The concept of the Center of Gravity (CoG) developed by Carl von Clausewitz is a powerful war-fighting tool that can also be applied in chess.

It’s a practical method for determining a specific, most critical target in the opponent’s position to attack. Thus, CoG gives your war-campaign efforts more focus and increasing chances for a success.

The CoG is the source of power that creates a force, or a critical capability that allows an entity to act or accomplish a task or purpose.

Samuel Bak, Sheltering Myths, 1998. Finding the Center of Gravity: How strong was this center? Maybe too much, as it seemed to implode!

The CoG and the CoB

Essential to understanding the CoG are critical factors.

The critical capability generates force. In chess it is power to perform an action possessed by pieces .

Critical requirements are essential for a critical capability to be fully operative. The center of the board (CoB) is one such key requirement. For pieces stationed there have increased fighting potential in terms of superior activity and mobility. The center is a decisive point, an area of the chessboard that, when acted upon, allows the player to gain a marked advantage over the adversary to achieving success. Or it may be that opening of d-file is critical for success of your campaign.

Another CR is coordinated effort of pieces. They must establish a certain degree of unity and cohesion through mutual contacts. “It’s all about a teamwork, or division of labor, or as Tal’s trainer Koblenz put it, it’s a wonderformula in chess,” (want to thank to William van Zanten for his contribution on piece cooperation here and on LinkedIn.)

One can apply the CoG only where such interdependence exists (without it, you are facing just a horde of individual warriors easy to handle.) May I remind you that it’s imperative for you to coordinate the action of your troops, as this is “a main principle that runs throughout,” Capablanca.

How do you discover a CoG? Sun Tzu gives a hint, “Know the enemy and know yourself.” You as a commander-in-chief need to know how your and the opponent’s army operate and determine strengths and weaknesses on both sides. Using a holistic approach, you need to identify a critical vulnerability, a component vulnerable to attack or disruption. Focus your effort against the opponent’s CoG, while protecting your own. Finally you decide on the plan of action (attack, neutralization, or any operation that diverts, disrupts, delays, or destroys the enemy’s potential against your army.)

Basically, the CoG is always found where the mass and power are concentrated most densely.

The above clearly shows how the CoG is closely related to the CoB and the cooperative action of pieces.

Strategic importance of the CoB

To wrap up, let’s take a look at the strategic relationship between the critical capability, or power of pieces to act (attack, defense) and the center of the board as promised last time.

We saw then that in order to achieve strategic objectives you must act from the position of strength, to be able to attack. For that, you need to construct a solid structure in the middle of the board.

There are two main approaches here:

  1. Center occupation by pawns (or less often by pieces),
  2. Pressure toward the center from sidelines (without a direct confrontation, in a hypermodern fashion, sort of guerrilla war keeping the opponent’s center immobile, chipping away on it here and there)

By getting your troops out toward the center to build up a strong point, you do two important things strategy-wise:

1) in defensive terms, the center is a wall against the enemy attack — this supports the first principle of strategy laid down by Sun Tzu, which is to stall the enemy plans, to put the brake on them, to limit their options; if one side controls most of the important squares in the center, it will be increasingly difficult for the other side to develop their pieces to meaningful locations; domination of one player in the center almost always rules out activity by the other,

2) in attacking terms, the strong point creates preconditions for a future expansion and breakthrough in the center with an offensive at the moment when your troops has reached an optimal level of coordination; an advantage in the center almost always allows an attack to be obtained, whether in the center itself, or on one of the flanks; if that thrust goes through the middle, then the second most important principle of strategy may be seen in vivo – breaking the coordination of enemy forces, here by cutting them in two.

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Center your efforts toward the Centers, the CoG and the CoB, for best results, guaranteed!

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“Chess is a terrible game. If you have no center, your opponent has a freer position. If you do have a center, then you really have something to worry about!”  Dr. Tarrasch

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