The Art of the Middle Game

The Art of the Middle Game

by Paul Keres, Alexander Kotov

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Overview

While there are plenty of books dealing with chess openings, and no shortage of helpful volumes on the endgame, there are far fewer available on the all-important middle game. And yet, the middle game is one of the most challenging parts of the contest. It is then that the player has the chance to initiate long-range attacks and create defensive systems.
In this excellent study, two great grandmasters combine their talents in a masterly analysis of attack and defense in the middle game. Kotov was one of the great attacking players of the century, and in this book he has written an entire chapter devoted to the strategy and tactics of attacking the king. Conversely, Keres has contributed an outstanding and unconventional treatment of defense, showing how one can defend any position given the right spirit and understanding, no matter how hopeless it may seem.
The truth of Philidor's statement that "pawns are the soul of chess" is reflected in a helpful chapter in which Kotov demonstrates that the shape and configuration of pawns in the center have a vital bearing on the way one has to play the middle game. Finally, Keres takes up the difficult but rewarding topic of analysis, offering a practical and extremely thorough analysis of adjourned games, to reveal how a master's mind works and how one should analyze any given position.
In addition, there is an authoritative introduction by International Master and chess authority Harry Golombek, who has translated the volume. Brimming with insights and valuable strategic hints, The Art of the MiddleGame belongs in the library of every serious chess player.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486140964
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 04/02/2012
Series: Dover Chess
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 651,918
File size: 7 MB

Read an Excerpt

THE ART OF THE MIDDLE GAME


By Paul Keres, Alexander Kotov, H. Golombek

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1964 H. Golombek
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14096-4



CHAPTER 1

PLANNING IN THE MIDDLE GAME

H. Golombek


The distinguished authors who have written the succeeding chapters of this book have concentrated on two main objectives: the way one should think in the middle game and the manner in which the thoughts that arise during this process are translated into action.

It is of course no part of their purpose to take into account the fact that the less experienced or less advanced player of the game is faced by problems in the matter of planning that the expert and the more advanced players take for granted in the course of play. The beginner is not even aware of the vital necessity of forming a plan; or, if he does realize it, has not the slightest idea how he should start to set about it.

It is to fill this gap that I have written this chapter. The more advanced player may therefore, if he likes, by-pass this introduction to the ensuing studies of the art of the middle game and go straight on to the deeper work of Keres and Kotov. However, I must add the word of warning to those who wish to do this that I have seen even players of master strength who have sinned against the fundamental rules of planning in chess, so meeting with disaster.

In order to illustrate my theme I will draw upon my own experiences in match and tournament play, not so much because I might consider my own games to be necessarily more interesting, rather because it is easier to explain one's ideas through one's own play, so giving the reader a complete picture of the state of play.


NECESSITY OF A PLAN

A fundamental necessity both for a successful attack and a correct defence is the formation of a sound plan, and the logical adherence to this plan despite any seductive alternatives that may present themselves during the course of play. Two sure ways of spoiling a good attack or of collapsing in defence lie in adopting a piecemeal policy, or, still worse, in simply drifting. To play from move to move is obviously reprehensible but the tendency to drift is more insidious. In fact, we may be conscious that we are so doing and still continue to commit the crime. For crime it is and a sign of its importance and its ill effect on one's play lies in the undoubted fact that the great players rarely drift. This characteristic is, indeed, one way of distinguishing the great master from the ordinary player. There is no impression of drift in his moves; on the contrary, they fit into a logical pattern so as to form a deep plan that dominates the whole game.

Look at the games of the great players of the past – Alekhine, Capablanca, Lasker, Rubinstein, Steinitz, Morphy, and Anderssen – or of those of the present – Botvinnik, Keres, Tal, and Fischer – and you will realize how the formation of a correct plan forms the basis of all their winning attacks and accurate defences.

One can go even farther and point out that a really interesting game is not just a one-sided encounter in which one player's plan triumphs against a player without any; nor does it merely depend on two good players facing each other, but it does occur when you get two good plans clashing against each other, if one may be allowed to personify them. Crushing victories in under twenty moves soon begin to pall and the chief drawback in the collected games of such players as Anderssen and Morphy lies in the inferior nature of the opposition. The players they met went like lambs to the slaughter – sans plan sans everything.

In the international field nowadays most players are fully aware of the necessity of forming a plan; but they tend to err by virtue of the fickle nature of humanity. By this I mean that they will go astray through a fitful handling of the attack or of the defence. They will start on one plan, switch over to another that seems more attractive, and then, when it is too late, try to return to the original plan.

