Chess Middle Games (With Examples)

The chess middle game is the stage where tactics and strategic play converge. The transition from the opening to the middle game is a time of dynamic tension. Chess in the middle game is about playing for the initiative. Active play usually favors the attacker. Chess in the middle game is about playing for the initiative. This article will share ideas, recommendations and techniques for the chess player who wants to improve their chess.

What is a Middle Game in Chess?

The middlegame in chess is the portion of the game in between the opening and the endgame, though there is no clear line between the opening and middlegame or between the middlegame and endgame. The middlegame begins when both players have completed the development of all or most of their pieces and the king has been brought to relative safety. 

There are a few factors that make the middlegame hard to define. For one, middlegames are difficult to study. Because middlegames are often messy and complex, with most (if not all) of the major and minor pieces still on the board, they don’t lend themselves to rigorous study or memorizable positions as with openings or endgames.

The nature of the middlegame will follow naturally from each player’s opening strategy. This makes it hard to speak in general terms about middlegame strategy or middlegame principles. If one or both players have methodically advanced their pawn structures then the middlegame may revolve around relatively closed positions. In these cases, knights may prove invaluable for hopping over ranks of tightly linked pawns. Here, players may spend a long time maneuvering for advantageous positions before launching attacks.

If the center is relatively free of pawns, however, then players may find themselves in an open game with wide open diagonals that favor bishops and queens. These games may end up being more aggressive, with both players sacrificing material for momentum.

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Factors Defining The Chess Middle Game

While it may be hard to talk about middlegames in a systematic way, there are still some basic principles you’ll want to keep in mind. Generally speaking, there are three factors to consider during the middlegame, though the exact balance of these factors will change depending on the strategy you’re pursuing.

1. How Safe is Your King?

In games where king safety is an issue, other factors will recede in importance. Remember, a well-timed attack on your opponent’s pieces can result in a checkmate long before the endgame. The safer your king is, the more flexibility you have elsewhere.

2. Are You Maintaining Your Pieces?

It simply refers to your pieces. In the majority of endgames, a material advantage winds up being decisive, so you’ll want to make sure any trades you make in the middlegame are worthwhile. Piece advantages tend to be especially important in highly positional play.

3. Are Your Pieces Mobile?

Mobility is about giving your attacking pieces flexibility to threaten multiple targets. Opening up lines of attack (even at the loss of material) and establishing outposts may be key to establishing an advantage in a highly open game.

Important Middle Game Principles

Following are the important middle game principles that one must practice:

1. Centralize Your Pieces

You might be aware of the fact that centerpieces control a lot more squares than elsewhere. That’s the reason it’s an important rule to remember when dealing with the knights. The knights can control as many as 8 squares when centralized, while only 2 squares if cornered.

It is true that bishops can be very effective from the flank. However, in the center, they are more mobile and control both parts of the board. The same rule goes for the queen also. If it is safe, bishops and queen should be centralized and also the knights.

2. Occupy Open Files With Your Rooks

Everyone knows that rooks work best on open files. If there is an open file available then your priority should be to occupy the file with your rook. The next step should be to double your rooks on the open file. If there are no open files available, you can occupy a semi-open file that you can force open later.

3. Avoid Pawn Weaknesses

A pawn weakness can give your opponent an instant advantage and allow her/him an easy game by exploiting them. This can turn an otherwise equal endgame into a loss. To avoid endgame trouble you need to take care of the pawn structure right from the opening and middle-game.

Always avoid doubled, backward, and isolated pawns.

3. Keep The Bishop Pair

The bishop pair is very powerful in most positions. Only if the position is totally locked up the two knights may be stronger than a bishop pair. Avoid giving up one of your bishops in the opening or early middle-game just to create doubled pawns in your opponent’s pawn structure. In most cases, the attacking potential of the bishop pair outweigh the pawn structure defects.

4. Avoid Creating Weak Squares in Your Position

A weak square is a square that cannot be protected by a pawn. Weak squares in your position are perfect candidates for becoming strong outposts for your opponent’s pieces. The closer the weak square is to your king’s position or to the center, the bigger trouble it usually creates. Always be careful with pawn advances, since that is what creates the weak squares. And remember that pawns can’t go back.

5. Trade Your Flank Pawns For The Central Pawns

The central pawns are generally considered to be more valuable than the flank pawns. This is because central pawns allow you to control central squares (d4-d5-e4-e5) which can be used to support pieces and develop a strong attack not only in the center but also on the king’s or queen’s side. At the same time, central pawns provide space and increase pieces of mobility.

Therefore, always remember not to trade your central pawns for the opponent’s flank pawns. In fact, you should do the opposite and exchange your flank pawns for the opponent’s central pawns.

6. Always Blockade Your Opponent’s Isolated Pawn With a Knight

An isolated pawn is a powerful weapon and can be used by your opponent to launch a strong attack because it supports pieces and provides extra space. And the other danger of an isolated pawn is that it can be pushed forward at the right time causing many problems. That’s why it is very important to always blockade the opponent’s isolated pawn to avoid complications. The best piece for this purpose is the knight.

