It is no a secret that the majority of chess games are decided in the middlegame. Nevertheless, many club players prefer to spend their time studying the openings, tactics and endgames, completely bypassing such an important element of chess!
But it isn’t surprising – of all the phases of play, the middlegame is probably the most complex and difficult to understand and improve on. There is no easy way to really master the positions without spending a lot of time on them.
On top of that, many chess players simply don’t even know what kinds of positions they should study, and what exactly they need to pay specific attention to. Hours and hours of study can lead to only slight increase. As such, many players may find themselves stuck at a 1200-1900 Elo rating and struggle to make any further progress. It’s all about quality over quantity.
In this video, IM Valeri Lilov discusses the middlegame in depth and specifically how to handle symmetrical positions that crop up. Symmetrical positions are not generally very easy to understand, but IM Lilov will give you what you need to face the middlegame with confidence. He answers questions such as what to do after the opening? How should you play the most common middlegame positions? How can you get an edge in unclear positions? What are the most typical middlegame plans that GMs use in their games (and you can too!)? Put simply: how can you improve your middlegame understanding?
Symmetrical Positions in the Middlegame
IM Lilov looks at a typical symmetrical position that appears regularly in the Four Knights variation, and explains that in order to win, you need to figure out ways to create imbalances in the position, create opportunities for your opponent to go wrong, force weaknesses in their position.
The game analysed begins with 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Bb5 Bb4, the Four Knights Defense. 5. 0-0 0-0 6. d3 d6 with a typical symmetrical position, which you can see in the diagram on the left. How do we play this kind of position? You need to look to make imbalances. If you want to win, force weaknesses in your opponent’s position. A crucial thing to do is to develop all your pieces. Hence 7. Bg5.
Let’s keep looking at one example of how such a game can go. 7…Bxc3 8. bxc3 where White has good tension in the center, and now has the bishop pair advantage. 8…Qe7 9. Re1 and we have the first imbalance. The exchange has added to White’s ability to control the center.
9…Nd8 10. d4 to set things in motion. 10…Ne6. We reach the position on the right. White has more space, but how to continue? How can White make more imbalances without taking too much risk? You’ll have to watch the video!
Understanding the Middlegame
You should now have a better idea of how to handle symmetrical positions that arise in your own games. Can’t wrap your head around the rest of the middlegame? Take IM Valeri Lilov’s full Middlegame Understanding course to learn what every player under 2200 Elo should know. Click here to get instant access with 35% off.