As a good example of this fits-and-starts policy consider the following game that was played in the Golden Sands Olympiad of 1962.

Already the nature of Black's plan has defined itself. He is prepared to allow White a certain pawn preponderance in the centre provided that in return he is able to concentrate on a counter-attack on the Queen's side: an excellent plan that has proved its worth in many a modern game and one that would work here too – always provided Black sticks to his plan.

Now White's plan is clear. He intends to utilize his pawn majority in the centre to make a thrust there; hence he recaptures with the BP rather than the KP so as to have in reserve the eventual advance of P ? K5. A basic rule in middle-game planning is that, other things being equal, the advance in the centre will have a more powerful effect than the advance on the flank. Readers should bear in mind my proviso of other things being equal since it covers, for instance, such cases where one side or the other has made some weakening move on the King's or Queen's wing which may be more immediately and severely punished by an advance on the wing in question.

The first change in plan. Black, lured away by the possibility of attacking White's K Bishop, neglects to follow the logical line of counter-attack on the Queen's side. He should have played 10.... Kt - B2, aiming at the advance of the QKtP, which can be carried out eventually by P - QR3 and R - QKt1.

White has not only mere development in mind with this move. If Black drives away the Bishop by P - KR3 and P - KKt4 then he will have weakened his King's side and driven the Bishop to a post from which it can aid the central pawn thrust of P - K5. There is also a more insidious notion in the move – it is designed to induce Black to change his plan yet once more.

And Black does exactly this; he forms a fresh plan with the idea of unpinning himself and then manoeuvring the QKt - Q2 so as to hold back the advance of White's KP. That this plan utterly fails is due to the waste of time caused by Black's constant change of plan.

All part of the plan of central advance. Now White is threatening to play P - K5 followed, if Black replies P × P, by P - Q6. Hence Black decides to return his Knight to KB3 so as to strengthen the King's side.

With this move Black deems that he has adequately guarded his K4 and prevented White's central advance. But now comes the logical follow-up of White's plan.

Desperation; but what else can Black do? If he plays 20.... P × P, then 21. P - Q6, threatening among other things Kt - Q5 is quite deadly.

A good illustration of White's theme – the central pawn advance. The plan has won through and it only remains to gather the fruits.

A case of too many plans spoiling the broth.


HOW TO FORM A PLAN

The reader may here ask: how does one form a plan in the first place? It is all very well talking of the dangers of too many plans, but what are the grounds upon which a single plan is formed, where in fact does the inspiration lie? To answer these questions I must first point out a fallacy that seems to govern all our textbooks on chess. According to these chess is divided into three watertight compartments: the opening, the middle game, and the ending, each phase being entirely divorced from the rest of the game. Naturally, this was not the original intention of the authors of our manuals on chess. Chess was so divided for convenience's sake, in order to make it easier to treat of each phase clearly and without embarrassing the student by making complicated references to the interrelation of the one phase with the other.

But there is no doubt that the process of separation has been pushed too far. It must be emphasized that one of the qualities of the game of chess that serves to make it at once more interesting and more difficult is the interrelation of the three main phases of play: opening, middle game, and ending. In playing the opening one has always to bear in mind what effect the way one handles the early part of the game will have on the middle game, and in conducting this latter phase one must equally consider how it will affect the ending.

Most books on the openings are positively dangerous for the development of the young and aspiring player since they ignore this important fact. What often happens is that your promising young player will memorize a variation that ends with a plus-minus in White's favour, and then expect the rest of the game to play itself. All the greater his disappointment and surprise when the game refuses to do any such thing; in no time at all his plus-minus becomes first an equals, then a minus-plus, and finally a dead loss. This is not to imply that a study of the openings is useless – far from it. But it must be undertaken in the awareness that the opening is directly followed by the middle game and that the choice of an opening variation will have an immense influence on one's plan of play in later stages in the game.

This plan in fact must arise naturally and logically out of the opening. Here is the clue to the methods one must use in forming a plan and the way one must develop this plan.

I have said that what sort of influence the opening will have on the middle game depends on the nature of the opening one chooses, and in this respect the pawn skeleton is of the utmost significance. From the pawn skeleton one can deduce what pieces can or cannot be developed easily, where the attack or counterattack can be delivered, and what sort of defensive system can be constructed.

