August 12, 2016

What exactly should you do in the middlegame?

  • Grand Master Igor Smirnov, Chess Coach, Author and Publisher.

    designNow, let me ask you a question: what EXACTLY should you do in the middlegame?


    Well, in the opening stage, it’s pretty simple – you choose the right opening for you, memorize the opening variations and just play them. Later, you reach a complex middlegame position with plenty of possibilities and have this big question in front of your eyes: what am I to do next?
    what next

    Suggestion: if you don’t know the best chess openings or how to pick one for yourself, learn from our lesson here.


    If we think about this deeply, it’s not that you don’t know what to do. You might remember many rules and ideas on chess; that’s why, in a practical game, you have a hard time choosing what EXACTLY to do in the middlegame?


    Let me give you a practical example. :)
    middlegame chess

    White to play


    Imagine you are playing with the White pieces in the above position. The opening stage is just finished now and this is a typical middlegame position. How would you proceed?


    Should White place his bishop(s) on a better diagonal? Should he manoeuvre the e2-knight with Ng3-Nf5? Can White bring his rooks to the open file? If so, which one – the c-file or e-file?


    That’s a lot of possibilities, right? So, how to figure out the best one? That’s why I’ve prepared a lesson where I’ll provide you with one simple yet very powerful and must-know rule about middlegame plans. :) I’ll also share with you the complete middlegame play system.


    Watch the video lesson below:



    P.S. Did you like the lesson? :) Please write your thoughts about it in the comments below. And, most importantly, don’t forget to pre-register for the complete course “Winning the Middlegame” here.
    • Ronald Ribman

      This lesson is, like pretty much all your lessons, practical, to the point, and immensely helpful. Unfortunately, because your new course is not available for Mac computers, I won’t be able to buy it.

      • Igor Smirnov

        Hi Ronald,

        I’m glad to know you enjoyed the lesson.

        I don’t use Mac myseft but I know that Mac users do study my courses using various ‘tricks’ like “boot camp”, “parallel desktop” etc. I do agree though that it’s an extra hassle, sorry about that.

        Thanks for all your feedback!

    • ayush

      dear sir i had liked all your video lessons and they are fantatastic i hope this is gona bee hit course.dear igor i had talked to you all the timess through net therefore not attending your latest q and answer had all my answer please give indian student this course a t less cost

      • Igor Smirnov

        You are always active in the net, but when it’s time to show up in an event – everyone comes, except for Ayush. Still can’t forgive you for not coming to my Indian seminar :)

        • ayush

          dear igor i had come into your events earlier but only on fb and you clear all my doubts at once.and i didnot hav account on hotmail.therefore i wasn’t able to come.i will surely buy your new course and study it properly i promise thanks for time

        • ayush

          dear igor what next are you planning to do in future.??nearly say in 1 month or 2.??thanks.please collarborate with site gms like jan gustaffson and mark produce some new series.

          • RCA_moderator

            Hi Ayush,
            Thank you for suggestions. We would love to collaborate with quality chess coaches. We will keep you updated about Igor’s plans through our blogs.

            Support Officer

            • ayush

              thankyou so much sir.vairious world top elite supergms collarborated with to produce outstanding series igor can also do the same .it would be of great help

    • ayush

      it is just superb work from you dear igor.

    • Mathieu Rodi

      At 10 min i was thinking about Rc8 placing the rook on the most active position and if Bxd7 Kxd7 c4 does not work because of Rxc4. Do you think it’s a good idea?

      • Igor Smirnov

        Hi Mathieu,

        Rc8 does make sense for sure, because it goes in line with the general concept of bringing rooks into play.

        In the line you provided, indeed, White can’t play c4. But what if White plays c4 right away, in reply to Rc8?

        • Mathieu Rodi

          I forgot to calculate all the attacking moves for my opponent ;) I need to apply the thinking process in every situation :)

    • Chris Bazzle

      Grandmaster Smirnov:
      Here’s a video I made of a possible continuation of your first example.
      In this hypothetical situation, black resigns because cannot stop checkmate without giving up the black queen.

