The Importance of the Centre

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When you can't think of a good attacking move, you can try to make

  • your own position stronger and
  • your opponent's position weaker.

A good way to do this is to get more control of the centre squares. The centre of the chessboard radiates power.

In the same way, a tennis, squash or badminton player during a singles rally stands in a position at or close to the centre of their side of the court. That way, they only have to make very few strides to reach any edge of the court (in squash it's just one big step.)

The four squares right in the middle of the chessboard are the true centre, but the 12 squares immediately next to them are also important and form the extended centre.

If your pieces can't occupy the centre, the next best thing is that they be within striking distance of the centre.

The diagram above shows a Black Knight placed in the extended centre. This Knight can land on any one of eight squares (number 1 circled).

But the White Knight in the corner can land on only two squares (number 2 circled).

Nearly all of your pieces can move more freely in the centre of the board than on the side.

For example, during the endgame, a King in the centre of the board is usually more effective than one on the edge. The Black King above can reach any square on the board within four moves. But the White King can't reach beyond its own quarter of the board in four moves. It will actually take seven moves to reach another corner.

Note also that a Pawn right on the edge of the board can only capture an enemy piece on one diagonal, whereas other pawns can capture on two.