Evaluation and Planning - in depth

Evaluation and Planning - in depth


I did some research on Positional Evaluatioin and Planning that I wanted to share with you. It's what I have learned from the Chess.com video series by GM Meli Khachiyan on Evaluation and Planning; the book Amateur's Mind by IM Jeremy Silman; and IM Jeremy Silman's course titled Roots of Positional Understanding in the Strategy section of the Chess.com Lessons area and a tiny bit from Mark Dvoretsky's book on Prophylactics. 

First let me explain a couple of things.  You will notice there are 7 sections: Tactics, Center Control, Development, King Placement, Material, Pawn Structure, and Space Control.  I like to look at the current position in my games and award a point per each section to the side that stands better there. The side with the most points has the better position and should create his plan based on having the better position and around those areas where he scored points. If each side is equal in that area I award a point to both sides.  The side with the worse/equal position will need to think of ways to defend and restrict the pluses the oppenent has or consider what he can do with his pluses, as planning differs between the two position types.

As I have been using this guide in the positional course mentioned above I find more often than not that the correct answer was contained in my planning list for the right evaluation

 ** TIP: If you want to get good at this I suggest you play slow 3-day games with one move per day required to give you enough time to evaluate and plan **


  1. TACTICS - Are there any good tactics at hand? (Checks, Captures, Threats, Reinforcing a key tactical square)

  1. Tactics overrule positional play!

  1. Before you play your tactics, especially if not every move in your combination is a forcing move, check to see if he has a combination that he can play that is better than yours and you may have to play prevention first before you play your tactic.

  1. Try to avoid one move threats and trading a good piece for an inferior one

  1. Try to avoid moving a piece to start a tactic if it weakens (leaves one less needed defender) of a key square or pawn; unless, it can delivery a major knock out combination.

  1. Avoid tactics that net small material gain but end up improving your opponent’s position ex: you trade a couple of pieces that nets you a pawn but in doing so you opened up the center which is what he wanted anyway.

  1. CENTER CONTROL - What’s going on in the center?

  1. Who controls it with pawn presence?

  1. If one side has a pawn or more pawns in the center and the other doesn't or has less pawns, then technically the side with the pawn or more pawns  in the center is controlling the center.

  1. If both sides have equal pawn presence in the center then it's determined by who has more pieces aiming at the center defending and attacking the pawns and squares those pawns want to go.

  1. If there there are no pawns in the center then who ever has more pieces And pawns aiming at the center is controlling it.

  1. DEVELOPMENT - Is one side more developed and more actively placed than the other? (Pieces off the back row)

  1. The side with more pieces on the back row is considered to have the inferior position

  1. When development is equal, the side with more pieces in the way of each other may have the inferior position

  1. When development is equal, the side whose pieces aren’t on their best squares may have the inferior position

  1. “Best Square” is subjective to the current position; however, pieces like to be on squares that they can sit on for a while without being forced to move and they like to be accomplishing something like attacking and occupying the center or pinning and skewering things or controlling key open files rows and diagonals.

  1. KING PLACEMENT - Is your King castled?  In end game is it moving toward or is in the center?

  1. If your pieces are off the back row but your King isn’t castled you may have the inferior position and aren’t considered to be fully developed.

  1. If you are in end game and your king isn’t toward the center you may have the inferior position.

  1. MATERIAL - Is material equal in numbers and quality?

  1. When you can’t tell who has the better position because there is no pawn center, and all the pieces are in play, you may have to fall back on total material and quality of the material to determine who is better to determine if you should be defending or attacking.

  1. Two Bishops vs Two Knights or vs Bishop and Knight may mean that the player with the two Bishops has the better position.

  1. When you own the Bishop pair try to avoid trading your Bishops for one of his Bishop or Knight(s)

  1. Bishop Bishop > Bishop Knight > Knight Knight.

  1. If you only own two Knights you may want to consider closing the center to weaken his bishop advantage

  1. If you are down material you want to trade pawns not pieces

  1. PAWN STRUCTURE – Are there weaknesses?

  1. More pawn structure weaknesses may mean an inferior position

  1. Fewer pawns on the board than the other side

  2. Doubled pawns

  3. Isolated pawns

  4. Backward pawns

  5. Hanging pawns

  6. Passed pawns

  7. More pawns on the Kingside than the Queenside

  1. SPACE CONTROL - Who occupies more space of which side(s) of the board?

  1. If you control more space with pieces and pawns than your opponent then you likely have the better position.

  1. If you occupy more space than your opponent you want to try and avoid trading pieces


PLANNING - Where are your pieces and why and could they be doing something better?


  1. IF YOU HAVE THE BETTER POSITION - The best plan will likely be one of the following

!!! Identify your main advantage and do everything you can to exploit it!!!

  1. Did you remember to check for tactics first?

  1. Open the Center – especially if you have a lead in development

  1. Think of using central pawns and central-wing pawns like the c and f pawns

  1. Pieces developing into attacking the center

  1. Attack (maybe a defender piece of a key pawn or square)

  1. Realign your pieces on the side your pawns are pointing.  

  1. “What’s the best square for my pieces to be placed, on that side?”

  1. “Am I in the way of any good positioned pieces that I can move or start to move to a good spot to clear that up?” – backward steps are ok.

  1. Maybe advance a pawn on the wing you want to attack on.

  1. To attack a piece or pawn directly

  1. Maybe trade one advantage for an even better one




  1. !!! Quieter games with not a lot of conflict or forcing moves may be better for prophylaxis!!!

  1. You can always come back and make your best move after you cut off his.


  1. Look for tactics from your opponent, you may be required to

  1. Defend

  1. Restrict - PROPHYLAXIS

  1. Try to find a more forcing threat to use on them.

  1. If no tactics from enemy

  1. Look for a strong attacking or developing move on the center (maybe to open up lines)

  1. Against key pawns or squares enemy wants to go to

  1. Against central defenders

  1. Maybe you can start to develop a less active piece to an attacking position on a central defender if there isn't an immediate attacking position available.

  1. A Knight move to a central outpost (to close an open line for Bishop or Rook) or a move to ultimately end up on a central outpost maybe (don't forget about getting your Rooks involved)

  1. A pawn attack on a center defender from the wing you will be attacking on

  1. A pawn move to create an outpost for an inactive Knight

  1. Move a piece or King out of the way of a key file or diagonal or row or that’s blocking another piece that can develop and attack or defend the center, or a wing if you are in end game.

  1. Move a pawn to close the center

  1. Look for a way to improve defense of the square your pawn wants to move to

  1. Look for a stronger forcing move on the wing you are attacking on.

  1. Ask if he got to move again where would he go?

  1. Can you move a pawn or piece to prevent that move to that square?

  1. Think of central and central-wing pawns like c and f

  2. Pieces developing into attacking the center

  1. Before you commit to a move consider the move and then how your opponent will rea