      • RCA_moderator

        Hi Chris,
        GM Igor has a busy schedule.
        Thanks for making this good and create video of the variations.

        Prasaadh | Support Officer

    • Lovro Glavina

      Hello Mr. Igor!
      I studied your courses Grandmaster’s Secrets and Your winning plan, and using these courses it was pretty easy for me to find the solution. :)
      So, in the first example, the way I found the solution is using your thinking system you gave us in Grandmaster’s secrets course.
      The opening stage has finished, and now white needs to compose a plan and realize what does he have to do in the middlegame in GENERAL, while at the same time, basic strategic principles guide me to find concrete moves.
      If you can play in the center – do it! This is also a static center. The rooks should definetely go c and e lines, the knight has potential route like g3-f5(maybe we dont use it, but it’s a possibility), the dark squared bishop can also reach a good square on its diagonal like h4… Anyways, first things first. Principle of the least active piece tells us we need to activate the rooks first. So Rac1 is very natural move. Also I’d like to mention that I don’t quite agree with what you said in the course Grandmaster’s Secrets, which is that are plans always need to be CONCRETE(first we’ll do this, then that, then will capture something…) How do you find a CONCRETE plan here, in this example(the first one in the video)? We know where are pieces are feeling cozy and good, but we still don’t know what EXACTLY in the order are all of those pieces GOING TO DO. In other words, how do we pursue all our pieces towards ONE, or at least, towards accomplishing SAME goal. So, all our pieces, how do they accomplish the same goal? Not clear. Plans in the middlegame should be rather, just seeing in general what should be happening, what is the general flow of the position and what squares do pieces want. Afterwards, we get a clear picture of what is going to happen within next 10-15 moves, which understanding will make our play powerful. Then we just need to carry out the plan, and the strategic principles will help us to do it in right and correct order :)
      What do you think Igor?

      Best Regards.

      • RCA_moderator

        HI Lovro,
        It’s that you found the solution.
        GM Igor has a busy schedule so let me help you.

        Your understanding about Igor’s and your approach to find moves based on principle of least activity are very good.

        Regarding concrete plans: I believe Igor said “During the game we should think about the position in general first, then start to calculate concrete variations”

        Prasaadh | Support Officer

        • Lovro Glavina

          Thanks for your reply :)

          Kind regards,

      • Igor Smirnov

        Hi Lovro,

        Firstly I’m impressed by your diligent study of the courses. It’s nice to see your deep strategic understanding of chess, and let me congratulate you with this achievement!

        It’s a bit amusing coincidence that the questions you’ve asked is exactly the topic of the new course “Winning the Middlegame”. If you got the course already, you’ll see that in fact there are not that many plans that are possible in chess. Knowing those plans, you can spot the plan in most of positions easily.

        Additionally, there may be a few STAGES of your plan. For instance, at the very beginning of a chess game you can’t formulate the plan specifically till the end, but you should understand it in general, and formulate at least the 1st stage of this plan. For an opening, such ‘stage’ of a plan is the 3 main opening tasks. It’s very specific.

        Once again, you are doing great work in mastering chess strategy and I’m sure your results will go up soon. Keep it up!

        • Lovro Glavina


          First of all, thanks for all the kind words, I really appreciate the fact these are the actual Grandmaster’s words :) The fact that these questions are discussed in your new course make me want to buy it really hard :D , so I am really considering it. Also, thanks for the explanation on my question. :)
          Also, can I ask a quick question regarding your courses? In youtube comments, your AMAs, in comments on this website and so on I am oftenly afraid to ask something regarding the ideas in your courses and I’m not sure if i should ask or not. Because I am afraid that I will expose the ideas from paid courses.

          Please keep up the great work you’re doing with your courses and lessons in general. ;)

          • Igor Smirnov

            Hi there,

            Thanks for your nice words and support!

            You are always welcome to ask questions. Whenever I have some free time, I answer those questions myself. If I’m busy, one of my teammates from RCA will help you. Those guys work with me for years and know the subject very well.

