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This “60 Minutes” is aimed at providing the reader with a guide to positional and strategic play in the middlegame. Tarrasch wrote “Before the endgame, the gods have placed the middlegame”, but the quote is more widely known as “Between the opening and the endgame, the gods have placed the middlegame.” This refers to the different degrees of complexity of the game phases. In the opening and in the endgame, the rules are easier to understand, plus there is an ever-growing vault of theoretical knowledge. The middlegame, however, is much broader and frequently spans unknown territory. Going through the many strategic examples that I have examined over the years; I have identified the following essential rules:
1 Before initiating the concrete phase of your main plan, one must be sure that all pieces and pawns are in the right places. One needs to have a sense whether one of the pieces (including modest pawns, and even the king) need relocating to achieve full harmony.
2 On the way to the situation mentioned above, it is desirable to utilise multi-purpose moves, allowing one to switch plans, depending on the opponent’s reaction. It is more difficult to defend against a combined threat than an individual one.
3 When facing one or more concrete threats, one should follow Steinitz’s recommendation, referring to the economy of means. The first step is identifying the real threats and discarding the illusory ones. One should parry it (or them) without spoiling our own coordination and harmony. The most desirable situation is to parry the threats by indirect means, by playing a move that is part of our global plan, irrespective of the opponent’s intentions.
All the rules above can be grouped under a unique category: the aim of reaching and maintaining full harmony, or perfect coordination.