The Formulation and Execution of a Strategical Plan

Feb 5, 2009, 12:00 AM |
7 | Strategy

A long misunderstood factor of chess for many beginners and some advanced players is the concept of strategical planning. Many people think that planning in chess is a long and hard calculated sequence of moves, 30 moves deep, in which it assures you the path to ultimate victory. That is not even close to what strategy in chess really comprises of. Strategical planning involves analysing a certain position, and the assessment of a position brings one to a conclusion of what could be done in future. To assess a position one must investigate 3 different areas of the game:

I) MATERIAL: Who has the most material, or more importantly who has the better and more important material on the chessboard.

II) SPACE: Who controls the most space, who has larger pawn structure, and who has more locations to work with.

III) INITIATIVE: This is the most nebulous of the three areas, this involves calculating who has the best initiative, or, in other words, who can judge how the game is going to turn out, through threats, captures and checks, the most.

Now, although this seems to be a time consuming sort of thing to do, you only have to do it once every few moves, depending on your strategy. Once one has analysed the position and has concluded with a well thought out and detailed conclusion to the position, this is when you begin to formulate your plan.

The best way to think of the thoughts in chess strategy is as a hierarchical structure, as a pyramid, or even as a tower. In this structure we have level 0, level 1, and level 2. At level 0 we have precise calculation, has your opponent's last move let him open for a killer punch, is he threatening anything that need immediate caring to. If the answer to those two questions is no, then we move up to level 2. Here we have the static features of the position, the pawn structures, the weak squares, the safety of the Kings, the potential endgame advantages and other such elements that lead to the formation of general strategy. Now, also on level, 2, once you have the analysis for the features of the position, this is where you make your general plan of what you would like to achieve in the next few moves, and the moves that will help you achieve it. At level 1, we have the precise detail of the plan, and what it does not only to your opponent's position, but also to yours, i.e. does your plan leave you open for an attack, does something your opponent does, that subsequently weakens his position.

Here's roughly how it works: You begin at level 0, where you sort out the immediate tactics of the position, if that doesn't reveal any result, you move on to level 2, where some kind of fuzzy thought suggests what you should do, and subsequently suggests what moves you should do that leads to the completion of strategic objectives. These thoughts are sent to level 0, for a rapid tactical health check, and any of the moves and ideas passed fit will move on to the prestigious level 1 to be looked at in more detail, for it is at this level that we asses the strategical gains that we would gain by tactical means. When those are established they are sent back to level 2, because such analysis may have led to complete modification of our plan. The constant interplay between strategy and tactics, is an essential, if confusing, part of good thinking.


Our strategical judgement suggests g5, but how do the tactics work out? Here is an example of the hierarchical thought process.

LEVEL 0: 1...Nxe4 isn't a threat, because the paw is defended; similarly 1...Nxd4 is no worry, because it only brings my rook or bishop to d4. 1.Nxc6 bxc6 is good for black, because it strengthens his center and opens the b-file

LEVEL 2: With Kings castled on opposite wings, I should advance my K9side pawns to breach his defences and open lines for my rooks. The obvious pla is g4, g5, h4, h5

LEVEL 0: 1.g4 Nxd4 2.Bxd4 e5 creates a double attack on d4 (with the pawn) and g4 (with bishop and knight) 2. Rxd4 e6 3.Rc4, but that leaves my rook looking rather stupid on c4

LEVEL 1: But if black does play Nxd4 and e5, his... e5 loses him control of d5 and makes my bishop on b3 much more powerful. Also, when he takes the pawn of g4, it opens the g-file for my rook.

LEVEL 2: If he is going to weaken his white squares by playing the move e5, it could be a considerable advantage to me to eliminate his white-squared bishop...

LEVEL 1: ...So I might even consider1. g4 Nxd4 2.Rxd4 e5 3.Rc4 Qd8 4.Rxc8!? Rxc8 5.g5 with h4, h5 and g6 to follow










LEVEL 0: ...Or I could avoid all the trouble by preparing g4 with 1. Rg1

LEVEL 2: So there are three possible plans:

Plan 1...








Plan 2...








Plan 3...









When I have more than one plan at hand, I sometimes find it useful to look 1 or 2 moves deeper into each plan, to see how the game might turn out, and the plan that seems to be more in my favour than my opponent's... that is the one that I choose to play.

Once you have climbed up above this method, much like I have, you will probably keep this in your main strategical control system, and whenever you are making a strategy, it will automatically come in to use, and you won't even notice it. My strategical method still involves assessing the position, but instead of picking just one move, I make a vast flow-chart, with many decision points, but each one leading me in the right direction. This method normally creates multiple plans in one move, and sometimes, the one I pick is purely decided on the move my opponent makes next.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and will recommend it to many of your friends, and I also hope your will walk into battle with this new strategical weapon at hand in all your chess games!