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Things To Do In The Middle Game

These are the best strategies in the middle game.

1. Make As Many Threats As Possible

Usually most of the fighting action happens during the middle-game. and you should try to make as many threats as possible. In chess we say you should put pressure on your opponent. It’s usually a very good idea to make a threat because when you put pressure on your opponent, you increase the chances that they could make a mistake which could allow you to win material or to make an exchange that is in your favour.

When you make a threat, your opponent is usually forced to deal with that threat and that also means they don’t get the opportunity to make their own plans because they must first find a way to stop your threats.

If you can make a threat it is often a good idea, but of course, you must first check that your opponent doesn’t have any threats against you, otherwise if they do, you must first deal with their threat.

Following example shows what it means to make threats:

In this position you’ll notice that even though white’s bishop on d2 is partly developed – it isn’t doing much otherwise, and you could move it to f4 and attack black’s queen.

Chess Middle Game
White’s bishop on d2 is partially developed but it does not serve a particularly useful role at the moment

In this position you’ll notice that even though white’s bishop on d2 is partly developed – it isn’t doing much otherwise, and you could move it to f4 and attack black’s queen.

Chess Middle Game
Bf4 threatens to capture black’s queen

This moves your bishop to a better position and at the same time you are making a threat. Black should move his queen.

Chess Middle Game
Qb6 moves the queen to a safe square

But now white can make another threat and at the same time develop this rook by bringing it to the open b-file.

Chess Middle Game

Black is practically forced to move the queen again.

CodingHero - Chess Middle Games (With Examples) Middle Game 05

And now, once again, white can make a threat with another of his pieces – he plays Ne5 – threatening to capture the pawn on f7 and also, threatening to capture the bishop.

Chess Middle Game
Ne5 threatens Nxf7 and also Nxg4

Due to all the pressure, black could be nervous by now – which could possibly cause him to make a mistake. But if black stayed calm and thought about the move, he would find that he can move the bishop back to e6 and defend the pawn at the same time.

Chess Middle Game
Be6 moves the bishop to safety and at the same time defends the pawn on f7

But even so, you can see how white made small improvements in their position by making threats – whereas black never got a chance to do anything since he had to deal with all the threats against him.

That is why it’s such a good idea to make threats, but, and this brings me to the second thing you should do in the middle-game, if you can’t make a threat, then see which of your pieces should be further developed.

You can also read the lesson on the power of threats and how they help you find dominating moves. It will give you an even deeper understanding of just how powerful this simple strategy is.

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2. If You Can’t Make a Threat, Then See Which of Your Pieces Should be Further Developed

At this stage it is important that you understand the difference between a passive piece and an active piece. When one of your pieces isn’t well developed, as is the case with the rook on f1, then we say that the piece is passive:

Chess Middle Game
The rook on f1 is a passive piece (in this case also your least active piece) because it does not perform a particularly useful role

Passive means that the piece isn’t doing much, and you should try to improve the role of that piece. You can make this rook more active by moving it e1:

Chess Middle Game
Rfe1 improves the position of the rook by giving it something useful to do

Now at least the rook helps to defend the knight and he is also attacking these important squares in the centre. So, if you can’t make any good threats, then try to make your passive pieces more active. You will also notice that when your pieces are more active then there will often be more opportunities to make threats too.

3. Chase or Exchange Your Opponent’s Pieces If They Get Too Close

The third thing you should do in the middle-game, is to chase away your opponent’s pieces if they get too close. The reason for this is that when an enemy piece comes into your territory, then usually that piece becomes very active and that is why it would be a good idea if you can neutralize it, either by chasing it away, or by exchanging it.

Consider this example.

Chess Middle Game
Black just played Ne5 and is now threatening to place his knight on d3, where it will become very useful

You can see that if the knight gets to d3 he would be very active. He will be threatening the pawn on b2. Your rook won’t be able to come to the e-file anymore because the knight will attack the e1-square… so all in all it would be a problem for white if the knight lands on d3 and that is why white decides to exchange his bishop for the knight.

Chess Middle Game
Bxe5. White realizes he should exchange the knight before it becomes too active

If white doesn’t do this right now, for example if he plays Rfd1, then black will put the knight on d3 and it would become a very active piece:

Chess Middle Game
Nd3. White should not allow black to get the knight to d3

Now, how are you going to get rid of the knight? You can’t chase it because these pawns can’t move backwards, and also, you can’t exchange your bishop for the knight anymore because the knight is now on a light square, and the bishop can only go on the dark squares. Also, you don’t really want to exchange your rook for the knight, because that would be a bad exchange. However, if you eventually need to get rid of this knight, then maybe the only way to do so will be to give your rook for the knight.

That is why white should exchange their bishop for the knight before black moves their knight to d3.

Here’s another example:

Chess Middle Game
Re2. The black rook on e2 becomes very active. White should try to exchange or chase it away

From e2, black’s rook is threatening to capture your pawn on c2 (black’s queen will protect him). When your opponent’s piece becomes this active then you should chase that piece away or exchange it. White can make a very good move here:

Chess Middle Game
Nd4. White plays the knight to d4, attacking the rook, and at the same time he defends the pawn on c2

The black rook must go back to a safe square, probably to e5 or e7.

