I am a recreational chess player. I have read in many books and articles that the centre of the board is important. I would like to have a correct and thorough answer as to why this is so.
I have heard arguments like ' A piece can attack more squares from the center.' But this answer can also be countered by saying that a piece can also be attacked from different directions if it is at the center so it would also make it more vulnerable at the center.
I have heard some other vague answers like ' Having pawns at the centre creates obstacles for the opponent.' , but pawns generally anywhere create obstacles for the opponent, maybe a little bit more so at the center but this does not seem to justify the level of importance given to this.
Personally I use central openings mainly because it is an easy way to get the bishops out but the importance given to these openings in the literature seem to be quite more than just this one fact.
Can anyone give me an in-depth and thorough answer?
This is chess basics. Chess is a game about control of the board, leading to victory, not a game about a secret nuke thrown from an unexpected corner. An enemy doesn't win the war surrounded by the enemy, because there's simply too much enemy territory to attack, gain and control. Control of the center is one of the most basic principles of chess strategy; there is no discussion if it's wrong or right, let alone that it's only people simply repeating each other.
If the chess world - both its amateurs as well as its full time pros - had found out it to be different, we no doubt would see that in grandmaster games today. We don't. This basic principle is always at the basis of a win.
You give the most important answer yourself. Set up an empty chess board and place a piece or a pawn in the center. Now count how many squares it can move to. Do the same at the edge of the board. It's mobility, pawn structure and control of squares. Occupying or controlling a square in the center, e.g. with a pawn, will give you the opportunity to place a piece in the center and control your own and enemy territory. At the edge of the board you have a simple, spatial limitation: you can't get over the edge so you always have to move your pieces away from the edge before progressing to the other side. It's chess abc.
Controlling squares is not something you do in one move. If that would have to be the case, you might be right. But slowly consolidating territory will gain you important and active squares and lead to victory. The center is the most logical place to start, as you need the least moves and pieces to control the most squares at once.
An in depth an thorough answer comes from a few centuries of top chess and top analysis. If both theory and practice are in concordance, there's no need to doubt it. Simply use it to your advantage - or ignore it to your opponent's advantage.
In patzer chess we sometimes can bluff our way with unconventional moves and development, but if your opponent is strong enough and recognizes your bluff, he'll make a quick meal of you. :)