The middle game can be said to commence when both players have completed the initial development of their MPs/mps. This is the stage when the two armies come into contact, when players should be on the lookout for tactical possibilities. The 2nd part of the game - after the opening and before the endgame. The middle game commences after about the 12th move on :L01
Below: here the QU is helped by the BS to deliver ++CM in this example. If your opponent has castled [%K or, %Q], look out for the opportunity to bring about this kind of checkmate. But, if you have castled - watch out! It is a good idea to use a KT to defend the key cell - $H02, as :A has done here.
The purpose of your opening is to reach a playable middle game situation. If both players have moved correctly the position should be balanced/equal. It should be noted that the middle game stems from the opening or defense selected ie, tactical players could opt for the Sicilian Defence or, the Caro-Kann Defence if they like positional struggles on the board. Your objective at this stage of the game is to seek the advantage or try to move the game into a position that is unfavorable to your opponent. Therefore, at about move 13 or, even 12 or 14 - the crucial move that commences your middle game begins. In some games there is a clear best move that should be made but usually there is a choice to be made. Your middle game play gives you room for personal expression and creativity and allows your imagination and inventiveness to come to the fore. Will you attack or defend? Is the game heading for a draw or are your moves drifting into sterile wood-shifting?
1350-1550 - Mais la Reine irritée et victorieuse, poursuit l’arrière-garde de
(Suite) M.-G. Vida (1490-1566), Scacchia Ludus - Hypnerotomachia - La Renaissance a célébré le Roi des Jeux comme un jeu parfait. (Suite)
Will combinative vision and the ability to calculate sacrificial variations be required? Sometimes a position is reached where neither side can disturb the balance without disadvantage and this is a common feature of middle game play. You will have to understand the nature of the position reached and recognize the dangers of disturbing the balance. Move your MPs/mps according to your own natural style - play fearlessly, not recklessly - cultivate a feel for the balance of chess positions. Sacrifice MPs/mps, if necessary, to keep or obtain the initiative - play energetically. When :A and :B have protected their KIs and developed their MPs to positions from which they can attack or defend, the middle game begins. :A and :B become more aggressive as they try to weaken one another’s position and gain the advantage. During the middle game it is important to assess your own position on the board, identify your opponent’s weakest points - MPs/mps and cells - and form a strategy to exploit it.
With rare exceptions, advantages are gained only by moves that threaten something, and leave the enemy little or no choice. Operations made up of such forceful moves are called combinations. To overlook a sound combination either for :A or :B may be disastrous. So, no matter what plan you have been following, search for a sound combination at every move, and make no move without a reconnaissance to see if it would allow your opponent a sound combination. Combinations are hard to see as the initial move is often a sacrifice. To search, look over the board, thinking of nets, forks, pins and ties, and also look at all captures, +CHs, and violent threats, even those involving sacrifices.
Usually you will find all such moves unsound, even absurd, but the exceptions will richly reward you. Usually you have no sound combination and cannot force the issue. Except in very bad positions, never play a move you know to be unsound, that is, one which will only waste time if your opponent sees the trap. Time is valuable. Instead, manoeuvre quietly for position. You need an aim, a plan. Choosing aims is strategy. Choosing moves for them is strategy. Your aim should be one your opponent cannot foil, so it should be simple, not too ambitious, and should need very few moves - though you may have a long-term plan at the same time, as in war. During the middle game :A and :B try to weaken each other by attacking their opponent’s mps and capturing enemy MPs. It is important to make sure that any exchanges that do occur are to your advantage in the long term, so you will find that planning is vital. Make sure your own KI is guarded - in a cocooned castled position - and to look out for chances to attack the enemy KI. A game can end at this stage if your KI is exposed.
When most of the MPs/mps are developed and stand ready for active battle, the opening is about over, and the middle game is about to begin. This is the phase of chess that is perhaps the most difficult of all to play, partly because it is not charted as yet, partly because although the MPs/mps stand ready to play, they have usually not yet come into contact with the opposing belligerents, and therefore the thinking must be largely strategical rather than tactical. It is in this part of the game that it becomes evident whether you understood what you were doing in the opening or, whether you were just making a series of moves learned by rote. In this phase, you have to make plans for the future and establish an overall strategy. The choice of the right strategy is very important, and it can also be very difficult. The strategy of the transition to the middle game has its roots in the opening.