Things That You Shouldn’t Do In The Middle Game

These are the things that you shouldn’t do in the middle game.

1. Don’t Exchange Your Most Active Pieces For Your Opponent’s Passive Pieces

The first thing you shouldn’t do, is don’t exchange your most active pieces for your opponent’s passive pieces.

Here’s an example:

Chess Middle Game
White shouldn’t exchange his active knight for black’s passive bishop

White’s knight is very active, and he is well placed in the middle of the board. Black’s bishop, on the other hand, is not very well developed and it is quite passive because his own pawns block his way. That is why, even if this would be an equal exchange, white shouldn’t do it, because at this stage the knight is active and useful, whereas the bishop isn’t.

Of course you must consider whether the black bishop could suddenly become very active and in that case you may want to make the exchange. However, for as long as you can keep the black bishop passive, you shouldn’t exchange it for your active piece.

Don’t exchange your active pieces for your opponent’s passive pieces, unless you’re winning points, in that case you should probably do it.

2. Don’t Move Your Pawns Unless You Have A Good Reason To Do So

In this position let’s see the second thing you shouldn’t do in the middle-game and that is you shouldn’t move your pawns – unless you have a good reason to do so:

Chess Middle Game
Playing the pawn to c3 would turn your d3-square into a weakness. Black will play Nd3, taking advantage of the weak square

In particular, avoid moving the pawns in front of your king because it would expose him and make your king vulnerable. This doesn’t mean you never move the pawns. Sometimes it is acceptable to move this pawn on the side, if it serves a clear purpose:

Chess Middle Game
h3 would serve a useful purpose because you are chasing your opponent’s active piece without weakening the squares on your king-side too much

Let’s see how you can use your pawns to prevent enemy pieces getting too close to your territory.

Chess Middle Game
From c2, your pawn serves a very useful purpose: defending the d3-square

If you then move this pawn, c2-c3, then black can place their knight on d3 and you won’t be able to chase it away with your pawn anymore, because your pawn can’t move backwards. So, the lesson here is, unless you have a very good reason to do so, don’t move your pawns because it usually weakens your position if you move a pawn without a purpose.

There is a good reason to move this pawn though:

Chess Middle Game
The move d3 will help defend the pawn on e4. It will also open the diagonal for the bishop on c1 and won’t weaken your structure

It’s ok to move your pawns if you have a very good reason to do so. But should be extra careful because they can never move backward again.

3. Don’t Waste Moves By Making “Waiting Moves”

The third thing you shouldn’t do in the middle-game is that you shouldn’t waste moves. What is meant by  – don’t waste moves? Well, when you aren’t sure what to move, you may be tempted to just move anything and see what your opponent does next. In most cases that would be wasting a move. Try not to do that. Rather think about the things you learnt in this lesson and try to find a useful move.

Chess Middle Game
Kh1 won’t be a useful move here. Rather spend more time and try to find something useful

Don’t be tempted to make a useless move such as moving the king here. Instead, try to find a useful move that serves a purpose.

Tips For The Middlegame

The key to the middlegame is to develop a plan and stick with it. Once you’ve developed an ability to read positions, it’s time to put your tactical knowledge in practice. That said, there are a few general pieces of advice that may be worth keeping in mind as you begin to explore the middlegame.

1. Get Your Rooks In Continuous Communication

One of the strengths of castling is that it gets your rooks connected. Rooks that are connected (also called “communicating” or “chatting”) have an open rank between them. This frees them to patrol the rank, supporting other pieces freely while protecting one another.

2. Watch Your Weak Squares

A weak square is one that can’t be easily defended from an attack. Generally speaking, these are “holes” in your defense that a canny opponent can exploit, perhaps to create an outpost from which to launch their attacks. These squares are especially appealing for knights, and they tend to be especially effective along the center files.

3. Try to Keep Your Bishops Together

One quality of bishops is that they tend to become more valuable than knights once you reach the endgame. If you can hang on to a bishop pair through the entire middlegame, you may find yourself with an advantage over an opponent who only has two knights or a knight and a bishop.

4. Make Sure Your Trades Are Favorable

Make sure every trade you make (or decline) fits into a broader strategy. What trades make sense will depend greatly on the nature of a game. In games with tightly locked pawn formations, even slight material differences can wind up being decisive. In more open games, however, it may be worth sacrificing a piece of valuable material for the sake of a devastating attack.

5. Mind Your Pawn Structure

The arrangement of your pawns will go a long way to determining what sort of middlegame you’re looking at. The better you’re able to keep your pawn structure intact, the more likely you’ll be able to pursue your chosen strategy. Remember, isolated, doubled, or backward pawn moves tend to create permanent weaknesses that your opponent may take advantage of.


You can use the above examples of chess middle game tactics. When you have time to study, you will notice that many of these tactics involve a combination of the basic principles of chess. No matter what level you play, you should always be working on your tactics so that you can quickly make a good move during a game.

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