on the same file, called doubling whenever possible.

9. Unlike in the opening, in which extra pawn moves are frowned on, you may advance pawns in the middlegame to open lines or to create weaknesses.

10. Rooks on the seventh rank are especially powerful.

11. Guard against a counter-attack. Do not leave your king fatally exposed while you are off attacking your opponents king, or your king will be harassed and prevent your successful attack against your opponents king.

12. Knights are excellent attackers in closed positions, while bishops are better in open positions.

13. Attack in the area where you control more space.

Read our page:
Progressive Training Middlegame

The following list will give you more ideas on how to make a plan and proceed in the middlegame

Our Basic Guideline list.
1. Damage opponent's pawn structure.
2. Improve your pawn structure.
3. Gain space
4. Gain control of the center and increase center control.
5. Weakening king safety moves, either for you not to do or to your opponent.
6. Bishops on the long diagonals to increase their influence.
7. Rooks on open files or half open files.
8. Develop strong outpost stations.
9. Develop a passed pawn
10. Develop a outside passed pawn
11. Develop a protected passed pawn.
12. Better King position (Castled King)
13. Offside pawn majority
14. Superior Development.
15. Rooks on the seventh rank.
16. Avoid weak squares.
17. Fast development of all your pieces.
18. Mobilize all of your pieces as rapidly as possible.
19. Create an imbalance in your opponent's camp.
20. Take control of weak squares, files and ranks.
21. Don't move a piece twice before you have development of all your pieces.
22. Don't place a piece so that it blocks the path of another piece or of a center pawn.
23. Don't move a piece to a square from which your opponent can drive it away with a move that furthers his own development and impedes yours. From the basic principle of not moving a piece twice in the opening moves.
24. Don't make unnecessary pawn moves that weaken your pawn structure.
25. Avoid having your own pawns on the same color as your bishop.
26. Always try to maintain at least one pawn in the center of the board.
27. Avoid Backward pawns.
28. Avoid Doubled pawns.
29. Seek passed pawns.
30. Seek a two Bishop advantage
31. Limiting the mobility of pawns.
32. Limiting the mobility of pieces. (Anti-Knight moves)
33. Taking the initiative.
34. Gaining tempo
35. Using the principle of two weaknesses for an advantage.
36. Avoid making imbalances in your camp.
37. Always take towards the center.

Conclusion

Because the middlegame is not a game that you can easily reduce to the sum of its parts and then come up with a simple formula on how to succeed in it, you must be content with the fact that although it may at times frustrate you to the point you may want to quit playing chess, there are always ways to improve your play in the middlegame. And if you take the time to read, study and practice these ideas and concepts that you have available here, you will in time improve. Just donít expect too much, be content with the tiny improvements that will take place.

Why will you improve?. Because most likely most of your opponents are not doing what has been given here on how to improve and they donít have all of the advantages you do by belonging to this chess club.

However you must be patient and resolve that although there are going to be many ups and downs, if you continue to study and put into practice what you have studied you will have gained advantages in different areas, and after a time your proficiency in more and more areas will show up in many subtle ways that you never would have guessed at.

After reading all of the material here, (You did read it all didnít you?) you will now surely get the idea that in order to be successful in the middlegame you need to thoroughly know a lot of other additional chess materials to be able to formulate a good plan, and practice using them. This is the secret in how to be able to make useful plans.

To be able to put a good plan together you must be able to:

1. Judge a position correctly
2. To judge a position correctly and recognize its peculiarities
3. Put the total package together and come to an understanding of how to proceed.
4. Judge the position correctly enough to formulate a correct plan.

In other words, you simply must be able to judge a position correctly.
And to be able to do this you need to read and study all of the necessary chess training materials that have been referenced here for you to look at.

And possibly even a lot more as well like;

The Secrets of Calculation
Here you will see How Good Chessplayers Really Think in the next section, What Calculation is and is Not.

The Secrets of Compensation - Part One

The Secrets Compensatoion - Part Two

The obvious conclusion here is that the more you know about chess concepts and basic chess principles than does your opponent, the odds are going to be increased proportionately to what you know that your opponents donít know. Itís just that simple and that obvious.

One possible piece of good news for gaining an advantage in the middlegame is that it has its own governing principles as we have laid out here. If you bone up on your tactics and stick to the principles that have been stressed here, you can play this phase of the game quite well indeed.

Another thing to think about is that few of your opponents will have had the advantages that you have been given here in all of the many different types of chess knowledge available to you all placed in one place for you to read and study. So all you have to do to gain this advantage is to read them.

Another thing is that there is a bountiful amount of unique chess training ideas and concepts here that none of your opponent will ever be privileged to look at.

Many of these training aids are my own original innovating chess materials that you will not find any references to in any books or CDís. They tend to break new ground in chess training with unique and novel ideas, like;

1. The Secrets of Key Concepts, 2. Secrets of Dynamic Power Playing 3. My Method 4. The Opening Solution Secret 5. Choosing Candidate Moves 6. Creating Motivation 7. The Art of Attack - Section one 8. Clear Ė Hold Ė Build.

1. The Secrets of Key Concepts

2. Secrets of Dynamic Power Playing

3. My Method

4. The Opening Solution Secret

5. Choosing Candidate Moves

6. How to create motivation to improve

7. The Art of Attack Section One

Why is this page, The Art of Attack Section One, going to be important to you? It is because of the helps on planning training that you will get from it.

Thatís why!

Your going to be active in doing something useful and looking for the following things in these games.

How was a plan developed for the transition into the Middlegame?
How do the relationships of the elements of a attack depend on the pawn configuration and pawn structure?
Was the plan of play based on an imbalance, or some other basic chess principle?

8. Clear Ė Hold Ė Build

For example to improve in the middlegame you may try to use My Method in that you just concentrate on just one middlegame principle or idea at a time until you master it, and then go on to another. Using this idea there is no way possible that you will not finally succeed.

How can any of your opponents possibly win against all of this? Just think about this concept. There is possibly enough material and ideas here to become Master Rated should you decide to do so. And in fact we actually do have plans for doing just that.

Itís easy to become impatient and want to see a significant improvement in a relative short time if you are trying hard to over come a plateau in your games. The point here is that you may not even be aware that you are improving. It may not show up in a rating improvement, just yet, but the improvement will eventually come in a breakthrough at some unexpected point. Just like it happened to me in my studies in code practice. Some times if tying hard to force an improvement the best way to improve is to just take a break for a time, Just play chess for fun and donít even pay any attention to your losses. You may just need a change of pace and a period of time to relieve the stress and feverous pace you are working at. Envious times for you may come later if you do this.

Former world champion Jose Raul Capablanca (1888-1942) once wrote in his A Primer of Chess ďYou may be behind in all three of the other elements, Material, Space, and Time, and yet have a winning Position. This does not mean that you should neglect any of the other three elements, but that you should give preeminence to the elements of the position.Ē

Today we conceptualize this idea a bit differently and rarely refer to a position as a element of chess, but the point remains the same. Every position must be judged on its merits. The problem maybe that in any given position that you donít see a clear way to take advantage of that position there may in fact be one. You are just not seeing it.

A master may see what you are not. But you must think then that the master must have had such problems as you are now having as well and he finally overcame them in time with a lot of hard work and patience. To improve you just need to do the same.

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