Consider, for example, the half-open defences to the King's Pawn. The opening moves of these at once define the type of pawn skeleton for the whole game, and this in turn tells us a great deal about the kind of middle game that will result from the opening. The first few moves of the French Defence - 1. P - K4, P - K3; 2. P - Q4, P - Q4 - signify a clash in the centre where Black has already instituted a violent counter-attack. His plan will be to strike at the base of White's advanced centre, which may be Q4 or QB3 according to circumstances. White on the other hand will be using his advanced centre to aid him in an attack on the King and here he will also be helped by the fact that Black's pawn skeleton shuts in his QB, thereby depriving it of any real future.

In this respect, compare the Caro-Kann Defence. Here the Q Bishop is not shut in for Black, an advantage over the French Defence. There is, too, just as acute a clash in the centre as in the other defence, but the passive position of the pawn on QB3, where it deprives the Q Knight of its natural developing square, tends to produce a more defensive and passive type of game for Black than the French.

It is no exaggeration to say that Black's middle-game plan (his main one at any rate) is clear from the very first move in the Sicilian Defence: 1. P - K4, P - QB4. The bold counter-attack on White's Q4 shows that Black is, or should be, animated by a spirit of aggression from the very start. When, as nearly always occurs, White plays an eventual P - Q4 in order to gain control of this vital central square, Black will exchange off pawns and try for pressure along the QB file.

Switching over to the Queen-side openings we can readily see how the best defences there prescribe clear-cut and well-thought-out plans of play for the middle game. The most popular of late has been the King's Indian Defence: 1. P - Q4, Kt - KB3; 2. P - QB4; P - KKt3; 3. Kt - QB3, B - Kt2. Here Black's heart and soul must be concentrated in the effort to obtain pressure on the black squares and so enhance the value and scope of his K Bishop. His pawn will advance to Q3, thereby helping to solve the problem of the development of his other Bishop; and then will come another pawn thrust, either K4 or QB4, so as to increase the pressure already mentioned.

In quite a number of other defences to the Queen's Pawn, Black's plan (which is carried on into the middle game) lies in endeavouring to gain control of White's K4. Three main defences are of this type: the Nimzovich Defence, 1. P - Q4, Kt - KB3; 2. P - QB4, P - K3; 3. Kt - QB3, B - Kt5; the Queen's Indian Defence, 1. P - Q4, Kt - KB3; 2. P - QB4, P - K3; 3. Kt - KB3, P - QKt3, followed by the placing of the QB along the long diagonal; and finally the Dutch Defence, 1. P - Q4, P - KB4. This last defence has as its main plan the utilization of control of White's K4 to launch out on a dangerous attack against White's King. Here, however, the pawn skeleton reveals to us an inherent weakness; the fact that the KBP is placed immediately on a white square means that Black will experience considerable difficulty in developing his Q Bishop, and this in turn will make it difficult for him to develop his whole Queen's side.

So White's middle-game plan against the Dutch Defence positions consists largely in taking advantage of Black's bad QB and in frustrating his opponent's development of his Queen's side. As an illustration of the type of plan in this respect I give a game I played in a county match in 1962.

Already the outline of White's plan is visible; he places his KB on the long diagonal in order to make it as hard as possible for Black to develop his Q Bishop.

A case where the plan that Black has formed is insufficient. He attempts to attack on the King's side in an endeavour to utilize the aggressive nature of his pawn position there. But he is trying to do this without the aid of the Queen-side pieces and as a result White has little difficulty in repelling the attack. Better is 8.... P - QR4, in order to play Kt - QR3 and eventually Kt - QKt5.

An ignominious retreat; but after 11.... Q × Q; 12. KR × Q, QKt - Q2; 13. Kt - Q3, Black would still experience great difficulty in developing his Queenside pieces, while White would have a ready-made attack on that wing by Kt - QKt5 and P - B5.

It is necessary for White to divert the Black Bishop from its attack on Q4 in order to be able to advance in the centre with P - K4. This move would be bad if carried out at once on account of 17.... P - B3.

All part of White's plan for exploiting Black's inability to develop his Queenside pieces: the Rook that is developed, Black's K Rook, is to be exchanged, while White brings his own QR to bear on the King's side.

White was threatening to win the KB by P - R4 and this move gives it a square for retreat; but it also results in loss in material and 21.... Kt - K1 was essential, though even then the further progress of White's plan by 22. R - KB1, would leave Black miserably placed.

