As this book is about the middlegame, it could hardly be for absolute beginners. When you make your first steps in studying chess, there is a good chance that initially you will be attracted by other subjects than intricate middlegame strategy. For instance, many interesting opening books and DVDs will be available for you, covering fashionable, tempting opening lines. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s great fun to play these in practice, and in due course it will hopefully teach you general things about the opening phase as well. Also, probably your eyes may fall on some instructive YouTube videos about the endgame, or you may even be attracted to a concise endgame manual and learn some basics. If it contains well-arranged material covering positions with a limited amount of pieces, this will easily allow you to pick up numerous instructive principles. This is very useful too, of course. Certainly you will be drawn into tactics when you start to be taken into chess. Lots of exercises are available on the internet, as well as in printed form. Apart from all this, chances are that some of you will install one of the easily available chess engines on your computer and experiment with it. If indeed you have done a bit of work and exploring in the diverse areas of chess, as described above, now this book will provide a next step to get acquainted with the game of chess, and will introduce you into the fascinating complexity of the middlegame. That is, with the help of clear patterns, which cover what will be considered basic knowledge by more advanced players.
Like in the preface of my book Improve Your Chess Pattern Recognition from 2014 (henceforth to be called IYCPR), I want to make two things clear right from the start. First of all, this book is definitely about pattern recognition, but there will be no such thing as a scientifically proper definition. The truth is, a proper definition can be rather diffuse, just like in current World Champion Magnus Carlsen’s statement from 2010, where he emphasized the importance of pattern recognition: ‘One of the most important things in chess is pattern recognition: the ability to recognise typical themes and images on the board, characteristics of a position and their consequences.’ (interview in the German magazine Der Spiegel) So before you is just a practical book, where in each and every chapter it will be clear to you which pattern is to be recognized in every example.
There is another important thing to point out: the book is about strategic patterns, not
tactical ones such as typical mate patterns. You may encounter some tactical patterns along the way, but generally you should pick those up from good books on tactics. Also, as the title says, this book deals mainly with the middlegame. So, strategic patterns in the middlegame it is!
As this book is designed for beginners, I have selected the more common and obvious patterns that underline the basic rules of the game. Whereas my two former pattern recognition books were partly based on previous columns I had written, this book has been written practically from scratch. To suit the purpose of the book, exceptions to the rules have been eliminated this time.
There are no strong knights on the rim in this book, and no more chapters about the possible strength of doubled pawns. On the contrary, in the first section, you will find a chapter on how to profit from the expected weakness of an isolated doubled pawn, or how to profit from a classically strong knight on d5. Where in Train Your Chess Pattern Recognition (TYCPR) you could find a chapter with examples where a king could surprisingly stay in the middle, here, in Chapter 1, you will learn about the more standard dangers involved here. So, perhaps this book should have been the first of the series. But things have gone differently, perhaps reflecting the unpredictable course of a game of chess.
Arthur van de Oudeweetering
Amsterdam, September 2018