Stuck in the wrong plan

Stuck in the wrong plan

Feb 18, 2016, 11:59 AM |

Sometimes, chessplayers get caught up with a certain plan, and can get so adamant on making that specific plan work that it makes it virtually impossible to see other options. I think I read an article about this here on the site, but I can't remember who wrote it or when (link would go here). Anyway, this happened to me in a recent game.

The game started out in (what unfortunately seems to be) standard fashion. My opponent was white, and played 1. e4. I replied 1... c5, looking for an exciting Sicilian variation. And by the third move, I realized that this would not be the type of game I was looking for. We entered the 'yawn' variation of the Sicilian, as Ginger GM calls it.


The yawn variation


After a series of quite strange moves, my opponent had let me entomb his bishop on h2. My main plan was a kingside attack, and I tried stubbornly to make it work. But although the bishop on h2 does not have many prospects for activity, it makes an excellent defender of the king. It took me far too long to realize this during the game, although I saw that some of my ideas were prevented by the presence of the bishop.

A tall pawn on h2


Since the bishop on h2 cannot do much apart from protecting the king, this should have been a very clear signal for me to switch focus to other parts of the board. What about the queenside? Since the bishop is stuck, I would be playing with an extra piece if I started a queenside attack. Did I do this? No. I was persistent on making my plan work.

One of the things that I said to myself during the game was this: "I am not afraid of his queenside pawns. I will leave my a- and b-pawn sitting, and if he advances one of his pawns to a6 or b6, I just pass and close the position". But then another train of though came along: "If I take on e4 and he takes back with the knight, I could play my bishop to d5 and pin the knight. But then he could play c4 to kick my bishop away. If I play b6 first, I could retreat the bishop to b7 and maintain the pin". 

Oh, the stupidity!
Of course, these two ideas contradict each other. And the second one is obviously flawed for several reasons. First, white does not have to recapture on e4 with the knight if he plays Rd1 first (which he did). Secondly, this opens a file towards my king, making my position weaker. Thirdly, the b6 push gives white the option of opening up the queenside, which is where my king has taken up residence. And finally, the kingside is well defended, so I should switch focus anyway. But as they say, hindsight is 20/20.

So what did I learn from this game? Well, it's simple really. Don't get stuck in a dead-end-plan. If your opponent stops your plan, shift focus and create a new plan.

This being said, I am actually satisfied with my persistence and consistent play. Although I was misguided. The next time, I will find a better plan and apply that same energy and focus into making it work. And then I will crush my opponent. Hopefully...