Apr 14, 2014, 8:13 PM |

Thanks for stopping by again to read my latest blog post. This time I want to share an idea which I've come up with for my private lessons. It's called the Four C's. And it is a method that allows my students to 'check in' on their pieces, to determine if they're doing well or poorly. I don't mean for this to be a strategy or a way to play chess, but instead it's meant to be a sort of framework for your play. Traditionally the chess board is split up into four different sections: white's queenside, white's kingside, black's queenside, black's kingside, all of which are comprised of 16 squares. Simply start with a center square (d4) and connect it to the near corner (a1) and you have the white's queenside. This is an incomplete idea, because I think the chess board is organized a different way. Keep in mind that this whole idea is based upon controlling the center.


What most people refer to as the "Sweet Center", I call the Core because it is the most critical part of the chess board. With only four squares to contend for it means that these squares are of the utmost importance to the pace of the game. Every piece is better off in the Core (The Queen can move a total of 27 squares from here, The King 8, the Rook 14, the Bishop 13, the Knight 8). The Core is where every  pieces wants to be at some point in the game. 









The Center here refers to the 12 squares which surround the Core. This portion of the board is crucial to accessing the Core, as it surrounds the Core, and is a sort of 'jumping-off' point for the pieces. Notice in many chess games that the "Center" squares, like f5 or c4, are accessed by knights or bishops as a means to launch an assault. Every piece is slightly worse here than it is in the Core, but not by much. A queen may move a maximum of 25, a King still 8, a Rook still 14, a Bishop 11, a Knight still 8.  









The Cage refers to the 20 squares which surround the Center and it is here that pieces begin to lose their firepower. I call it the "Last Chance to Improve your Pieces Zone". This is intended to show my students that as a piece approaches the edge of the board (the fourth C) it becomes less and less mobile, and less effective. There's nothing wrong with a piece moving into the Cage, as long as it doesn't stay there permanently; as long as a piece moves towards the Core from the Cage it is not a problem. Since there are 20 squares to contend for in the Cage it is therefore true that less of the skirmishes occur here. A queen may move a maximum of 23 squares, a King 8 still, a Rook still 14, a Bishop 9, and a Knight 4 to 6.









This part of the board is called the Circumference because it is the exterior layer of the board. I also call it the Circle because it is the outer ring of these Four C's. I'm looking at the board as more circular than square-like. Every piece is worse-off on this part of the board, as the notion goes, "A Knight on the Rim is Grim". Now a Queen has only a maximum of 21 squares, a King 3-5, a Rook still 14, a Bishop 7, a Knight 2-4. This is the worst possible place for a piece to occupy, but it isn't all bad. We know that pieces tend to maneuver here on the edges in order to access the central parts of the board. Just look at a classical Ruy Lopez opening, where white's Bishop goes from the Circle on f1 to the Cage on b5, back to the Circle on a4, and then to the Cage on b3 or c2. And Black's Knight goes from the Circle on b8 to the Center on c6, to the Circle on a5, and then somewhere else. So it isn't the end of the world if your piece is on the Circle; it is just a sign that you should improve the piece later. Of course in chess the ideas aren't always absolute; a piece may need to be on the circle in order to fulfill some purpose. But in general every piece is worse on the Circle and this part of the board should be used as a highway or passageway to accessing the other C's of the board. 








Now it should be clear that this projection of the board isn't meant to be the basis of one's chess learning. This is just a means of analyzing your position and guaging whether or not a certain piece needs to be moved, or where a certain engagement may occur. To drill in the idea of piece activity based on its position on the Four C's, here I will list the pieces' mobility as they leave the Circle (where they begin) and approach the Core (where they desire to be).