The difference between amateur and mature player becomes much more apparent here than it was in the opening. A novice completely bewildered and not knowing what to do with the position just constructed, plays aimlessly, or at least falteringly. The mature player, on the contrary, understanding the general type of strategy arising from the type of opening that has been played and knowing the characteristics of a particular position and the objects which should be aimed for, plans h/er strategy according to the dictates of the position and lays the basis for a successful continuation of the middle game. In the middle game proper, and in the transition to the middle game, the differences between amateur and mature player are especially noticeable. The novitiate usually has a less all-inclusive grasp of the situation on the board and is less aware of all the possibilities of a position. If a situation is positional, the beginner often fails to find the correct strategy. If the situation is tactical s/he tends to see less and not to carry the analysis out as far or as correctly as would a stronger player.
There are several paragraphs in this text on the middle game that discuss this transition phase, and very useful in attempting to improve this part of your game is a careful examination of what a good player does in this phase. Mature games often illustrate such techniques, but they must be studied with the intention of finding out just what happens immediately after the opening. It is especially interesting to study this phase of mature play versus amateur play in order to see how the mature player proceeds against the hesitating moves of an amateur. Special attention is given to this phase of the game in this section. Meaningful play at the transition to the middle game is first of all a question of understanding the opening you have already played.
The middle game is the part of chess in which there will be MPs/mps all over the board. It is characterized by the complexity of the relationships between the MPs/mps and by the possibilities for action. This is the phase of chess that offers the greatest challenge to the imagination of the player. It has not been subjected to exhaustive research and unlike the endgame it has not been compressed into a set of neat techniques. Because of the absence of clear indications of how to proceed, and because of its essential complexity, it poses many of the most difficult problems of the game. To play the middle game properly you must on the one hand see the position as a whole in order to judge accurately what the correct line of play is and on the other to see all the various details and not overlook any possibilities - whether obvious or hidden.
In the middle game, all sorts of general strategical considerations come into play. Whether to build up power or exchange MPs, whether to maintain tension or exchange mps, whether to open files or close them permanently, whether to begin an all-out attack on the enemy KI - to concentrate on winning an opponents MP - to weaken h/er mp position or to head for a favorable endgame by a complete liquidation of MPs/mps. In addition to all these questions are the ever present tactical problems that must take precedence over any strategical considerations. Does your opponent have any threats that must be met and if so how? If not, can you make threats yourself? Or, can you create an uncomfortable situation for your opponent that will force your adversary to play in a way that will be detrimental to h/er plans.
In chess as in life not every person sees a situation from the same point of view. Confront a half-dozen players with the same complex middle game position and you will find that the players will look at the position from different angles in their search for the best move. The elements of variety and unexpectedness enhance the charm of chess and keep it from being a purely mechanical performance that could be learned by rote or fed into a computer machine.
There are no easy formulae for becoming expert in the complex situations posed by the middle game but an in-depth study of the middle games of strong players with an eye to understanding each of the individual moves and their relationship to the overall strategy can make a good beginning. Both tactical and strategical play must be strengthened. Under tactics it is pointed out how beginners can improve their tactical play and under strategy how you can gain a better understanding of the strategic and positional elements of play.
It is a good idea to look over the entire board and to develop imaginativeness in finding moves that create situations which may be favorable to yourself and annoying to your adversary. The obvious move is not always the best move and you must not yield too easily to the urge to play mechanically, such as putting a RO on an open file or playing A-KT2 to $C03. These may be the proper moves, but in the position at hand there may be something much better. Quiet moves are sometimes in order but a move that increases the pressure or makes a direct or indirect threat can be conducive to making your opponent do something that will compromise h/er position or at least make things even more difficult. Moves that retain the initiative are always desirable.