If 22.... B - K6 ch; 23. K - R2, B × P; 24. R - KB1, P - B3; 25. Kt × B, Kt × Kt; 26. Q - KB2, winning a piece.

Note that Black manages to develop this Bishop only when it is too late and the issue of the game is already decided. Also hopeless is 25.... Kt × B; 26. K × Kt, B - R3; 27. P - Kt5, B × P; 28. Kt × B, Q - Kt2; 29. K - R2, when White again wins a piece.

He loses yet another pawn after 30.... B × P; 31. B - B6.

Hardly any opening leaves such a clear-cut impression on the subsequent course of the game or dictates so much what policy one should adopt in the middle game as the Sicilian Defence. This applies both to the variation where Black fianchettoes his King-side Bishop or to the lines where he plays it to K2. In both cases he must pay particular attention to the black squares in the centre where both his strength and his weakness lie.

The point of this seeming paradox appears most clearly in the variation 1. P - K4, P - QB4; 2. Kt - KB3, P - K3. Black's plan springs very readily from the nature of the pawn skeleton. He has weakened himself to a certain extent on both Q3 and K4 by the single-square advance of the KP and must make sure that White does not obtain a firm hold on either or on both of these squares. Always bearing this in mind, he will group his pieces so that they aid him in countering White's pressure on these points and, as a counter-stroke, he will try to break through on the QB file where he has a ready-made battering ram in the shape of the pawn on QB4.

White, too, has problems in the centre. If he advances his KBP, as he must do if he wishes to gain a King-side attack, then his KP is liable to become weak, or, if not weak, then open to attack. If he plays the pawn to K5, then he must be sure that in so doing he does not weaken himself along the diagonal stretching from his KR1 to QR8. Quite often the Black QB will establish itself on this diagonal: at one fell swoop this piece, normally merely a hindrance, is converted to a grave menace.

Another usual and most vigorous plan for White in his furtherance of a King-side attack in this variation lies in the advance of his flank pawns on the King's side, more particularly the KKtP. Here, too, aggression must be nicely judged and timed. If White is not extremely careful he may suddenly find he has opened up the King's side to his opponent's advantage.

The two rival plans, White aiming at a King-side attack and Black striving for a breakthrough on the QB file, are well illustrated by the following game which I played in the Northern Open Tournament at Whitby, 1963.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from THE ART OF THE MIDDLE GAME by Paul Keres, Alexander Kotov, H. Golombek. Copyright © 1964 H. Golombek. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

While there are plenty of books dealing with chess openings, and no shortage of helpful volumes on the endgame, there are far fewer available on the all-important middle game. And yet, the middle game is one of the most challenging parts of the contest. It is then that the player has the chance to initiate long-range attacks and create defensive systems.
In this excellent study, two great grandmasters combine their talents in a masterly analysis of attack and defense in the middle game. Kotov was one of the great attacking players of the century, and in this book he has written an entire chapter devoted to the strategy and tactics of attacking the king. Conversely, Keres has contributed an outstanding and unconventional treatment of defense, showing how one can defend any position given the right spirit and understanding, no matter how hopeless it may seem.
The truth of Philidor's statement that "pawns are the soul of chess" is reflected in a helpful chapter in which Kotov demonstrates that the shape and configuration of pawns in the center have a vital bearing on the way one has to play the middle game. Finally, Keres takes up the difficult but rewarding topic of analysis, offering a practical and extremely thorough analysis of adjourned games, to reveal how a master's mind works and how one should analyze any given position.
In addition, there is an authoritative introduction by International Master and chess authority Harry Golombek, who has translated the volume. Brimming with insights and valuable strategic hints, The Art of the MiddleGame belongs in the library of every serious chess player.

