Central play


As black and white I've always played more for flank games, hypermodernism and the like. Recently I've taken a more active role in controlling the centre as I've switched to e4 but find that I'm always on the defensive foot, trying to hold my strong centre against black's attacks. My question is once you hold the centre, what's your strategy? Surely at some point you have to flip to attacking the king or queenside? If so when? Also, I've noticed that a massively strong pawn formation isn't required to control the centre. Pawn exchanges can result in white having an isolated pawn on e5 which still limits black's play but don't you end up being on the defensive foot all the time, trying to hang on to a weak pawn?

Thanks for any advice! :-)


You might find Karpov's new book, Find the Right Plan, (2010), useful.

He describes a variety of pawn formations in the opening, and talks about how to form a plan for the middlegame.  It's a bit deep, but I believe he is (effectively) answering the type of question you pose above.

As you well know, there is no simple answer, or rule of thumb to pursue.  Karpov breaks down the question of where to attack (or expand) into about 6 categories.

The basic theme of the book is -- "Restrict the Mobility of your Opponent's Pieces."  Often times, that's much easier said than done.  Smile


Lol It's just I have such a clear mind about what to do when it comes to the Sicilian, King's Indian, French and Ruy Lopez but then the Pirc or some other modern style opening opening get's played and I have a lovely e4 d4 centre being attacked from all sides! I played against the Alekhine Wednesday and had a wild game (sacrificed a pawn in the beginning with a mad idea that almost paid off lol) but usually it's black that has all the fun attacking...


A thought just occured to me. Does the central player simultaneousl defend control of the centre and attack queenside/kingside? Although the player would loose momentum in their attack having to defend the centre, the opponent loses momentum as they have to maneouver their pieces more in the cramped space?


How do you play well after getting more center than your opponent?  You might as well ask how do you play chess well, the answer is endlessly complex Tongue Out

Usually your pieces have more scope, so you have to pick the right time and be accurate after picking the time to convert that advantage into something else like an attack sure, but it could resolve itself to a better structure, or better minor pieces, or a million other things.  To avoid this your opponent may sac a pawn and now it's your space and extra pawn vs his bishop pair and initiative or something i.e. it's a game of chess, and to play it well you have to do everything that makes a good chess game good heh.


The pawn center with e4 and d4 is advantageous, moreso where Black has exchanged his own center pawn at e5 (such as in the Italian, Ponziani, certain lines of the Spanish, etc).  White should have more space and therefore both more freedom of movement for his pieces and also a better choice of good squares for them.

Generally, unless there is a clear reason to begin a flank attack immediately, White will leverage these advantages to make threats and force Black to create weaknesses, which White may then attack.  It's a process, and Black isn't require to sit back and watch while White builds up, he can and should attempt to counterattack, especially the pride of White's position, the pawn center.

You can filter a database for similar pawn positions, to see how masters play the structures, and/or learn by experience.  But don't let Black's counters throw you off - often the best answer to them is to ignore them and press on yourself, White should have more opportunities in these positions.


Thanks guys. Estragon, your advice is really handy because it reinforces what I'm thinking, but making it a bit clearer! I think my problem is I'm not used to being so aggressive from a central game, or at least against opponent's who are massively aggressive. I've played pawn storms, minority attacks etc but they're usually involved in the queenside or kingside where I'd concentrate all my force. If the opponent attacked my centre I'd generally end up trying to hold my own there and not do much.

To be honest, I'm reaching the 1800 (FIDE) standard for the first time in my chess and it's bringing me to a whole new level/type of game. Like you said, Estragon, there really is a balance between watching your opponent's counterattack and making sure you prepare/initiate your attack too.

I've always understand the 'more freedom to move' concept, just haven't seen where to take it unless the opponent makes an error - and players over 1800 or more make smaller and smaller errors! I just guess it's a learning process where I have to train myself to force the weaknesses and learn to capitilise on them.