Game Spotlight: Understanding the Centre

Welcome to NCC’s Game Spotlight!

In this column, we’ll be looking at a game each week of interest to club players, either because they were played at our tournaments, or they’re just good to study for improvement. Our Closed Tournament is underway, and still running for another two weeks, and I’ll be sure to highlight games from it when it finishes. In the meantime…

When we learn about the opening, we’re told three things: control the centre, develop your pieces, and make your King safe. (If we’re lucky, we’re also told a fourth: develop with a plan. But that’s beyond what I want to look at here.) It’s easy to find examples of what happens if you don’t develop your pieces. Paul Morphy’s famous Opera Game is a fine choice, though there are many others.

It’s also not hard to find games showing the dangers of not castling. Books and articles are full of these, you’ve probably seen and studied a few of them. Controlling the centre, on the other hand, is a concept that usually gets handwaved. We’re told it’s important because pieces move easiest through the centre of the board, and then we move on to other topics. But it’s worth understanding how to go about establishing control, what it looks like, and how to exploit that control. So, let’s unhandwave this.

As a final point, the game shows how integrated the goals of the opening really are. Grabbing central space enabled White’s development (and restricted Black’s), which led to Black’s King being far less safe than White’s.

We will be publishing the club schedule for July as the Closed tournament winds down. If you have an event or subject for training you’d like to see at the club, let us know!

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