Part I

I. Some Fundamental Ideas About the Center

Chess manuals traditionally stress the importance of the center, and rightly so. A clear comprehension of the importance of the center is the logical preliminary to an understanding of position play.

1. What Do We Mean by the Center?

The center is the complex of squares which includes K$> Q3, KB4, K4, Q4, QB4, KB5, K5, Q5, QB5, K6 and Q6.

I The Center

The important Pawns (with reference to this area) are, therefore, the KP, QP and the BPs. As a rule only the KP and QP are called "center Pawns," the BPs being of subordinate importance for two reasons:

(a) The KP and QP, when placed at the fourth rank, control TWO squares in the center; the BPs, at the fourth rank, control only ONE square in the center. But, since we shall see later on that the center squares are the strongest —or the most important—or the most valuable —squares on the board, it follows that the KP and the QP have a greater value than the BPs. Further:

(b) The advance of the KP or QP opens up more avenues of development than does the advance of the BPs—and development, as we shall see later on, is another process which depends in great degree on the center.

2. What Kinds of Pawn Centers Are There?

For the purpose of this discussion, there are three kinds of Pawn centers:

(a) The "broad center"—made up of all four Pawns standing abreast, or of both the KP and the QP and one of the BPs (in all cases on the fourth rank).

(b) The "classical center"—made up of the KP and QP standing abreast on the fourth rank.

(c) The "half center"—comprising a KP or QP standing on the fourth rank and generally opposed by an enemy Pawn standing on its third rank on an adjacent file.

We shall ignore, for the time being, the type of center where Pawns oppose each other in the same file and on their respective fourth ranks (as after the moves L P-K4, P-K4).

In open games, we often see a Pawn at White's K4 supplemented by a Pawn at Black's Q3 or KB3; and in close games (or semi-close games) a Pawn at White's Q4 supplemented by a Pawn at Black's K3 or QB3.

Before concluding this section, let us briefly define three types of positions mentioned in the previous paragraph:

An open game is one where both sides play P-K 4.

A close game is one where neither side plays P-K4.

A semi-close game is one where one side plays P-K4 and the other side does not; here you encounter some such reply as . . . P-K3 or . . . P-QB4 or . . . P-QB3.

3. Why Is the Center Important?

Before we proceed to answer this question, we must clarify for ourselves the difference between the terms center and Pawn center. The center is the area of squares shown in Diagram I, while the Pawn center is an aggregate oj Pawns contained within this area. ' The center is important because, other things being equal:

(a) A piece placed in the center (especially K4, K5> Q4 or Q5) is posted where it can exert its maximum efficiency. You can test this easily and convincingly by counting the number of squares commanded by a Queen, a Bishop or a Knight when placed at K5, KB5 or at KRl.

From this important feature of the center, we deduce the principle that:

(b) Pieces placed in the center can easily be transferred from one part of the center to another; also that pieces placed in the center can readily be switched as a rule to either wing.

Stated in abstract form, as these principles usually are, they make very little impression on the imagination and the learning faculties of the inexperienced player. Paraphrasing principles (a) and (b), we may say that a player who

lia Broad Center Mb Classical Center


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