Mistrust is the most necessary characteristic of a chessplayer

Making Plans

What is a chess plan? Ask any number of chess players if they know what a chess plan is, or if they have a plan when they start out playing chess and you may get the reply that they don't use any plans, they just play chess. Although every chess instructor praises planning and say you should use one, few bother to tell us what a plan is and more importantly, how to create one.

Planning is the process by which a player utilizes the advantages and minimizes the drawbacks of his position.

In order to promise success, planning is thus always based on a diagnosis of the existing characteristics of a position; it is therefore most difficult when the position is evenly balanced, and easiest when there is only one plan to satisfy the demands of the position. To define the word plan does not necessarily mean that we know how to create one in an actual game. This calls for the ability to recognize the existing characteristics of a position. To successfully penetrate into the mysteries of the chess board you have to be aware of the magic word of chess, and that word is,


An imbalance in chess denotes any difference in the two respective positions. An imbalance could ba a weakness in your opponents pawn structure, for example. To think that the purpose of chess is solely to checkmate the opposing King is much too simplistic. The real goal of a chess game is to create an imbalance and try to build a situation in which it is favorable for you. An understanding of this statement shows that an imbalance is not necessarily an advantage. It is simply a difference. It is the player's responsibility to turn that difference into and advantage.

Here are the different imbalances you should look for:

1. Superior Minor Piece. The interplay between Bishops and Knights
2. Pawn Structure. A broad subject that encompasses doubled pawns,
   Isolated pawns, passed pawns, pawn centers, pawn chains, backward 
   pawns, isolated pawn pair, hanging pawns, weak squares, etc.
3. Space. The annexation of territory on the chessboard.
4. Material. Owning pieces of greater value than your opponent.
5. Control of a key file of square. Files and diagonals act as pathways
   for your pieces, while squares act as homes.
6. Lead in development. More force in a specific area of the board.
7. Initiative. Dictating the tempo of a game.

Now that we know what the different imbalances are, we now have a basis for making a plan. We now break down our thinking in a way that allows us to dissect any particular position for its positive and negative values.

Here are the stages of any thinking technique that enables us to accomplish this.

1. Figure out the positive and negative imbalances for both sides.
2. Figure out which side of the board to form a plan for and on which side 
   has the greatest advantage for your plan to become successful, where a 
   favorable imbalance or the possibility of creating a favorable imbalance exists.
3. Make up several positions you would like most to achieve.
4. Now we have prime candidate moves that we can calculate for the best position.

Remember this is not just a plan to develop your pieces. This is a plan that you can make to develop your forces around it based on the most important imbalances you found, and your going to make a candidate move. Never mindlessly develop and expect to find a plan at some point later in the game.

Endgame Planing

Lets look at a Candidate Passed Pawn for an example.

A candidate move could begin with the concept of pawn majorities for example. A healthy pawn majority can produce a passed pawn. In a given majority, the pawn that can become passed is the candidate move. It is the candidate move because no pawn blocks its path, though enemy pawns can restrain its advance from adjacent files by guarding squares along its path. Not all candidates are equal in value. Generally, the more distant it is from the enemy king, the better. If you can exchange pawns and also shift the candidate further away from the enemy King, do so. Your advancing pawn there becomes more of a threat. Suppose White and Black are castled on the Kingside and that White has a queenside majority of two pawns versus one. White's pawns occupy the b and c file. White's candidate move should be on the b file, further away from the Black King. That means the Black King can't reach the pawn one move sooner. That one move could have made the difference between winning and losing!

However because of lack of planing the Black King was allowed to advance to c4 and will now capture the pawns.

If you did not bother to make a plan previously to see this happening and include in your plans a way to prevent this from happing you will have been negligent and must suffer the consequences of your lack of action towards this disaster.

Making plans for a Passed Pawn

You have a passed pawn and a rook. Your opponent counterattacks with a rook. The pawn needs support along its route to queening. Though rooks can work in front of or alongside pawns, they work best from behind, for several reasons. A rook behind the pawn protects it as it advances. The enemy rook may try to lock the pawn's path, especially the promotion square, but rooks by themselves are poor blockaders, so this only signals doom for the defending rook. Moreover, as the pawn marches up the board, the mobility of the rook behind it increases as the scope of the rook in front decreases.