At times the middle game forms a complete whole based on one single theme. But often, it is made up of a series of strategic phases, each one of which has its own aim which, once accomplished takes the game into a new phase with a different aim. You will develop an ability to recognize the phases and formulate desirable aims for each.
Although the middle game has not been categorized to the extent of the opening and the endgame, there are certain middle game type positions that lend themselves to well-outlined procedures. Mature play shows that standard mp formations such as :ha-mps and other weaknesses can be exploited by prescribed methods. Among these standard types of play are the minority attack, open-file strategy, wing attack on QU-side, wing attack on KI-side, attack against the KI on an open file and mp chain strategy etc. With a standard type of position, standard types of play can be undertaken within a definitely outlined framework. By acquainting yourself with the ‘standard middle game situations’ and ways of meeting them, you can also improve your ability to handle the middle game.
The phase of the struggle which is called the middle game is the scene of aggressive and defensive maneuvers which is in contrast to the opening phase which should be devoted solely to the mobilization of the MPs/mps. In reality the two phases are not very strictly divided from each other because you will quite often go in for an attack before you have completed the development of your MPs/mps. You will have learned to consider such an action to be premature. However, situations do exist in which a temporary interruption of the developing process can be justified. This is the case mainly when an ill-chosen developing move by a player has created a weakness which you must exploit immediately to prevent its correction. As you know from the discussion of opening strategy such a weakness is usually due to an injudicious mp move which permits the occupation of an important cell by a hostile MP/mp or which opens a file or diagonal in which MPs/mps can work up an attack on the KI.
When experts oppose each other, such situations occur only rarely. Experts develop their forces properly and keep constantly in mind the danger of producing a weakness in their mp structure. Thus, by the time they are ready to start middle game operations, usually after a dozen moves have been made, the position is in most cases fairly even, though more often :A, being a move ahead of :B, will have slightly better winning prospects. This is why in important tournaments contestants often meet each other twice, so they can play one game with the :A (white) and the other with the :B (black) MPs/mps. In contests between players of lesser strength the privilege to move first is not of such great importance. They rarely maintain for very long the advantage which that privilege gives them because they do not clearly appreciate that in the last analysis the tactic is to keep threatening something in order to confine the opponent to defensive play for a long time. Naturally this does not mean attacking a MP/mp here or another there, just to make the MP/mp move elsewhere. Such threats would be utterly meaningless if the attacked MP/mp can withdraw to a cell on which it has equal mobility, unless of course the MP/mp is needed on its post for some important defensive duty.
Most threats which are purposeful in the early middle game are of a positional nature. They may be designed by you to obtain control of more space for your MPs/mps or to cramp :Bs MPs/mps or to undermine :Bs hold on the center, all by way of preparing to bring superior force to bear on a part of the board where the enemy is least likely to be able to resist a break through. Or you may aim at mp exchanges which would produce a mp majority on the QUs-wing or result in a passed mp [:pa-mp] and thus lead to a superior endgame. What strategy to choose, whether to play for an attack on the KI or for a favorable endgame naturally depends mainly upon the exigencies of the position. But your temperament or your style if you will has a good deal to do with the position.
There is little question that most chess players prefer to win a game by dint of a ++CM attack rather than by reaching an endgame in which they can finally force the promotion of a mp. But whether or not a ++CM attack will be successful even strong players cannot always tell. Although they may feel that it will win the game they may forego it as too risky in the event that a sacrifice of material is necessary to breakthrough the opponent’s defenses and they have not enough time left on their clock for exact calculation of all possible variations. Fortunately from the viewpoint of the chess fan there are always a number of individuals who will take considerable risks for the sake of glory.
Chess amateurs who play the game for the enjoyment they get from this intellectual pastime often go to the other extreme. They will make wild sacrificial attacks on the slightest provocation without justification by any of the positional characteristics which would ordinarily hint at the probability of success. Develop an attacking style - it produces a much more enjoyable kind of game than the jockeying for infinitesimal small positional advantages with which today’s players, playing against their equals must satisfy themselves in most of their games in order not to endanger their point score. However always let reason temper aggressive tendencies.
