The Elusive "Plan".
Anyone who is serious abut improving their chess has heard about the importance of planning. Masters and Grand-masters stress the point of planning, coining phrases like "It is better to have a bad plan than no plan at all."
As you start to play stronger players, you realize the masters weren't kidding: without a plan, you get crushed on the windshield wiper of the chess super-highway like a the chess bug you are and end up questioning your life choices. (What's that? That's only me? Oh OK)
*Ehem* Anywho, Since this almighty "plan" was so important, I set out on a journey to discover what it was with more enthusiasm than an anime protagonist. Through my chess travels and meanderings, however, I came upon a problem: Countless Masters and Grand-masters cannot settle on one concrete definition of a plan in chess. It's mind boggling that even though chess has literally been around, for Thousands of years, no general consensus on what a plan is has been agreed upon. The definitions of today are usually too lengthy/over-complicated, contradicts another definition or is simply relative to a particular position. The fact that most of the great chess practitioners don't hold English as their mother tongue doesn't help out my quest either. (Here come the life choice questions again)
But then I thought, "Maybe in asking the question "What is a plan in chess?", and seeking for a magic bullet to solve my chess woes, I am asking the wrong question." To illustrate my point, take in this analogy:
You want to go to your friend's house; there are 3 ways to get there and one road is blocked. You know nothing of the ways to get to your friend's house let alone that one of the roads is blocked so you use the marvel that is Google to not only figure out the 3 routes, but also the one that is blocked. You then decide on the shortest route and head out, when your mom asks where you're going. You tell her where and she asks "How do you plan to get there? The road is blocked."
I hope you realize that "Going to your friend's house" was not your plan, it was your goal. Your plan to get there involved gathering information, and deciding on the most appropriate route.
It is in this moment that the cliché imaginary light-bulb appeared over my head: The reason so many people struggle to define a plan is because plans don't exist without goals to accomplish. Asking "What is the plan in this position?" is therefore the lazy man's way of chess which will leave you dazed and confused if the position changes ever so slightly. We should be asking "What are the goals in these types of positions" and let our brains work out the minor nuances in the plan as they come. Your goal is what you want to do (Improve a knight for example) and your plan is how you are going to do it taking into account that your opponent may try to stop you. I hope this article has made you all able to breathe a collective sigh of relief as you now aim to find out the goals of the various chess positions. Happy Chess Travels ^_^