Before you start to learn any opening moves off by heart, there are 3 basic opening principles which are key to understand:
- Control the center
- Develop your pieces actively
- Get your king safe
In practical games it often happens that you forget theoretical lines you studied weeks ago. As long as you understand the basic opening principles and the underlying concepts of your opening, however, it is still not too difficult to play good moves.
This video is an exclusive preview from IM Ekaterina Atalik’s new Master Method course, Atalik’s All-Around Guide for Club Players. In this section, Ekaterina focuses on the center of the chessboard, why it is so important to control, and how you can achieve this.
Following the key opening rules sound easy at first glance. However, even Grandmasters have difficulties putting these principles into practice from time to time.
IM Atalik analyses two games from top level players in order to illustrate this. First, she takes a look at a game between Wenjun and Zhongyi, and then a game between Grischuk and So.
Chess Opening Strategy: Control the Center
The center of the board includes the squares e4, d4, e5, and d5. When you start a game, try to control as many of these squares as you can.
A primary objective of any opening strategy is to get as much control over these squares as possible. Therefore, use your pawns and pieces to put pressure on the center early on.
The center is the most important section of the board since your pieces can pretty much have access to the whole board when they are correctly located in the center.
Controlling helps you to mobilize your pieces and to use your pieces in the most efficient way. See the diagram on the left.
In the position on the left, White just played the move 13.Qc2-e4! It immediately becomes obvious that White has a lot more central control than Black.
The queen is actively placed on the central square e4. Moreover, she puts pressure on both sides of the board.
She not only threatens to capture the unprotected rook on b7, but also can come to g4 on the next move with an unpleasant attack against Black’s pawn on g7.
This simple example illustrates the importance of central influence. White’s pieces are a lot more mobile than Black’s in the position.
Generally speaking, there are two ways to control the center in the opening. The classical chess opening strategy is to control the center by occupying it with pawns, ideally establishing pawns on d4 and e4 with White (or d5 and e5 with Black).
The second approach to control the center was popularized by the hypermodern school of chess in the 1920s.
This chess opening strategy is not about occupying the center with pawns, but about controlling the center from the distance with pieces. To put it into a simple formula: a player first leaves the center to the opponent and then tries to conquer it back, taking advantage of his better development.
The starting position of the Pirc Defense is a good example to illustrate the two different approaches. After the moves 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 (see the position on the right), White occupies the center with his pawn.
Black, in contrast, aims to develop his pieces first. He spends some time fianchettoing his dark-squared bishop and only then attacks the center.
But we’re only scratching the surface. Be sure to watch the full video from IM Atalik who explains much more and uses real games to explain the concepts with practical examples.
Atalik’s All-Around Guide for Club Players
IM Ekaterina Atalik is a former European and World Youth champion who puts her success down to learning the strongest, most useful ideas from the games of the greats.
Split these ideas into opening, middle and endgame principles and you have the formula for chess mastery. And in her new course, Ekaterina reveals them all…
IM Atalik leaves no stone unturned in improving your game. The insights and advice contained in the Ekaterina Atalik Method will save you from years of hit-and-miss learning and give you powerful ideas and training methods you can put into practice right away.
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