Unifying Plan or Short-term Plan?

Unifying Plan or Short-term Plan?‎

WIM energia
13 | Strategy

Planning needs to be done in a controlled environment. Creating a plan at a chess board is like carefully planning a scientific experiment. The similarities are that one has to account for all the possible things that can go wrong, sketch an outline of the structure of the plan and then implement it (and pray that nothing goes wrong). From my experience in conducting scientific experiments I can conclude that they take forever to perform – all the possible small details that can go wrong somehow do. This is true with chess game planning too, but instead of equipment giving us a hard time it is an opponent who acts as an irritating agent. Let’s say the position was perfectly static – meaning an ideal polygon for a deep plan and you created this masterpiece plan in your mind that includes the transfer of the knight to the weak f3 square in the opponent’s camp. After making the first moves of the plan it becomes obvious that the opponent does not want to suffer under the knight pressure from f3 and sacrifices an exchange for the knight. Suddenly, the position becomes a dynamic one; there is no need to plan anymore as one has to watch out for blows from the right and from the left. There is a feeling of bitterness left – if only the opponent was a bit more cooperative, this game could have competed with the masterpieces of Capablanca.

This is a hypothetical example but in reality this situation happens so often, especially in modern practice when no one wants to defend anymore. The one who owns the initiative sets the rules. That is why the planning in modern games is usually done with a depth of 2-3 moves followed by waiting to find out: what does the opponent have to offer as a counter plan. There is no position where you do not need to plan at all. Every position requires some planning, even a basic one such as finishing up development. In tactical positions the planning goes on in the background because calculations will rule the game. In dynamic positions where there are a lot of tactical elements one should limit oneself to some basic guidelines: keep an eye on the opponent’s king, control the diagonal with the bishop, do not let the opponent trade your strong knight, etc. I can compare this type of planning with popular books written that do not have a unifying theme but nevertheless are a great read. Steven Levitt’s “Freakonomics” comes to mind, where the collection of interesting, unordinary research situations are presented but if you take them all together they do not have a unifying topic, which does not present as a problem. The chosen game for today's analysis is an example of planning in dynamic positions, requiring the above mentioned basic guidelines. Black uses a series of rather simple plans to first equalize and then capitalize upon his initiative.


There are the positions where it is possible to find a unifying plan throughout the game. These are usually the positions where the opponent has static weaknesses, meaning they will be there forever and one can slowly maneuver to place pieces so they can attack them. If the opponent tries to use tactics right away or dynamic play usually it does not result in anything good. The opponent has to do a lot of preparation at first.  All the World Champions contributed to the generation of the plans in typical static positions: how to play against an isolated pawn, against a pair of isolated pawns, what to do with a pawn minority etc. One should be familiar with typical pawn structures and how to expose the strengths and weaknesses of them that usually require long planning. The good part is that it was all done before and one just needs time and effort to study the classical games. It took me a long time to realize this; I tried to find a planning solution to each position by myself. Only after years passed by, I realized that there is no need to invent everything over again. To tell you the truth, I came to this realization through a nonrelated subject. Once, during an Energy Policy class a professor who has been working with battery technology for at least 15 years said that due to increased government funding provided recently for the development of battery technology, a lot of scientists converted into this field in the 2000s. They were rather new to the field and did a lot of studies that were already conducted in the 1960s but were not known to them. Thus, it took these scientists a couple of years to catch up to the professor’s level of understanding; it would have taken them less if they dug into the past research, instead of trying to redo the experiments themselves. It hit me that I might be like those scientists trying to reinvent everything- instead of just meticulously studying classical plans that were a resul of the combined effort of brilliant chess players of the past, I tried to create them on my own. Kasparov’s books on His Great Predecessors collect all the pearls of classic chess games and I highly recommend them, since it is like an overview of what happened to chess and chess planning over the last 100 years.

Here, I would like to present a rather simple example of a unifying plan. Black capitalized on white's weaknesses very skillfully after white missed a chance to not allow all of this.


To summarize, most of the positions you see in practical play are not classical and require only 2-3 move plans. One should pay extreme attention to the opponent's plans and modify one's own plans accordingly. When the position has a fixed pawn structure, one should rely on long-term planning. Typical pawn structure plans are widely researched before by chess classics thus one should aim at slowly building one's knowledge of typical plans in static positions.

More from WIM energia
A Farewell!

A Farewell!

Positional Methods From Carlsen's Play, The End

Positional Methods From Carlsen's Play, The End