Chess Terms
Chess Middlegame

Chess Middlegame

The middlegame is, as its name implies, the middle part of a chess game, after the opening and before the endgame. The middlegame is often the most complex and important phase of the game, and most games are decided here. Even if an endgame is reached, "winning endings" and "drawn endings" are usually created in the middlegame. As turn-of-the-century German master Siegbert Tarrasch once wrote: "Before the endgame, the gods have placed the middlegame."

What do you need to know about this important chess concept? Read on to find out!


Unlike the opening and endgame, it can be difficult to categorize middlegames. However, two of the most important concepts in chess can help here: strategy and tactics. While both are important in all three phases of the game, they are most relevant during the middlegame. Compared to it, the opening and ending are often more dependent on memorization than creativity.

The five key elements of chess strategy are:

The most decisive factor is material count, but pawn structure is often the key to the correct strategy in a position. Read more about pawn structure here.


The four key tactical themes are:

tactics middlegame fork pin skewer discovery
The black bishop skewers the white king and queen (orange arrow). The white knight forks the black rook and dark-squared bishop (blue arrows). The white bishop pins the black pawn (green arrow). And the white rook will attack the black light-squared bishop in a discovery after the knight moves (red arrow).

Another important tactical concept is the double attack.

Study these five and you'll get better at the middlegame in no time.

When Does The Middlegame Begin?

Excellent question! There's no specific moment where a middlegame is clearly reached. If both sides are fully developed and castled, it's fairly safe to say it's a middlegame. But some games reach a middlegame before completed development, and in some games one or both players never castle.

Q: Is this an opening or a middlegame?

A: This could still be considered the opening with most of the major pieces undeveloped, but with all the minor pieces developed and both sides castled, the middlegame has arguably been reached.

Practically speaking, as soon as a player doesn't know any of the opening book moves in a position, they might as well be in the middlegame.

When Does The Middlegame End?

Another good question, and again, no one really knows. Some consider any position without queens to be an endgame, but sometimes there are still several pieces on the board in that situation. 

Basically, the middlegame is over whenever you think enough pieces have been traded to consider the position to be an endgame. That is different for everyone, hence there is no solid definition.


Now you know more about identifying middlegames and the types of strategy and tactics that come with this important part of the game. Try our middlegame lessons here!

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