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How to Formulate a Plan in Chess

The ability to evaluate a position and to formulate a plan is one of the most worthwhile things to learn in chess. Unfortunately it is an ability that most new players lack a great deal of understanding on. The following page is a great place to start one’s study on how to formulate a plan. So just what is a plan? Let’s look at a definition.

Planning is the process by which a player utilizes the advantages and minimizes the drawbacks of his position. The goal of chess is to try to create favourable imbalances in the position and plan your game around those factors.  So then, just what is an “Imbalance”?

An imbalance is any difference between the white and black positions.

How to Formulate a Plan:

  1. Determine the Imbalances in the Position
  2. Figure out which side of the board has imbalances that are favourable to your position or the side where you can create them e.g. kingside, centre, or queenside.
  3. Fantasize about the best squares for your pieces
  4. Select candidate moves based on these factors
  5. Calculate to make sure it works.

Remember First Find a Plan then Develop your Forces around it!

Here is a list of  6 major Imbalances in a chess position;

  1. Rules of Minor Pieces
  1. Both Bishops and Knights are worth 3 points each
  2. Bishops are best in open positions where pawns don’t block their diagonals.
  3. Bishops are stronger in endgames due to its long range abilities.
  4. The term “Bad Bishop” means that your Bishop is situated on the same colour as your centre pawns.
  5. A Bishops weakness is its “one colour” weakness, that is why the Bishop-pair is highly valued negating this weakness.
  6. Knights excel in closed positions with locked pawns.
  7. Knights usually stand better in the centre of the board.
  8. Knights need outpost squares or “support points” to be effective. They are the strongest on the 5th and 6th rank, if entrenched on the 6th rank it can be nearly equal to a rook.
  9. Knights are superior to Bishops in endgames where all of the pawns are on one side of the board since the long range power of the bishop has no meaning and the knight can go to squares of either colour.
  10. The way to beat Knights is to deprive them of any advanced support points, if this is accomplished, they are inferior to Bishops.

2) Rules of the Centre

  1. A full pawn centre gives its owner territory and control of key central squares.
  2. Once you own a full pawn centre strive to make it indestructible. If you achieve this your centre will crimp your opponent for the rest of the game.
  3. Don’t advance the centre too early, every pawn move leaves weak squares in its wake. Only advance when it gives you a tactical advantage!
  4. If your opponent has a full pawn centre you must strive to attack and undermine it.
  5. If centre pawns get traded then it creates open files for rooks.
  6. IF the centre becomes locked then play switches to the wings.
  7. With a closed centre, you know which side to play on by noting the direction that your pawns point. The pawns point to the area where you have more space, and that is the side you want to control.
  8. A wide open centre allows you to attack with pieces. A closed centre generally means that you must attack with pawns (this enables you to grab space and open files for your rooks.)

3) Rules of Space

  1. When you have more space, it is usually a good idea to avoid exchanges.
  2. If you have less space an exchange or two will give you more room to manoeuvre.
  3. A spatial advantage is permanent, a long term advantage. You don’t have to be in a hurry to utilize it. Take your time.

    Rules of Pawn Structure Defects
  4. A weak pawn is only weak if it can be attacked.
  5. Weak pawns must be restrained and/or blockaded before they can be effectively attacked.
  6. The weak square in front of a backward pawn is often a greater problem than the pawn itself.
  7. A backward pawn acts a guard to a more advanced pawn that can be used to block enemy pieces and control important squares. A backward pawn is not bad if the square in front of it is well defended.
  8. Play to win a weak square by trading off its defenders.
  9. Doubled pawns reduce their flexibility. It is most often the forward doubled pawn that is the weakest.
  10. Creation of doubled pawns lead to open files for rooks and increased square control.
  11. An isolated pawn is most vulnerable on a half open file.
  12. The creation of a isolated pawn may bestow upon its possessor the use of a newly created half open file.
  13. An isolated d-pawn gives its owner plenty of space for his pieces, and open files for his rooks. The player who possesses this pawn must seek dynamic play with his pieces.
  14. The traditional ‘c’ and ‘d’ hanging pawns control many important central squares, offer an advantage in space and offer play on the half open ‘b’ and ‘e’ files.
  15. Hanging pawns are weak if the other side is able to circumvent any dynamic tactical advance of the pawn duo, since the pawns would then be immobile and he would then be able to train all his power on them as targets.
  16. A protected pass pawn is not always an advantage if the square in front of it can be controlled for a very long time (blockaded).
  17. A passed pawn is very strong if its owner has play elsewhere, it is then good insurance in an endgame.
  18. A passed pawn is also strong if the squares in front of it are cleared for its advance.

5) Principles of Development

A lead in development is defined as having more pieces into active play than your opponent is a dynamic rather than a static advantage as eventually your opponent will catch up if you do not seize the initiative.

  1. A lead in development means you must find some sort of aggressive act. Quiet play puts no pressure on the opponent and allows him to get his forces out.
  2. A lead in development means the most in open positions. If you have more pieces out than your opponent and the position is wide open (or even semi-open) don’t hesitate to attack.
  3. If the enemy king is still in the center and you have a lead in development, consider these factors an invitation to rip the opponent’s head off.
  4. A closed position often nullifies a lead in development because the blocked files stop you from making any real penetration into the enemy position.

6) Anticipating the Opponents Plans

One serious problem most players have as compared to strong experts and masters is the lack of considering their opponents plans when formulating their own plans.

When formulating a plan one must consider the differences in the position. One should then formulate a plan based on the favourable imbalances in the position. Determine the side of the board you should play on and then formulate your plan around these considerations.