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The Art of the Middle Game 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
EARTHBERRY More than 1 year ago
Whereas, the Opening sets the stage, an Endgame is only reached still afteryet when the Middlegame has set the stage, most games actually finish in the middlegame when it comes to advanced players. Often it is complained that the endgame is neglected, it is actually the study of the middlegame that is of the GREATEST SIGNIFICANCE when it comes to neglect!
"THE ART OF THE MIDDLEGAME" is the absolute best buy for the money in the MIDDLEGAME book arena! Nice practical examples are used by world class players (of the mid 1900s). There is no new THEORY being developed in chess for the middlegame (unlike openings). I also have enjoyed THE MIDDLEGAME IN CHESS by Euwe and for complete games with excellent middlegames in the majority of games (fantastic analysis unlike any other book on games) UNBEATABLE CHESS LESSONS and MORE UNBEATABLE CHESS LESSONS (get these for sure). ENJOY!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Written in descriptive notation (wish they would update it to algebraic, but since this book is written for Intermediate or for Advanced players, this should not be a biggie) 'Art of the Middlegame' will help you formulate a 'plan'. Actually written by several top notch Grandmasters taking on certain chapters, each one teaches what they consider to be important themes (ranging from defending a difficult position to strategy and tactics in attacking the King). Game Collection Books with good middlegames will go along well with this this book. Conclusion: If you are rated 1500+, want to improve your ability to plan, and don't mind descriptive notation 'The Art of the Middle Game' would make an excellent choice.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a classic work, and one of the best books written on some of the more common type of middlegame themes you are likely to come across in practical play. Studying books on the middlegame, tactics in general and going over well annotated complete games is a good way to improve your middle game - often a neglected part of study.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read Kotov's classic trilogy: Train Like a Grandmaster, Think Like a Grandmaster and Play Like A Grandmaster. And, I think that this book ought to be put on par with the trio of books that Kotov has written: it is a classic! The two chapters written by Paul Keres on 'defending' and 'the art of analysis' deserves praise as well. It shows Keres' penchant for details. Golombek's introduction serves as a useful guide to a not-so-good player like me before moving into more heavyweight stuffs written by Kotov and Keres. There is only one drawback though, the material written by Kotov was almost the same with those in his famous trilogy. Overall, it is a good book for those who wants to deepen their understanding of the middlegame!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am on page 34 and so far it's great #WhatGoodBook
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Written in descriptive notation (wish they would update it to algebraic, but since this book is written for Intermediate or or Advanced players, this should not be a biggie) 'Art of the Middlegame' will help you formulate a 'plan'. Actually written by several top notch Grandmasters taking on certain chapters, each one teaches what they consider to be important themes (ranging from defending a difficult position to strategy and tactics in attacking the King).
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you have already learned from good books on tactics, opening traps and are ready for to start adding some positional concepts to your game, then 'Art of the Middlegame' is a good way to begin. It is not a difficult book to grasp once you have an understanding of tactical concepts. Too many lower rated players jump into studying positional concepts before having a solid understanding of what should come first: Tactics.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book consists of very basic concepts explained in a complicated manner. Almost like saying, 'I need two units of hydrogen accompanied by one unit of oxygen to quench my dehyrdated system,' instead of saying 'I want water, I'm thirsty.' Waste of time unless you are horrible at chess and want to read a book that only experts would understand. No helpful diagrams, obsolete notation, and terribly outlined.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Any chess book that has the names Keres and Kotov are classics. Kotov is famous for his trilogy Think Like A Grandmaster, Play Like A Grandmaster, and Train Like A Grandmaster. Keres is famous for many things. Keres is the only world class player of the fifties and sixties that never got to play for the world's championship. This is because the Soviet machine told him they would kill his family if he tried to win the world's championship. He was bluntly told to throw games to Botvinnik thus helping Botvinnik win the world's championship. An American Grandmaster who was considered Keres equal decided not to participate in that farce of a world's championship. Ruben Fine's public cover story was that he had chosen psychiatry as his profession rather than chess. But privately the real reason was that Fine, much to his credit, wouldn't play because of the cheating by the Soviets. After Botvinnik won the title (and seemed to never be able to hold on to it) Keres had a plus score against Botvinnik. Later, one Robert J. Fischer claimed the Soviets were cheating by throwing games so he couldn't win the challenger's tournament. Fischer went into semi retirement after two bad performances in the challengers tournament. Most people said it was sour grapes but when Viktor Korchonoi defected and wrote a couple of books verifying Fischer's claim and making the Keres incident known to all the chess world we all saw what was going on. Chess took a real hit and had a black eye after that. Back to the book. This is required reading for any serious chess player but the casual player might also benefit from this book. Keres and Kotov at their best! Buy it! You'll like it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The ideas in this book are timeless and will not change down the line. So the fact that this book may appear to be 'dated' is not of importance. The only drawback is that for those not initiated in 'descriptive' notation, they will simply need to become initiated! Excellent examples forming a well-rounded balance of situations are provided in the ART OF THE MIDDLE GAME. The book is designed for the player just beyond the novice stage on up to average tournament level skill. This book isn't a 'tactics' problem book. You will learn about positional play as well. Often a neglected part of the game.