The Chess Middlegame -
The Attack...

The chess middlegame is the most complicated part of the game. All forces have been developed and are ready to fight. Players have to take into account both the tactical possibilities and the strategic factors in order to make sensible decisions.

The analysis made will have to be summarized in a simple and comprehensive chess middlegame plan which the chess player will have to follow. 

Note that it is always better to play upon a bad or inferior plan than on no plan at all.

When the position is getting wild, there is no need to care about strategic factors.

Calculation of variations is the only priority, for strategic considerations will not compensate for the material lost due to tactical inaccuracy.

On the contrary, if the position is somewhat 'quiet' one should try to evaluate it based on its strategic factors. 

Most of the positions lie somewhere in-between, having both tactical possibilities and strategic concerns.

There are several key strategic factors that affect one's evaluation of the position.

The most important are : 1. Open files, ranks, diagonals 2. Well-placed and badly-placed pieces 3. Pawn configuration in the centre 4. Space superiority 5. King safety 6. Strong and weak squares.

All of them will be discussed in brief.

1. Open files, ranks, diagonals : Possession of an open file, rank or diagonal is important, since no enemy piece may step on it, unless supported.

If the game is closed, an open file may be the most important factor and both players will try to control it by moving their rooks on it, maybe the queen as well.

2. Well-placed and badly-placed pieces : Sometimes a piece is ideally placed on a position, controlling important squares and exerting pressure on the opponent.

Its owner will try to exploit this fact by constructing threats, while the opponent will try to either drive it away or exchange it. On the other hand, a badly-placed piece will need relocation, which will cost one or more tempi or may just not be feasible.

3. Pawn configuration in the centre : The arrangement of the central pawns often determines the best plan.

If pawns are blocked (we talk about a fixed centre), there are few tactical possibilities in the centre and the play is transferred to the wings.

If the pawns are not blocked there may be thrusts, which will usually require tactical consideration.

Or there may be no pawns at all; then the players try to control the centre with their pieces. 

One needs to know all the pawn types – free, blocked, backward, isolated, doubled and hung pawns – to have a full understanding of the centre type.

4. Space superiority : A player who has the space superiority has more freedom in his moves than his opponent does.

This gives him the initiative, that is, the right to threaten (or attack) first and have the opponent defend. 

However, space superiority is not sufficient to determine a big advantage as there are many other factors.

5. King safety : An exposed or semi-exposed King may have serious problems if the opponent attacks him.

King safety is required in order to start executing a plan or it will be suspended as soon as the opponent starts threatening the King. The King is safer when he has castled and his pawns have not advanced.

One or two pieces around will help his Majesty feel even safer.

6.Strong and weak squares : A square that can not be properly controlled by a player is a weak square.

On the other hand, the same square is strong for the other player, who may exploit it to penetrate into the enemy territory.

Strong squares are ideal for placing pieces. Note that squares occupied by pawns are not strong squares.

Some brief explanations about the various pawn types are given below:

1. Free pawn : The free pawn has somehow got rid of all enemy pawns in his way and can march to the promotion square more easily. A free pawn is a big advantage, especially if it is supported by another pawn.

2. Isolated pawn : The isolated pawn is a pawn that has no pawn support, for example a d-pawn with no e- or c-pawn of the same colour.

It is considered to be both an advantage and a weakness. It usually offers some space and increases the other pieces mobility, but it will be a target for the opponent, since it can not be easily supported.

3. Double pawns : Doubled pawns are pawns of the same colour on the same file. It is a weakness that needs to defend.

In rare cases (central doubled pawns) it may have some space advantages.

4. Backward pawn : The backward pawn has not advanced as much as its neighbors and is always a target.

A principle that applies is that one should attack where he is better. If the opponent has a weakness, it is correct to try to exploit it by putting more pressure (eg. a weak pawn should be threatened).

If the opponent has no serious weaknesses, it is correct to try to produce some for him (eg. pawn exchanges that will leave him with a weak pawn).

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