Principles of Center Control

The "center" comprises the four squares d4, e4, d5 and e5 of either player. The term "control of a square," Is used to denote a player's ability to capture a hostile man moving to that square, and has a much broader meaning when speaking of "Center control." Not only is the objective of control different in the case of each of the four squares concerned, but there are also differences in the type of control itself, depending upon whether the square in question is to be occupied by a Pawn or a Piece, or whether a hostile piece is to be kept away from it.

Some of these objectives are specifically related to opening strategy, while other have middle-game maneuvers in view. Among the former there is the desirability of placing a Pawn on one of the center squares on the fourth rank, where you make two squares in your opponent's territory inaccessible to his pieces. Your opponent will be condemned to inferior mobility unless he can either find a way to force the Pawn off his post or to secure control of two equally valuable squares for himself.

This explains why the attempt to maintain a center Pawn on the fourth rank with out permitting the opponent to do the same is one of the major objectives of all opening play. White has the great advantage that he can attain this objective with comparative ease, while Black's endeavors to rid himself of the bothersome Pawn, or to reduce its effectiveness, usually requires very exact play to ensure success.

Let us examine how the fight for the control of the center squares develops in different types of openings. Simplest to understand is the situation arising after 1.e4, the move which characterizes the King Pawn openings.

If Black makes the same move ....,e5. White can immediately attack his Pawn with either 2. d4 or 2.Nf3

Which would you play in reply to 2.d4? Would you take the Pawn or would you maintain your center Pawn with 2.....,f6 or 2....,d6 or would you defend it with 2....,Nc6?

See Center control practice.