How to create a plan in the middlegame? (part 1)

How to create a plan in the middlegame? (part 1)

MatBobula
IM MatBobula
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One of the most important things in chess is to find the right plan. During the game, every player
faces that challenge. The first time to evaluate is right after the opening and usually 2-3 times later
on. There is even a saying, “better to play according to a bad plan rather than without any”.
Moreover, you cannot choose the right move without an idea of what are you going to do next.
So questions appear: What should I start from? How to find the best plan and move? Is there any
universal recipe? The answer is… Yes, there is a process of thinking that masters use.

In this guide you can learn how to find simple pattern, which is described step by step. All you
should know is how to create a plan and pick the best move. The first part of this guide is
theoretical and the second part shows how it works in practice.

There are three big stages. First, evaluate the position – you’ll need to go deeper and analyze all
relevant factors. Second, and the most important step, choose a plan (based on evaluation).
Thirdly, make calculations that are compatible with a plan.

I. EVALUATION

1. Material
This is first and most basic factor. Count material to see who is in the lead and by how
many points. For example, if white is up by 9 points, other factors probably do not
matter, because the material advantage is too big.

2. King safety (activity)
The king is priceless and its situation is very important. According to the opening
principles, the king should be castled and well protected. But sometimes the king
remains in the center or the castle position is destroyed and useless.
The king’s safety is relevant in the middlegame because there are a plenty of pieces
that can threaten him. On the other hand in the endgames, the king should be active
in the center.

3. Pawns structure
According to Phillidor: “Pawns are the soul of chess”. You have to check if there are
weak pawns: isolated, backward, double; also check for strong pawns: passed pawn,
pawns majority.

4. Pieces activity
The basic opening principles state that everybody should bring pieces out. Rate your
game by who currently has more active pieces on the board.

5. Strategic elements
Center – who has control in that key part of the chessboard?
Space – who has more space to easily move pieces and has more possibilities?
Files, ranks and diagonals – are there any important “highways” for pieces?
Squares – are there any important places that you can put pieces on?

6. Summary
In the end it is very important is to sum up your game. Usually the player that has an
advantage in more number of factors has a better position.

II. PLANNING

Based on the knowledge of details on the position, you can choose the best plan. You
need to answer the following two questions.

1. Attack or Defense?
According to Wilhelm Steinitz's fundamentals, “The side who possesses an advantage
must attack, otherwise he risks losing that advantage. The best way to come up with a
plan for an effective attack is to identify a weakness in opponent’s position and to
exploit it.”
Those who are in a better position should choose to attack; those who are in a worse
position should try to find a possibility to neutralize the opponent's advantages.

2. Queen's side, Center, or King's side?
Select the part of the chessboard where are you going to take action. The part of the
chessboard you chose can also be a combination of queen's side, center, or king's side.
For example, if your opponent has the advantage on the queen's side and you have the
advantage on the king's side – probably the best plan would be an attack on the king's
side and defense on the queen's side.
You may also describe your plan with more detail to explain what exactly are you planning
to do, but an answer for each of these two questions is a minimal requirement.

III. CALCULATION

You have chosen right plan based on evaluation, now there is a time to find exact move.

1. Move candidates
Pick couple moves (at least two) that come into your mind. Remember to stick with the
plan you chose: if you decided to attack on the king's side, then think of compatible
moves.

2. Calculate them
Calculate each possible move, one by one. The most common mistake is to skip
between different moves. Do not do that. Order is very important. In the end of each
variation, always ask yourself how do you like the final position.
The next question is: how many moves ahead should you calculate? In simple positions,
masters often only calculate for two to three moves ahead because the schemes, ideas,
and plans are more important. In tactical and more complicated positions, masters
usually calculate five to seven moves ahead.
During calculation, remember to also to consider your opponent's best responses. A
common mistake, especially among kids, is to analyze based on an opponent's bad
move.

3. New ideas
Very often during calculation, new ideas come to mind. When you finish calculating
move candidates that you have considered from the beginning, begin to calculate new
ideas.

4. Pick the move
In the final step, select the move that results in the final position you like the most.

5. Play the move

By following that process you can find best way of playing in every position. In the second part I am going to show you how it works on practical example.

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