Change places: You're the defender now. It's still preferable to get your rook behind the pawn. It's folly for the attacking rook to guard the pawn's path in front, for eventually the pawn reaches the seventh rank blocked by its own rook on the eight rank. Unless the obstructing rook moves away with a gain of time, that is, by making a serious threat, it abandons the pawn to the enemy's rook positioned behind it. Defending a passed pawn from the side is no better. Since the rook guards the pawn but not the squares in the pawn's path, the pawn advances with out support.

Previously you should have saw the imbalance of this pawn structure and you should have followed the plan of looking for the positive and negative values of this position. You then could have made a plan for a candidate move. That candidate move would have been to get a rook behind the pawn and defend it with the support of your other pieces.

The most important thing in the middlegame is calculating variations, while in the endgame, when the chessboard has cleared, planing becomes crucial. One should work out a plan and try to carry it out. Depending on a situation on the board, the plan may be changed, or even replaced by a new one, but in any case a chess player should always be guided by a plan. Playing with out planning is always punished.

* Middlegame Planning

There comes a point in the vast majority of games when your acquired knowledge will be exhausted and you will have to rely on your own resources. This point normally arises in the early middlegame. The next step is to formulate a plan.

1. Make sure your plan is beneficial. There is no point aiming for a
   target that does not actually enhance your position.Typical
   misguided plans are: Attacking on the wrong part of the board;
   aiming for the exchange of the wrong pieces, committing your self
   to weakening pawn advances.
2. Make sure your plan is realistic. There is no point in embarking on
   a five-move plan if your opponent can wait for the first four moves,
   and then stop your plan by playing one move himself. 
3. Make sure your plan is not tactically flawed. Even if what your are 
   aiming for is worthwhile, this will not help if your opponent can 
   mate you while your are executing it.
4. At all times you should be ready to change your plan or at the very
   least,make adjustments to it
Let's use an example here.
Lets say you are playing a game and note that your opponent's position is not too threatening and that he has a weak pawn on b6.
You also see that the b and g files are half-open and that all other files are closed. Two things are of great importance here:

1. your opponent has a weakness on b6
2. Rooks belong on open or half-open files.

So what kind of moves should you look for?
What would the candidate moves be?

Clearly, you must get your rooks into the battle and you must also try and generate pressure against your opponent's weakness on b6.
Thus the only moves you would address should have something to do with these key points.

Though we are playing with out a position in mind, you almost certainly want to double your Rooks on the b file, the g file has nothing to do with the weakness on b6, because that mixes both plusses at the same time, playing on a file and attacking b6.
In other words, any candidate move would have to begin this doubling operation.

Note that this imaginary position allowed us to make easy use of the points above about using the imbalances.

We decided to play on the side of the board where our favorable imbalances resided, we were able to find the proper candidate moves, moves designed to make use of the imbalances and we were only ready to calculate after we carefully considered the positions possibilities.

* Understanding Pawn Weaknesses

Sometimes an imbalance can be created by a simple exchange. If you take an opponents Bishop or Knight with one of your Bishops or Knights and he retakes with a pawn, he may have created a weakness in his pawnstructure with a doubled pawn, isolated pawn, backward pawn, etc.

Sometimes a weakness results not because the pawns are doubled or isolated but because they all occupy squares of one color. In such instances, the other colored squares are weak and subject to enemy occupation. This weakness is accentuated when you have a bishop that is able to travel on the weakened squares undeterred by a enemy bishop. You should be alert to create this type of weakness.

You should know that it is pawns that are at the root of most weaknesses!

Most weaknesses are caused by pawn moves. Every time a pawn moves, at least one square is weakened, forever unprotectable by a friendly pawn. Although some weaknesses resulting from pawn moves are irrelevant in the grand scheme, and the pawn move's virtues may outweigh its liabilities. For example, some attacking chances may be gained or open lines may be favorably created by moving a pawn. But you should remember that creating weakened squares may give you the imbalance for your plan for pawn targets for your new plan of attack, and conversely if you allow weakened squares to be created in your camp so will your position be compromised.

From the above it should be apparent that a firm understanding of the imbalances alone can provide a sound method of plannning. All you have to do is find the imbalances and make use of them. When you have mastered the subject, you can use just the imbalances to determine what you wish to do. You can use the imbalances in relation to the thinking technique of what to play next.