Control of the Central Squares

In several games from the previous section it was clear that the struggle for the centre was carried out not only by those pieces which were posted on the central squares but by other pieces which controlled these squares from a distance. In game 82 the black bishop on QB3 controlled Q4 and K5. In game 83 Black's knight on K3, bishop on KB3, rook on K1 and queen on Q1 were all directed at the centre. A similar function was performed by the bishops and queen in game 84.

For this reason it is important to distinguish between 'control' and 'occupation' of the centre. As soon as a piece occupies a central square it loses the control it exerted over this square. For example, after the moves 1 P-Q4 N-KB3 2 N-KB3 N-K5, leaving aside the fact that Black's last move is an important loss of time, we can see that by occupying K5 with his knight Black has given up his control of this square.

This means that the centralization of pieces cannot be carried out effectively until a side has achieved adequate control of the central squares. For example, it would be pointless to proceed 1 N-KB3 P-Q4 2 N-K5? as Black can immediately drive away this centralized piece by 2 . . . P-KB3.

Let us see how Black can increase his control of K5 after 1 PQ4 N-KB3 2 N-KB3. There are basically two methods:

2. 2 . . . P-QN3 and 3 ... B-N2 putting piece pressure on Q4 and K5.

We have already explained in sufficient detail the importance of a pawn centre. Nimzowitsch and Reti, creators.of the 'Hypermodern School', demonstrated that, whilst a pawn centre guarantees a stable control of some central squares, it also has the disadvantage of restricting the action of one's own pieces. For instance, after the above moves 1 P-Q4 N-KB3 2 N-KB3 P-Q4, Black's QP would block the diagonal of his fianchettod QB (e.g. in the Tartakower system of the Queen's Gambit). In the French Defence, after 1 P-K4 P-K3 2 P-Q4 P-Q4 3 N-QB3, Nimzowitsch recommended 3 . . . Px P precisely because it offers Black better prospects of directing his pieces at the Central squares (the major pieces down the Q-file and the QB on the QR1-KR8 diagonal). In fact, the opening systems advocated by the Hypermoderns can be characterized by the basic strategic idea of exerting pressure on the centre by means of pieces and pawns rather than occupying the centre immediately with pawns.

We have already dealt with the use of either BP to exert pressure on the enemy centre. Piece pressure on the centre is usually brought about by a fianchettod bishop. Examples are the Queen's Indian Defence (1 P-Q4 N-KB3 2 P-QB4 P-K3 3 N-KB3 P-QN3), the Nimzowitsch system (1 N-KB3 P-Q4 2 P-QN3) and the Reti system (1 N-KB3 P-Q4 2 P-QB4 P-K3 3 P-KN3, or here 2 ... P-QB3 3 P-QN3). A vital strategic element is also the exchange of enemy pieces controlling the central squares. For instance, in the Nimzo-Indian Defence, after 1 P-Q4 N-KB3 2 P-QB4 P-K3 3 N-QB3, the move 3 . . . B-N5 pins and later intends to exchange White's QN which is controlling Q5 and K4.

It is of course true that there is nothing new about using pieces and pawns to exert pressure on the centre. The basic theme of the Ruy Lopez (1 P-K4 P-K4 2 N-KB3 N-QB3 3 B-N5) is to increase White's pressure on Q4 and K5. In the Scotch Game, after 1 P-K4 P-K4 2 N-KB3 N-QB3 3 P-Q4 Px P 4 Nx P Black defends by applying pressure either on Q5 (4 . . . B-B4 5 B-K3 Q-B3) or on K5 (4 . . . N-B3 5 N-QB3 B-N5). The use of pawns for the same purpose is the strategic idea behind not only the Queen's Gambit (1 P-Q4 P-Q4 2 P-QB4) but also one of the oldest openings the King's Gambit (1 P-K4 P-K4 2 P-KB4).

However, such a use of pieces and pawns in the struggle for central control was viewed solely as a means of occupying the centre, until the Hypoderns demonstrated that control of the centre is possible without the direct occupation of it by pawns or pieces. Let us consider a few examples to illustrate these points.

86 Nimzowitsch-Wolf

Karlsbad 1923, Nimzowitsch-Larsen Opening

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