Middlegame Strategy

After both players have developed and castled, the middlegame begins.

An attack is hard to engineer successfully once the opponent has castled, so the goal of the middle game is to try and win material. Once you have a material advantage, it becomes much easier to find combos and land a killer blow on your opponent.

If you can't count basic exchanges or know roughly how much each piece is worth, I recommend you study at least a little bit of regular chess strategy, it will really help your game. I will also use Chess Notation occasionally in this guide, so you should familiarize yourself with it as well.

Offense: Find the weakness

Look for undefended pieces or pawns to target. If their pieces are well protected, look for a lone pawn that's back behind their other pawns. This pawn has no friendly pawns defending it, so is weaker than the others. That pawn is the backbone of his position. and if you can win it, his pawn chain will be compromised. Put pressure on the pawn with your pieces if you can.

Defense

Your opponent will be doing the same thing to you so make sure your pieces are protected! Every undefended piece is a weakness and your opponent can take advantage. Keep them close together so they support eachother for defense and for combos. Your pawns should be used to defend your pieces. Be very, very careful when moving pawns in the early/middle game! Every pawn move you make creates a weakness behind it, and pawns can never move backwards. Due to the fact you are side by side with your opponent, it is very easy to take advantage of weak squares. Here's an example:

At first glance, white looks to be doing well. He has a space advantage and more pieces developed than red. But that's misleading. Red actually has a large advantage here. White has created too many weaknesses in his position by advancing his pawns too far, and left his light squares weak by moving his bishop away. Note how white's knight is undefended because of this. It's time for red to activate her pieces and exploit those weak squares.

Red first gets her bishop active and defends it with her pawn. This move usually isn't available but it is here because white's bishop has left its starting square thus leaving a weakness. Red also leaves the f5 square available for her knight, where it will be superbly placed.

Red maneuvers her knights to the b4 and c6 squares, where they are optimally positioned. Red is putting a ton of pressure on white here. Look at all of the weak pieces for white. The arrows show a huge combo opportunity here for red...

The resulting position of a 4 move combo for red. Red has won 4 pawns and the win is now only a matter of time. If red doesn't feel she can pull off the whole combo she can just take the 2 free pawns with her knights.


Another example:

Again, this position is even on material, so it seems roughly even, but there is a key factor here. White's position is much better because he has no weaknesses. On contrast, Red's pawns are overextended and on the same color as his remaining bishop (try and avoid this) which limits its mobility.

White has a plan to put pressure on red's weak points.

White puts his knight on a juicy outpost to target red's weak pawn, and the bishop moves to set up a combo. Note the position of the other white knight, if one moves the other can defend it by taking the place of the one that moved.

White now has 2 big threats, NxB followed by Nh2-g4, or Bxh4/Nxa3 as shown.

Red may be able to defend right now, but these weaknesses aren't going away anytime soon so red is in for a long struggle. White can even relocate his other knight to f5, putting even more pressure on red.

Combo #2 being executed. White's other knight takes the spot of the first knight to defend. Note white's positioning on the rook coming in handy. This rook is now just a few pawn moves away from defending white's knight if necessary.

It's clean up time for white. Now that white has broken in there are tons of combos possible and red is lost, all due to a few weaknesses of his pawns and precise play by white. The more material you're up, generally, the more combos you will have because your opponent has less defenders.

Here both green and black have left their pawns back to defend their pieces. In fact, not a single pawn is moved passed the third rank, nor a single piece of either black or green left undefended. This is common in games between good players. Green doesn't have such a clear-cut plan here to attack black so I would probably look to cross.

General Strategy

If you find yourself in a dominating position, try and pick off all of your opponent's pawns if you can't checkmate him. If he escaped into his partner's base with just a lone king, don't worry about trying to kill him. Focus on the other player. Don't waste your resources trying to kill him. He won't be a threat till the endgame and you'll deal with him then.

If you get dominated, ESCAPE! You will get checkmated very quickly if you don't escape to your partner's base. You will likely be left with only pawns, or even your bare king, but it's okay. Your first priority is to save yourself (or sacrifice your king for a queen if you can). Your partner should push a pawn to clear an escape path for you, and you should sit in your partner's base then, ideally next to his king. There you can sack yourself if something goes wrong and save him.

If you or your partner manages a kill, great! But keep in the mind the battle is not over. You still have 1 king left to kill. You and your partner are now free to push your pawns. Keep your king safe, and aim to trade off his pieces, and you should have an easy win... in the endgame.


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