Hi Chess Parents and Coaches!
I received the following question from William, a chess dad in Colorado:
"Why should I teach my 'chesskid' to develop her pieces toward the center?"
Wonderful question! A crucial element of chess strategy is 'central control', and this strategy has probably been known for thousands of years! But can we really explain why it is that it is better to control - or sometimes occupy - the center, rather than the wings?
One way we can explain this is by looking at the pieces. Pieces in the center of the board can affect many parts of the board at the same time. For example:
Isn't the knight on e5 a powerful piece? It controls squares in Black's half of the board (f7, d7, c6, g6) and at the same time defends squares in White's half (c4, d3, f3, g4). If you can establish a knight on such a square in the center, where it cannot be chased away, it will be a major factor in the outcome of the game. Also, notice that a knight in the center of the board controls eight squares - one in the corner controls only 2.
So, pieces in the center have more mobility. From the center you can get anywhere else quickest. Another factor, is that if you control the center completely, you split your opponent's army into pieces. They will not be able to communicate effectively if you control the center. Let's look at the following position:
Black would have to play pretty badly to reach such a position. White has complete control of the center. You can see how hard it is for Black's pieces to communicate. In fact, they can hardly develop! In such a position, Black is basically on his last leg. Meanwhile, the white army, based in the center, works together harmoniously.
Since control of the center is crucial, it is important to keep it in mind starting from the very first moves. Thus, 1.h4 is not a good move to start off a game.
Not only does it not contribute to White's development, it also does not in any way fight for the center. The same goes for the move 1.Nh3:
It develops a piece, but not in the best way. That same knight could be developed toward the center, by 1.Nf3 instead, a perfectly normal opening move.
I hope this explains why you should teach your 'chesskid' to develop her pieces toward the center.
Thanks for reading, and you can send in questions about your "Chess Kid" to Questions@ChessKid.com