Planning in Chess

Planning in Chess

Two equally strong armies have gathered on opposite sides of the river. One commander evaluates the pluses and minuses of his and the enemy’s armies’ dispositions, comes up with a plan while taking into account possible counter-attacks, and chooses the correct time to launch an attack. The other couldn’t care less about all this and just relies on the strength of his troops. The outcome of the battle is rather predictable, isn’t it? In chess the same things happen all the time. A player who simply makes the moves he likes and hopes to win by random tactics usually succumbs to the opponent who has a plan behind his moves.

A plan is a set of interconnected actions performed on the board, and an essential component of each chess game. Based on the evaluation of the position, it helps one play on, find the right moves, save time and energy. Following a plan is important at all stages of the game, especially in the endgame.

As I have already mentioned, a plan depends heavily on the evaluation of the position. At this stage the first difficulties occur. Some positions are easy to evaluate, some are quite challenging. That is especially true for crazy irrational situations where the trickiest nuances may change everything, and relying on basic strategic and tactical principles isn’t enough. Speaking of the latter, there are a couple standard positions (“lighthouses”) that one should be aware of: weak squares, hanging and badly located pieces, pawn advantage, interaction of pieces, etc. The more proficient the player, the more details he sees in each position, and the better he/she feels which ones are the most critical at a certain point.

After the position has been evaluated, one should create a plan. That is, a goal and actions needed to attain it. For example, your opponent may have a weak central square (just like d5 often is in the Sveshnikov). The goal could be to get hold of it, actions – relocate the figures to the center and try to capture the square. Or, another case, your pieces are aiming at the opponent’s king. In this case you may want to try to initiate an attack. The actions will consist of advancing pawns and getting your pieces closer to the opponent’s king, preventing counter-threats, eliminating the king’s pawn shield.

The plan should be realistic, possible to implement. One shouldn’t plan something the opponent can quickly prevent. It’s also very important to remember there are two players in the game and watch out for your partner’s activities. If his threats are superior to yours, you should neutralize his plan first and only then, when there is no danger, perform your own plan. For instance, you are attacking the enemy’s king, and he/she comes back with a mighty counter-attack in the center. His/her counter-attack looks very dangerous, so you have to switch your attention and forces to neutralizing it and only then proceed with your own ideas. Or, on the contrary, there are some quiet positions when both partners have a lot of time to improve the location of the pieces. You may go on with your plan, but also still keep your opponent’s actions in mind.

During the game the position and its evaluation usually changes a few times. New opportunities and threats appear. One should react adequately and modify his/her plans in accordance with the changes. To sum it all up, here is an algorithm:

  1. Evaluate the position
  2. Create a plan based on the evaluation
  3. Prophylactics: consider your opponent’s plans and decide what should be done: neutralize them or proceed with your own plan
  4. Modify the plan in accordance with the position (in most top-level modern games there is no THE plan – from move 1 to last – you have to come up with new ideas along the way)

If the plan comes from the essence of the position, ignoring it may be disastrous, as you could see in that game. It is one of the examples that prove how important it is to pay attention to chess planning and stick to your plan during the game.

As you can see, White has opted for a plan to centralize and attack the black king. Black didn’t play accurately enough, so White could have put a serious pressure on her opponent. However, my opponent deviated from her plan due to time trouble and reached a more or less equal endgame. Had she not made a mistake later on, the game would have been drawn.