5

As a beginner playing against other beginners, I find that around moves 8-10 the centre of the board gets quite cluttered. I have a hard time finding good places to put my pieces and improve my position, they get in one another's way, and I often find my opponent threatening my pieces with mere pawns, forcing me into awkward moves I don't want to make.

I realise that part of this comes down to choice of opening, and perhaps I haven't read enough and played enough to get a better sense for which openings/defences lead to more open or closed games. I know there are literally hundreds of questions about openings for beginners (e.g. here, here, here, or here), however I'm still not sure which general features of openings tend to lead to more or less cluttered boards.

That said, what I'd really like to know is this: is a cluttered board, or a feeling of being cramped also a sign I am trying to develop too many pieces too quickly, or that I am being too hesitant to exchange pawns and pieces in the opening, or even just of a lack of imagination on my part, or anything else along these lines?

This happens both when I play with white and black. Typically with white I play e4, with black I'm less settled, though I favour ...e5.

Thanks in advance for any answers.

edit: Here is a sample opening. It's perhaps not wholly representative that there are no exchanges, but it's not surprising either. Beware: beginners playing here

[FEN ""]
1. e4 e6 2. Nf3 c5 3. Nc3 a6 4. b3 Nc6 5. Bc4 Nf6 6. d3 d6 7. O-O Bd7 8. Be3 Be7
  • 3
    It could help a lot if you can show a typical position or game. – user1583209 Dec 7 '16 at 8:49
  • Generally open game (1 e4 e5) leads to early pawn/piece exchange and leaves you with a less cluttered board. – jf328 Dec 7 '16 at 13:56
  • You really should show some of your games. Don't be afraid to show perhaps bad games. – Saeed Amiri Dec 7 '16 at 15:15
  • I've included an example, thanks everyone for the suggestion. I guess I was reticent to do so at first because the problem seems to arrive in various settings, and not with a single opening or defence. – s.willis Dec 7 '16 at 22:16
  • If it feels cluttered to you and you don't like it, then try exchange something early. For example here, 3. d4 would lead to a pair of pawns exchanged. – jf328 Dec 8 '16 at 8:59
1

I find that around moves 8-10 the centre of the board gets quite cluttered.

Typically (exceptions occur) around moves 8-10 you should have completed your development: you should have moved all or most minor pieces (i.e. ca 4-6 moves), should have moved a few pawns to occupy the center and to make space for developing the bishops (ca. 3-5 moves) and have castled (one move).

Yes, pieces and pawns tend to "clutter" in the center because it is an important part of the board and if you control the center you often have an advantage. This cluttering is not a bad thing and should affect both players equally.

I have a hard time finding good places to put my pieces and improve my position, they get in one another's way, and I often find my opponent threatening my pieces with mere pawns, forcing me into awkward moves I don't want to make.

Because there is so much going on in the center, there are often tactics available, particularly in more open positions. So studying tactics is highly recommended for a beginner (and also advanced) player. Closed positions tend to be quieter and are better if you like slow, maneuvering kind of games.

In either case, if you have completed development, (which you should around move 8-10), it is time for the middlegame and you should come up with a plan on how to proceed and also consider the plans of your opponent and if necessary prevent them. Finding plans is not something easy to learn and requires time and experience. I would recommend to start with analyzing the position and to check:

  • Are any pieces (mine or opponent) attacked?
  • Are there obvious tactics available?
  • Which pieces are well placed (lots of space to move around and attack something) and which not (little space to move and don't attack anything)?
  • Is the king safe? Typically with many pieces on the board you want it behind pawns on either side after castling.
  • Are there any weaknesses in the position such as isolated pawns?
  • Who owns the center?
  • Are there open or half-open files which are occupied or can be occupied by rooks?
  • Is the position open or rather closed? Who would benefit from changing it?

Check all of these items for both sides (you and your opponent). Based on the outcome of this evaluation you should come up with a plan. I ordered the questions in order of importance (exceptions occur), e.g. usually you want to deal with attacked pieces (if you lose/win material) first, before thinking of anything else.

I realise that part of this comes down to choice of opening, and perhaps I haven't read enough and played enough to get a better sense for which openings/defences lead to more open or closed games is a cluttered board, or a feeling of being cramped also a sign I am trying to develop too many pieces too quickly, or that I am being too hesitant to exchange pawns and pieces in the opening, or even just of a lack of imagination on my part, or anything else along these lines?

I don't think your problem is really related to open/closed positions but rather to a lack of experience of what is possible and knowledge of tactical motives.

For a beginner I would not recommend to worry to much about concrete openings and to study these. Instead I would play openings from general opening principles (occupy the center, develop pieces, ...) and focus on tactics and learning other themes like good bishop/bad bishop, open files (and what to do with them), undermining a closed center, etc.

1

Regarding the example.In principle this is a very normal position and I would not call it cluttered. Two points regarding white's opening play:

  • The move 4. b3 only makes sense if you want to develop your bishop to b2 (or to a3). The way you played it, b3 in combination with d3, you limit your bishop on c4 (which in fact would be lost if black played b5) and also you weaken the dark squares on the queenside (because there are no pawns on dark squares anymore).
  • Developing the bishop to c4 is often not a good idea if black has a pawn on e6. First of all the bishop has not much to attack there and second it invites black to play d5 or b5 (which black wants to play anyway), attacking the bishop a tempo. If you want to play such closed Sicilian structures, put that bishop on e2 or g2.

Ignoring for a moment that white is about to lose the c4 bishop, typical plans in positions like this (closed Sicilian):

Black will want to play on the queenside or in the center gaining space with moves like b5 or d5. White can consider making this difficult by playing a4.

White could think of playing on the kingside, particularly if black decides to castle short. Pushing pawns f4, g4, ... trying to mate the black king in the end could be a plan. Often this is safer to do if the center is fixed and not open.

1

My first chess book was How to Think Ahead in Chess by I. A. Horowitz and Fred Reinfeld. It was truly an amazing book because it focused on a simple opening with simple ideas. You knew where the pieces belonged. You knew the attack plan. This one book took me directly to USCF 1600s. It's out of print but it is worth gold if you can buy an used copy. FYI, it deals with the Stonewall Attack as White.

  • Does that book use algebraic notation or descriptive notation? – Christophe Strobbe Dec 8 '16 at 15:38
  • Descriptive... but as a complete beginner I didn't find it difficult to learn. Actually I could visualize better in my mind with descriptive notation. – ebann Dec 8 '16 at 15:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.