One of the concepts you’ve certainly heard or come across in your studying is planning. It is something every coach teaches their pupils right from the start, albeit with different words. Each move has to have an idea is something each of us has heard before. And while the level of difficulty of this idea will change with our chess understanding, this is still the essence of the word “plan”.
A very popular saying among chess players is that “a bad plan is better than no plan at all”, so why is so important to always have a plan in mind when you make a move?
A chess game is not just a bunch of random moves played on a board. Victory does not come by chance. Just like in any other sport, you have to work towards “tricking” and outplaying your opponent. To do that, you’ll need to discover their weaknesses and find a way of using them – that is where planning comes in handy.
Planning is basically getting your pieces to work towards a common goal. By following a certain idea, your pieces will cooperate with each other. They won’t be placed purposeless around the board. When the pieces are coordinated and placed harmoniously, things will usually go in your favour when you are ready to strike and cash in on your advantage.
In order to come up with a plan, you’ll need to first assess the position. This is a very important and useful step. It helps you understand your weaknesses and advantages in the position and points out what you should be playing for.
A good assessment of the position will tell you if your position is better or worse and if you can press for an advantage or you should be careful and try to fix your position. It will tell you on which side to play on and what to play against. Basically, you will know what to do.
While the middlegame can take you to different paths, for example to sharp positions where planning won’t help and you’ll have to use your calculation skills, the situation is different in the endgame. Here, you will always need to have a plan in order to know how to approach different positions.
Looking for a plan will not only help you discover what you have to do in a position, but also what your opponent wants to do. Each side should play with a plan and, if you are able to guess your opponent’s, you can also try to find the best way to stop it or slow it down. Prophylaxis is a great weapon and you can only use it when you understand your opponent’s ideas.
When your opponent is not following the best plan in the position or is not playing according to the pawn structure, for example, you will know it and try to punish it. Knowing that something shouldn’t work in a certain type of position will give you the confidence you need to carry on with your ideas.
Some positions should be approached with calculation, while others can be played by concepts. This is an important idea to understand and the first part of creating a plan – assessing the position will usually help you figure it out.
Doing a short assessment of the position could help you save time. If the position is wild and full of tactical ideas, you can go ahead and calculate your possibilities. However, if the position is solid and quiet, the calculation part can only be limited to a few moves, to make sure you’re not blundering anything. Otherwise, carrying on with the logical moves of your plan is probably the answer.
One last thing to remember is that planning doesn’t mean figuring out the game until the end. They are usually stages you go through during the game and they will change with the changes that happen in the position. Plans can be short (2-3 moves) or long; again, this depends on the position you’re in.
IM Boroljub’s Finding the Winning Plan applies his long experience in strong tournaments, as well as distilling the cream of his chess research findings, systematically training you in all of the middlegame planning methods used by masters of the past and present.