|The Center Game is a chess opening that begins with the moves|
- 1.e4 e5
- 2.d4 exd4
Black´s next move is almost always 3...Nc6, developing with a gain of time due to the attack on the White Queen.
The Center Game is an old opening. Mostly abandoned by 1900 because no advantage could be demonstrated for White, Mieses, Tartakower, and Spielmann, seemed to be the last strong players who would adopt it. Following World War I, the Center Game was rarely played by elite players, until Morozevich and Shabalov revived it in the 1980s. Later, Shirov, Adams, and Judit Polgar also contributed to the theory of the Center Game by forcing reevaluation of lines long thought to favor Black.
White succeeds in eliminating Black´s e-pawn and opening the d-file, but at the cost of moving the queen early and allowing Black to develop with a gain of time with 3...Nc6. In White´s favor, after 4.Qe3, the most commonly played retreat, the position of the White queen hinders Black´s ability to play ...d5. The bank rank is cleared of pieces quickly which facilitates queenside castling and may allow White to quickly develop an attack. From e3, the White queen may later move to g3 where she will pressure Black´s g7-square.
After 1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4,
The Danish Gambit in which White offers a pawn with 3.c3 is considered a separate opening.
Postponing recapture of the queen pawn is a standard idea in the Center Counter Defense (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd5 Nf6), but 3.Nf3 is very rarely played in the Center Game. Black can safely transpose to the Scotch Game or the Petrov´s Defense, or play a line recommended by Alekine, 3...Bc5 4.Nxd4 Nf6 and now 5.e5 would be met with 5...Qe7.
The Halasz Gambit (3.f4?!) is another rare try. Although the move dates back to at least 1840, it has been championed more recently by the Hungarian correspondence chess player Dr György Halasz. The gambit seems dubious but it hasn´t been definitely refuted.
The nearly universal sequence of moves in the Center Game is 3.Qxd4 Nc6. Now White has a choice of retreat squares for the queen. Although 4.Qa4 corresponds to a fairly commonly played variation of the Scandinavian Defense (1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc6 Qa5), it is rarely played in the Center Game because tournament experience has not been favorable for White in this line.
The best move for the queen seems to be 4.Qe3. Black usually continues 4...Nf6 when a typical line continues 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Bd2 0-0 7.0-0-0 Re8. Black also seems to get a good game with 4...g6, and 4...Bb4+ has been played successfully as well.