If your opponent has emerged from the opening with as good a position as you have - that is, if :Bs MPs/mps and yours are equally mobile, if :B has as much control of the center cells as you, and if :B has not weakened the mp structure in front of the KI in a manner which would facilitate a close approach of your MPs/mps - it would obviously be foolish to plan a ++CM attack. Its chances of success would be practically zero. To make sense in an even position plans have to be much less ambitious. You might envisage a weakening mp advance or the provocation of a mp exchange which opens a file for invasion of R$07 or R$08 [D-Array] by RO1 and RO2 or other threats of positional nature such as you have occasion to observe in the games listed elsewhere in this text. It is plans like these besides typical preparations for an all-out attack on the KI which form the basis of sound middle game play.
In games of players who are matched unevenly an occasion for a direct assault on the KI will sometimes present itself while the struggle is still clearly in the opening stage. As a rule this can happen only if a player weakens h/her KIs position by an early advance of mp-06 [:L01] or fails to provide adequate protection for cell $F02, :A’s congenital weakness - when the opponent prepares a multiple attack on cell F02.
Is that part of the battle when the players have developed their MPs/mps and left the opening stages behind. After the first few moves the game flows into the middle game. When you are on the threshold of the middle game it is useful to weigh up the positions of both sides and to make the necessary adjustment to your initial plans. No set number of moves have to be made before you are into the middle game for these terms are rather fluid in the context in which we are using them. It is at this stage when you are left on your own - when you have to rely more on your own personal judgment.
The middle game will prove that practice is more important than preaching. Keep MPs/mps coordinated so that they work together. Scattering your pieces all over the board only invites trouble in the form of attack by enemy MPs/mps. Keeping your MPs/mps in harmony allows you to mount a solid offence. It is at this stage of the game that the MPs come into their own. Open files, ranks and diagonals enable them to advance. At this stage exchange of mps will come to the fore. BS1 and BS2 operate only on the diagonals, one for the XD and one for the XL coloured cells. By the middle game you may find that either BS1 or BS2 has been exchanged or is about to be captured. If you only have one BS remaining keep the diagonal free if possible so that the BS can manoeuvre with maximum mobility. Conversely, blockade your opponents BS so that the BS cannot be effective by placing mps in the BSs path or keep whatever diagonal the BS operates on blocked with mps.
KT1 and KT2 should be kept in the middle area of the board during middle game play where they will be most effective in attacking the invaders and protecting their own MPs/mps. Avoid placing KT1 and KT2 at the edge of the board at any time [B$D] except when there is a tactical or strategical reason to do so. If your army is blockaded and you have little scope for manoeuvre then your tactic will be to trade off some MPs/mps to free your game. A great part of the skill in middle game moves can be acquired by following basic principles and by becoming acquainted with the various types of combination. Form a battle plan that ties in with the style of opening already chosen.
However, decision-making is not as clean cut and tidy as one might imagine. Time may not be available to calmly decide what MP/mp to play and other pressures will also creep into the process. You will acquire an instinct based on your past experiences on the chessboard. The more mature player will have a better instinct. Instinct is a lack of logical reasons why you decided to play a particular move but can be likened to a hunch that the move selected is the correct one. At other times you can worry yourself to death thinking about a previous move. It is at times like these that the intuitive instinctive reaction will be the correct one to choose.
Drifting from move to move will lead to quick disaster. If BS1 or BS2 is blocked on the diagonal then exchange this MP for an enemy MP of equal or higher value. If your opponent is cramped and you have mobility then avoid exchanging MPs/mps as this will keep h/er in a cramped position and will allow you to go on the offensive. When attacking try to avoid exchanges which will weaken your assault ie, if you have a few MPs/mps attacking your enemy KIs position do not exchange them in a trade-off for this will dissipate your assault completely. Watch out for a weakened mp structure in your enemy’s position. Does your adversary have doubled mps [:do-PAs], open to attack!