             CIRCLE           CAGE              CENTER             CORE 

Queen - 21 squares --> 23 squares --> 25 squares --> 27 squares

King - 3 to 5 squares --> 8 squares --> 8 squares --> 8 squares

Rook - 14 squares --> 14 squares -->  14 squares  --> 14 squares

Bishop - 7 squares --> 9 squares -->  11 squares --> 13 squares

Knight- 2 to 4 squares --> 4 to 6 squares --> 8 squares --> 8 squares

The only piece to maintain its abilities is the Rook, which can access a maximum of 14 squares no matter where it is placed. However we know that Rooks require open files to be effective. Every piece, however, needs open squares on its route in order to be effective. Thus we arrive at the conclusion that the Four C's method is meant to teach students how pieces become effective and where they belong in a game. Of course you cannot always make a move in the Core, and your pieces may end up staying in a certain area of the board, but this method demonstrates how pieces improve as they approach the Core, and worsen as they approach the Circle. 

But the object of chess is to checkmate the opposing King and not to simply be in the Core. But in order to launch attacks against the King or any enemy piece or square, the Core must be taken into consideration. Whether you control the Core with pawns or pieces is irrelevant, what's important is that the Core be occupied by something, or else the enemy will simply take it over. "The Center pawn duo" is the strongest structure in chess, as the two pawns control four squares in front of them and leave space in their wake. This kind of thing doesn't occur easily in chess as the opponent will try to destroy it, but any semblance of control in the Core is good for  the player. Take a look at the following chess game, which will be analyzed using the Four C's method, to determine WHAT went wrong and WHERE. The Game comes from the Russian Defense, Classical Attack, which is immediately concerned with controlling the Core.

Lets examine several points in the game, namely moves 10, 15, and 19, and finally the end. We will keep in mind the Four C's and how they're controlled in this game. The game ended early for Black and it was because of the small tactic with Bd5 from White, which ultimately wins the b7 pawn. However it is instructional because both sides had a constant concern with the Core, and it was achieved ONLY by placing the pieces on 'good' squares. 

Move 10. Nc3 Bf5, now the situation in the Core has become tense. The knight on c3 (Center) is addressing the Core squares d5 and e4, which are both occupied by the enemy. The Bishop on f5 is protecting that asset on e4, but it could only do so from the Center square f5 or the Cage square g6. To try with Bd7-c6 would prove disastrous as the b4 knight would be forced to retreat to the Circle via a6. Still the game is good for both sides. 

Move 15. Bxc4 Bd6 - both sides have commited their minor pieces to the Center squares (the 12 squares around the Core). And all of them are addressing the Core in some way. White's move creates control on the Core square d5, as well as an attack on the weak Cage square f7. Black's move parries the bishop on f4, thus reinforcing the critical Core square e5. For White to capture on d6 immediately would bring the Queen into the Center on d6 and connect the Black rooks. 

Move 19. h4 Qe7 - White has protected his valuable knight on the Cage square g5, where it attacks f7 and addresses the e4 square, too. Black moves the queen onto the Cage, while still maintaining control of the e4 and e5 squares, and also attacking the g5 knight. Black and White need to bring the Rooks into the game somehow, most certainly on the e-file, or perhaps another square which addresses something near the Core. 

Move 24. Bd5 attacks the Queen and wins the b7 pawn, which is the last resort to parry the c3 pawn. The resulting position after 24... Qxf4 25. Qxf4 exf4 26. Bxb7 yields a material advantage for White, but also a passed pawn in the Center, which is always a good thing. Although both bishops are not placed in the Core they are both addressing it. So at least Black has a small chance to put up a fight. Yet after 26. Bxb7 Rb8 white has 27. Bd5 and 28. c4, with a  giant bishop in the Core and a powerful pawn in the Center. After 26... Rd8 white can still play c4 and Bd5, resulting in the same dominance for White over the Core. But just because you control the Core doesnt mean you have won. What it means is that you at least have the means of carrying out an assault, as the enemy's pieces are left on inferior squares, usually away from the Core. 

I hope you've enjoyed this posting and it has been a lot of fun teaching this idea to my students. I again I want to reinforce the fact that this idea isn't to be the end-all-be-all way to play your chess; it only serves as a analytical tool to improve your chess in all stages of the game. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule and some games may turn out to be fights for Center squares or even Cage squares. But the intention of this projection of the chess board is to get away from the more traditional grouping of the board into four equal groups of 16 squares, which doesnt drive home the ideas of controlling the "sweet center" and creating active play. 

Please comment and share you thoughts and criticisms.