Why Is Controlling The Center Important In Chess?

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Starting chess as a beginner, many times you might have heard this from your seniors or your coach. Always try to control the center of your chessboard! But nobody told you the exact reason for this, right? Don’t worry, because you are at the right place where each of your doubts regarding this topic will be cleared. So, why is controlling the center important in chess?

Controlling the centre of the chessboard is important because the chess pieces gain maximum power over the chessboard when placed at the centre, they get maximum flexibility in their movement and controlling the centre also helps the chess player in building strategy and in better move selection.

When chess pieces are placed at the centre, the number of squares they control increases compared to when they are placed in corner or the side of the chessboard. Thus their power increases.

Now, you might be curious to know more about these reasons. Right? Don’t worry, ahead I’m going to explain you all the reasons with proper examples to make this topic more clear to you.

I have also shared a little experiment I did (and you can do it too!) that will make you understand the importance of the centre of the board. So this post is really going to be helpful for you especially if you’re a beginner. Hence, continue reading.

But wait! Before we move on let’s clear our basics. The exact meaning of centre in chess and what it means when we say controlling it. These basics are important to know because many of the common misconceptions will be cleared after reading it. So let’s move on!

What Is Centre In Chess?

There are total 64 squares in chessboard. Out of them, the central four squares are called centre of the chessboard. In chess notation these four squares are denoted as e4, e5, d4, and d5.

In most of the chess openings, you will find strategy to first get hold of the centre of the board.

What Do You Mean By Controlling the Centre In Chess?

Controlling centre of chessboard means to to place your piece such that at least on of the central four squares is in control of that piece. For example, a pawn at c4 will control d5 square. Similarly pawn at d4 will control the d5 square.

Now to check your knowledge about Here is a test time for you: Can you tell which first move controls two centre squares of the chessboard at a time?


Think properly and the answer is, knight on f3 or knight on c3. Knight on f3 will control e5 and d4 square. (If you find any difficulty then just refer the above image and imagine the positions) While knight on c3 will control d5 and e4. BTW congrats if you answered this question right.

So far we discussed some basics related to topic. Now, let’s jump in to understand the actual reasons about the importance of controlling the centre in chess.

1. Chess Pieces get more Power and Control at Centre:

Chess pieces gain more power at centre. You might be thinking how they get so? right? So here is a best illustrative exercise that I did to explain you more clearly.

First I placed each of the chess pieces on one of the four central squares of the board (here d4 square) one by one and noted down the number of squares they can control. After that I placed those chess pieces on the corner square h1 and again noted down the number of squares they can control. And here’s what I got.

Chess PieceAt Centre d4 squareAt Corner h1 square
Kingcontrols 8 squarescontrols 3 squares
Queen controls 27 squarescontrols 21 squares
Rookcontrols 14 squarescontrols 14 squares
Bishopcontrols 13 squarescontrols 7 squares
Knightcontrols 8 squarescontrols 2 squares
(An Illustration To Show The Power Of Chess Pieces When Placed At Centre)

As you can see in the table above, except rook, the number of squares all other chess pieces control, decreased when placed at the corner of the board.

Note that result would be same even if you did this experiment by placing the pieces on the other three central squares instead of d4. You can also do this yourself to check how does chess pieces gain such a power when placed at centre.

Also Learn: 17 Best Chess Openings For Black

2. Chess Pieces get maximum flexibility when placed at the Centre:

To understand this reason properly take the example of knight. When you place knight at the corners of the chessboard it actually becomes very inactive. I have myself lost many chess games where because my knight was inactive at the sides of the board.

When you place knight in central positions, let’s take an example of knight at d4. Then there are total 8 different squares where knight could land. But if knight is on h4. Then there are only 4 landing squares. 50% reduction in movement and flexibility.

Moreover, if the knight is at the corner let’s suppose h1 then only 2 possible landing squares. Thus you can imagine how the flexibility of the knight increases as we move more towards the centre of the board and decreases as we move more towards the corner.

See Also: 15 Best Chess Openings For White

3. You get Strategic Advantage Controlling the Centre:

When you get the control over centre then it becomes very easy for the further piece development in chess. You can adopt to any situation that will occur while playing the game. Controlling the centre can give you an edge over your opponent in making the strategic plans. Especially if you just started playing chess then in initial stages focusing on centre is very good.

On my initial stages I used to lose many chess games online, just because I was not aware of importance of controlling the centre. I just used randomly move any piece as per my choice. This is actually the most important reason why many beginner chess players lose the game.

I used to copy the moves of grandmasters thinking that would make me look smarter, but it was of no use. I soon realised that I was making many mistakes therefore I reverted back to the basic chess principles. After that I started to see significant improvement.

From my experience what I learned is,

Just don’t force yourself to copy the moves on which you don’t have mastery!

Thus, gaining the control over the chessboard as a centralised power is very crucial.

You gain more opportunities in chess for better piece development when you control the centre. Especially if you are beginner you should first target should be to control the centre.

Read Related: How To Control The Center In Chess?

Wrapping up

Sometimes chess is simple but we insist to make it complicated.

So that’s it! I enjoyed a lot sharing these things with you and hope you enjoyed reading them too 🙂 Now, here is a quick summary of everything.

  • Some basic questions like what is centre in chess and what do you mean by controlling the centre.
  • Then there was a little chess test challenge which I hope many of you would have solved correctly.
  • After that we discussed the importance of controlling the centre with reasons and proper illustrations.

Hope you found this article helpful!

You may also like to read these articles:

-> En Passant In Chess (All You Need To Know)

-> Castling Under Check (Is It Possible?): All Doubts Solved!

-> What Is the Perfect Time To Castle In Chess?