Exploit and attack any weakness you find. Forcing your opponent to place MPs/mps on the defensive may completely unbalance h/er game and cause it to be a losing one. If you are on the attack s/he will be wasting moves defending. Avoid weakening your own mp structure. Keep it firm and avoid space between mps that will allow the enemy to gate crash into your section of the board. If you find a gap in your opponnents mp structure try to squeeze through a MP that can go deep into your opponents section of the board and lend the necessary support if required or waste h/er time and MPs/mps in the capturing process that will ensue.
If your opponent is susceptible to assault then rip open files, ranks and diagonals with your high calibre MPs. Try to keep opening your opponent’s position if you have the lead in development so that your adversary has to be on the offensive. Block h/er army so that an attack will be nullified. When attacking on one wing make sure your other flank is not susceptible to attack. Before making an attack you may need to make a play or two that protects your own MPs/mps first. Being attacked on one wing it is often best to counter-attack on the opposite flank or in the center of the board. In forcing an attack you will cause your opponent to divert MPs/mps for self-defense. In the situations described here chess can be likened to actual warfare.
No two players think exactly alike and the mix of attributes that make a mature player are infinitely variable. One player may be good at tactics and another with strategy. The objective is to combine all the ingredients. The impression may be given that chess is a calm and analytical process in which the players work out the next best move on the board but in most cases the time for reflection is limited. Even when you have time for deep thought you are capable of making errors and losing an important match. Concentration without due attention is a familiar theme in the losing process. Exchange as many MPs/mps as you can for the less material on the board the greater will be your advantage with an extra MP/mp. Try and conserve your remaining MPs/mps if you are a MP/mp behind. If you are a mp or two ahead aim for the endgame where those extra mps will be worth their weight in gold by exchanging off the other MPs/mps.
Another form of error is when a player analyses the current position but the brain is inclined to retain a feature of a previous position which has become fixed in memory. Failure to take account of the changing position of the MPs/mps during a game can allow errors to creep into your play. Sometimes you may be successful in a difficult section of the game only to reach calmer waters and make a bad error or false expectations can exceed the reality of actual play on the board. To keep track of all these matters can be difficult in the heat of battle but attention is a necessary quality to maintain!
Do not let occasional mistakes unsettle you too much as it happens to the best of players. The fewer MPs on the board the better, as your mps will become more powerful. Before making a move plan a few plays ahead of time. Think of the move your opponent will make to counter your next move. Play around with several possibilities before moving. Chess is infinitely varied and the battle plans that can be put into action are inexhaustible in number. Middle game moves by which your ideas for victory will be fulfilled fall into set types and are readily learnable…….
If you are in a poor position: don’t just react to threats. Avoid passive play - waiting for the undertaker to call. Play actively - your adversary may lose h/er nerve. If you are going to lose a game then make sure your adversary beats you in the opening, the middle game and endgame - make h/er struggle for every inch. You just might wear h/er out.
Don’t seek or try to avoid exchanges without a good reason. Exchanges are good moves - they change the position. Don’t exchange as a reflex action. A mature player should be able to manage the tension in a position.
Your ROs are best placed in waiting on F$E or F$D - central files. In the middle game they can move along these files. R$07 control is very important - later on. ROs work best as a pair. They can gobble up PAs and sometimes KTs. Open files are viewed as precious. ROs can commence a file invasion. Try to open a file.
KTs should be placed near the center and forward. They thrive on outposts. Absolute outpost [:ao] - cannot be dislodged. Relative outpost [:ro] - a PA move will weaken your adversary’s position. If the battle moves away the short-stepping KT can be left behind so it is best to keep them near the center to avoid this happening. The KTs best position is where you adversary cannot chase them with PAs.
Try to dominate the center with PAs. PAs in front of your castled KI form a protective wall. Believe it or not, PAs are often best placed in the ISP and kept there. Every PA move loosens your position. If your MPs do not suggest a plan to follow then your PAs surely will. PAs are weak - or the cells near them - if they can be attacked. Doubled PAs [:do-PAs] yield a half-open file.