Holiday Invitational Round#8 – Controlling the center in chess

Controlling the center in chess

When you control the center in chess, you control the game. It’s like seeing a flashing traffic light in the middle of a busy intersection. Everyone slows down and waits for instructions from the police officer who is directing traffic. Controlling the center in chess works the same way. If your pawns occupy key squares in the center, your opponent will need to find alternate ways to develop his pieces and create threats. This isn’t always easy though.

Round eight was one of the more combative games of the ten game match. There were not a lot of exchanges until the very end and by then I had the victory well in hand. Chessmaster 11’s Turk personality did what it could to fight back but it was not enough to cause me any concerns.

This game features the importance of occupying the center and maintaining control of it throughout the game. In this case, my d4 pawn was the difference maker. I made my opponent put his pieces on less-than-ideal squares where they were never effective in creating meaningful threats.

Pawn control of the center in chess

Chessmaster XI (Turk) – Paul H.
Irregular Opening [A00]
Holiday Invitational Round 8
30 seconds per move

Post-game analysis

Center pawn control. Pawns are stubborn pieces. After they move from their starting square, they can only move one square at a time. This means that wherever pawns are placed will lay the foundation for the rest of the game. In this game, the d4 pawn made life miserable for White who had to play moves like Na3, Nh4 just to develop and create some threats in the position. Control the center in chess and you control the game.

Reposition your pieces. Always look to improve the scope of your pieces. This is especially true when you can’t find a clear plan to follow. For me, doubling my rooks and placing my queen on the e-file was the key to victory. I needed to get my knight participating in this effort which is why I rerouted it to b7 and then c5. Reposition your pieces to where they have greater scope or where they exert move pressure on your opponent’s position.

Do not overly defend pawn captures. Taking control of the center in chess allows for you to lose pawns that have no bearing on the course of the game. I used to believe that every pawn on the board must be defended at all costs. If a pawn is under attack, I have to find a way to defend it no matter how awkward. That approach is what led me to many losses. At the end of the game, White had threatened, and ultimately captured, the pawn on a5. This made no difference in the outcome of the game and I was right to ignore this threat.


This is my sixth win in a row which tells me I can graduate to the next personality in Chessmaster XI’s list. With only two rounds to go, I feel confident that I will not lose another game. Keeping your emotions in check is as important as anything during tournament play. I am glad I have been able to hold things together through round eight.

I can never write enough articles to show how important it is to control the center in chess. This game showed how a single d4 pawn can dictate the pace of the game. Your opponent won’t always let you get such an overwhelming grip on a position but it something you should always strive for.

Holiday Invitational Round#8 - Controlling the center in chess

Have you had a success in controlling the center in chess games you have played? Please leave your feedback below.