            In regards to your concern, you may simply formulate the question without going too much in details, and in this way you will not disclose the inner content of the courses.

            Finally, I plan future lessons and paid courses based on the students’ questions. Therefore while asking a question you encourage us to create future lessons about the given topic.

            • Lovro Glavina

              Hi there

              Glad to see such answer. So if I may, I’d like to ask you one question regarding one of your techniques from not only your courses but lot of youtube videos. And this is: checking the forcing moves, replies by method of dividing the board on your and opponent’s territory and looking at forcing moves on opponents territory. But what about cases, when someone can make a strong attacking move that even wins by going BACKWARDS, but attacking opppnents territory from distance. This is may see rare, but it still happens pretty oftenly.
              So, is your method then incorrect?

            • RCA_moderator

              HI Lovro,
              This is a very interesting question. Chess is a very complex game and it is impossible to have general rules for everything. But if you see in general chess literature most of the time there is no attempt to make things simpler to understand. That is what GM Igor is doing in his videos and courses. Whenever you make things simpler and direct. It may not work all the time. But the above point is still a good guideline for practical chess games

              Prasaadh | Support Officer

    • Islam Casper

      here the weak square is potentially f5 therefore we have to occupy it the knight is the best for that and there are color complex on g7,h6 and f6 therefore we can play Bh4 also f7,e6 are weakens we should put R on e1 to put pressure on e6 and weaknesses light square and safety of king

      • RCA_moderator

        Thanks for your suggestion. Yes, there is specific characteristics in this position. GM Igor wanted to point out that chess players start executing their plans before fully developing their rooks. These examples help illustrate that point.

        Prasaadh | Support Officer

    • Islam Casper

      second example ( video ) i think Re1 Bb5 and Ne5 Re1 first to prevent e6-e5 and liberate the game

    • Islam Casper

      the third example the d7 square is weak because pin and threatening push pawn to c4 otherwise Rc8 to prevent c4 or a6 is the best

      but Rc8 not the best because he can play c4 anyway therefore Rd8 is the best

      • RCA_moderator

        Thanks for the analysis. It’s great.

        Prasaadh | Student Support Officer

    • Dennis

      Amazing course very good , first lessen about the attack and winning more games its great, how can I master this skill automatic this skill ? train it ?

      There is no practical part of the first lesson in the course.

      I go slow to the course studdy seriously, first wanne master the first lesson topic then the rest.

      • Igor Smirnov

        Hi Dennis,

        It’s nice to hear from you again!

        Thank you for your feedback about the new course!

        The 1st lesson contains a very universal guide, hence you’ll follow it in many of the practical tasks you will perform (even when those tasks relate to another topic). For instance, the practical task 2 is quite closely relevant to the video lesson 1 as well.

        If you want to go in depth about the attack topic, you may check the lesson about it from the course “How to Beat Titled Players”. Since you are a long time student, you may own that course already. If not, no problem – just continue with “Winning the Middlegame”.

        Your diligent training will definitely bring you improvement and rating points. Keep it up!

        • Dennis

          you’re welcome :) Thanks
          you so much for you’re reply and advice , I have the great course How to Beat Titled Players , I will studdy the lesson about attack again and refresh my mind :)

          For me you’re course are the best they are fantastic.

          I have one request , when you have some time , please can you make a webinar about how to play like Kasparov he is my favorite chess player.

          He is the greatest chess player ever , I know some things about him he is a great opening player , a great black player , a bad endgame player but still won many endgames in a great style.

          I wanne play like Kasparov and understand his style of playing , and know his secrets :)

          Thank you in advance.

    • Fay Kelley

      Wow, the beginning of your commentary rung so true. So many possibilities!

      All of the various pieces calling out “Play me! Play me!” LOL

      I had to put the video on pause to comment upon how that has struck me so many times, “What to play, what to do?” Back to the video. Thank you so much for all the wonderful free advice you provide us !!!

      • Igor Smirnov

        You are welcome! :)

        Thanks for your nice comments!

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