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This platitude is thrown around from chessplayers who barely know how the pieces move--like me--all the way up to masters. Why?
I'm not sure how it works for those of you who know what you are doing, but at my level, much of the game is a fight for the center, and by the time someone actually does control the center, the game is over--usually.
How come this platitude is so ubiquitous and long-standing? How come it isn't challenged as a silly statement that can't help someone who is trying to improve?
Compare it to "develop your pieces". If someone tells a rookie to develop their pieces, they know what they should be doing, it is actually practical advice...though it is usually coupled with, "and control the center."
Well, control of the center does many things: it gains space, gets your pieces to effective squares with minimal effort, gives your rooks the most influence, stuff like that. When there is possible ways to open up the center or change the central pawn structure, it always has to be strongly considered. Sometimes opening the center favors one player or not another, but you always have to be careful about that. Say you weaken your king with f4, g4, and h3 with an open center. If the center was closed there is a good chance (though by no means certain) that black couldn't use the weaknesses on your king because he wouldn't have any good posts on the kingside, at least if the squares behind the pawns are controlled. However, if black were to control the e5, e4, d5, or d4 squares and say put a knight there and a bishop somewhere near there, they would be slicing through those weaknesses effortlessly by putting a piece in the center, if he has control of it. Not to mention the queenside influence they also have from there.
I agree that controlling the center does many things, but I think there is a big difference between controlling the center and contesting the center. I think your example illustrates contesting the center rather than controlling it.
I'm not sure what you mean. Are you comparing pawn control to piece control?
The center is always something to keep in mind, but indeed if that's the only concept of strategy you use that's not a good thing. It's of course pretty vauge as many things effect the center and if the center is closed with no chance of opening up then it's rather pointless. If there was one rule you were taught, control the center would be a good one, but strategy is much deeper than that.
I'm not really sure what I mean, either. It's kind of my point: In my mind, if player A "controls" the center--control meaning, to me, that player b cannot attack any of the four central squares enough times to wrest away control from player A--player B is already beaten.
so Player A controlled the center and won... would this not mean that controlling the center is a good goal?
I think most of the time the reason that controlling the center is given as advice is that it give those who don't know what they are doing something to strive for. If you know how the pieces move and not much else, then you would have no idea what you are trying to do in the middlegame. Telling someone to control the center give them a goal, something to try and do besides moving their queen all over the board.
Controlling the center generally means having influence over it; not that the opponent can't put pawns there, but that they cannot use it as a jumping off place for their pieces. The reason? Pieces in the middle of the board have the largest scope. They have the highest possible movement from the center of the board. Compare the eight squares a knight can move to from the center to the two it can move to from the corner. Which is a more ideal situation? Bishops are slightly less so (which is why you can have fianchettos), but a bishop in the middle of the board can quickly move to either side. If your pieces have more mobility than your opponents, then you can create threats your opponent cannot counter. Your forces can move easily and quickly between targets while your opponents cannot. I think this is why most people stress central control.
"I think most of the time the reason that controlling the center is given as advice is that it give those who don't know what they are doing something to strive for. If you know how the pieces move and not much else, then you would have no idea what you are trying to do in the middlegame. Telling someone to control the center give them a goal, something to try and do besides moving their queen all over the board."
Maybe I'm not understanding you, but controlling the center is important to the masters, not something that can be overlooked later on when you're at master strength. It almost sounds like your saying,"He's new, give him something to do until he learns what he's ACTUALLY doing". I disagree with that.
i usly try prying open the center in the begeing but i still almost always lose
I think you are understimating the value that range poses when speaking about piece placement and coordination. Knights, or pawns, for example, need to be relatively close to have any influence over a given area. As a result, a Kt on f1 or H2 will have no bearing in the center of the board. This being stated, however, bishops and rooks hold influence across much larger ranges. If you look at certain openings that utilize the fianchetto, you will see that fianchettoed bishops will actually hold a lot of influence over the center, as it cuts right through the heart of the chess board. A bishop on g2 is just as effective as one on e4, possibly even moreso (as it's secure against the opposing side's short range forces).
I think what he means is that the concept of central control isn't that hard to grasp in itself. To be a master you need to learn ALOT more than that when it comes to strategy! Even if those strategies effect the center in some way, they may still be far from obvious, but at least lower rated players will do better if they strongly consider controlling the center and trying to have central posts for pieces.
I've always felt it was obvious. I find most of these nuggets of wisdom true but usually they come down to who you are playing. I don't so much try to control the centre, it's more a case of keeping parity. I'm just trying to avoid giving my opponent an advantage anywhere on the board. I try to lock the centre of the board. If I see an advantage I'll take it.
"Sit by the riverside long enough and the body of your enemy will float past."
I think this is a Japanese proverb or motto. Not sure who said it but I apply it to Chess and take it to mean that I should be patient and let my opponent expose the board.
A thought experiment: a grandmaster plays an ammateur and gives them odds. The odds are that the grandmaster will never at any point in the game attempt to control the center. He/she will never place a pawn or piece in the center, nor will he/she ever place a piece or pawn so as to influence one of the 4 center squares (e4, d4, e5, d5). How would the game end ?
Well, the amateur would just run to e4 with his king and be invulnerable?
If you want to take your game to the next level this way of thinking will really limit you IMO.
I need closure on that one. Why would this approach limit me?
Because most situations are too dynamic and complex to be able to successfully just lock the centre and try to keep everything safe.
My knowledge of openings is very limited, this is why I like the safety first approach. I'd like a look at the next level but I'm not sure I want to live there.
lol That's interesting. I guess climbing the ladder doesn't necessarily bring any more pure enjoyment to the game. If anything possibly the opposite. I think I was enjoying chess most a few years ago playing what I thought was my wonderful trademark 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5? opening. I sure felt like Bobby Fischer overwhelming some opponents by going on lone Queen rampages. Now everything has to be tainted with a dose of "reality" of what is actually good and bad.
And of course that famous quote comes to mind: "The more you learn, the more you realize you have to learn".
I think there are some openings that challenge this, where one side goes for a queenside expansion while letting the other grab the center, like some variations of the french.
I have the answer from some time ago to what controlling the center really means.
An Indian master once watched one of my games and said "you had control of the center and then gave it up." I asked him what he meant. He confidently responded that "when pieces and pawns meet in the center and there is tension, nobody is in control, but the position is balanced. The person to move and cause an imbalance should only do so in their favor, gaining control of the center." I was still confused so he re-explained it this way. "If the position is balanced and you move, MAKE SURE THAT YOUR LAST MOVE OCCUPIES OR CONTROLS THE SQUARE THAT YOU MOVE TO AND YOU WILL BE IN CONTROL OR STILL BALANCED."
I spent the next several hours going over different openings with him and he proved to me that control means to be the last person to control the square in question. For example, in a central pawn exchange, when your pawn is taken, or you take a pawn---if you insure that you REPLACE your pawn by taking your opponents, or could do so if he tries to force the exchange, THEN you have control.
Hope this helps.
BTW - I could be totally wrong, but it works for me.
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