On Playing without a Plan

On Playing without a Plan‎

WIM energia
16 | Strategy

Today’s article features two losses that happened because one of the sides (which happened to be me) did not have a plan in the game. To have a plan in any position is a very important step in choosing a move and a trend that the game will follow. In both games the winning side followed their plans, even if in some cases the plans were not that good. Computers do not have nerves, they can choose moves based on pure calculation mechanism. Humans need a plan as guidance and no one has iron nerves to forever adjust his moves to what the opponent does. By having a plan one makes the opponent adjust, and thus do something that is not in his plan. The following games are good illustrations of how uncomfortable it is for one of the players to adjust his play in order to the counter opponent’s plan.

At the board a typical Dutch structure, where white has a space on the queenside and Black has a plan on the kingside or in the centre. I have a horrible score playing the white side of the Dutch. One explanation is that I play closed systems better than open – it is simply easier to play when the center is closed and one has to play on either one flank or the other. When the center is open then the things are more complex from a strategical point of view. White has so much space on the queenside but what to do with it? One should use space to put his pieces optimally; this is one of the main advantages of having space. On the other hand, Black grabbed some space on the kingside. White’s space on the queenside has higher quality, since it does not weaken the king, while Black’s space weakens his king but also threatens the white king. What is the percentage chance of success for Black’s attack? I would say very small if white plays correctly. This is so because when the center is open the success of a wing attack is always limited due to the possibility of blowing up the center and white is stronger in the center. The other factor is that black is not fully developed yet: the knight and the bishop on the queenside are on their initial positions. Nevertheless, I managed to run into a trap set up by my creative opponent. He just played g5, possibly to push g4, to chase away Nf3 from the center. g5-g4 will have a negative effect too, since the f4 square would become weak and white could transfer the knight through e1-d3 to f4, where it will control all the key squares. What else can black do? Develop! Nc6, Nd7 are both good developing moves. Thus, it seems that Black has no direct threats, so white should try to setup her pieces in the best possible way. Let us try to come up with a plan for white. I thought that pushing e4 is one of the main ideas in this position. If white manages to open the e-file, then the e6 weakness and a whole set of weak light squares on the kingside will have a say in the position. Then, one will not expect anything dangerous from Black on the queenside. My idea was to play Qc2 following by e4. It is a bad move because the tactics do not work for white. After Qc2 both d4 and b4 will be undefended after g4. With Nc6 black will develop a piece and attack the two pawns simultaneously. Re1 is dangerous to play with the same idea of e4 because f2 might be weak. So, Qd3 or Qb3 seem to be better alternatives to Qc2. Qb3 puts indirect pressure on e6, prepares Rb1-Re1-e4. Qd3 prepares e4 directly but after g4 it takes away the d3 square from the knight. Both continuations are more solid than Qc2, because they protect either b4 or d4 pawns.

What went wrong in the above game? Black had one plan: attack on the kingside. It turned out to be a successful plan, even though strategically unsound. This happened because white did not have a clear plan: in the opening playing Rb1-Bb2 without aim, then not paying much attention to black’s play and finally not making a break in the centre when the position asked for it. It is better to have a bad plan than to play without one.

While the previous game was the last round of the tournament, when money was at stake and I was tired, the next example was a first round game. The advantage of being around 2300 money-wise is that most of the games in opens a player will play lower rated players. On the other hand, the disadvantage is that the first rounds are usually played against grandmasters.

This game I played without a plan again because the position was rather unfamiliar. It was hard to evaluate the structures after black plays d5 and white plays e5. Because the knight goes to f5 through h6 and because black always has the break f6, the position after d5 is fine. This is rather typical positional knowledge and I had had this explained by my coach, but at the board there was no way I could evaluate the consequences of d5. Playing this position without aiming for d5 is rather hard, since black does not have space. White can easily improve his position while black has to play and adjust constantly to what white is doing, which is not easy. By trying to push d5 black gains more control of the position. The other plan that is possible here is to use space that black gained on the queenside and transfer the knight from f6 there. The knight can go through d7 to b6 or c5, opening the bishop on g7, which can put more pressure on the central squares. In the game I tried to push d5 when it was too late. Instead, I should have tried to get it in as soon as possible.

The two positions for the next week are:








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