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What is the Best Plan? Reloaded

Dec 1, 2007, 9:55 PM 3

At some point in a game, you may find yourself in a position where your opponent has no clear or definable weaknesses. Such as the position in my previous post:

The position is not so cut-and-dried where Black can say "since I have more pieces on the kingside, I can build up an attack over there" or "White has an isolated pawn so I should attack it by doubling rooks".

So now we are faced with coming up with a plan.

A chess player's style is the most deciding factor in the plan he will eventually choose. Someone with Kasparov's aggressive style might want to look for ways to create attacking possibilities in the position; while a Petrosian will want to fix his weaknesses before anything else. The fact that 10 different GMs may look at a position like this and probably come up with a few different plans is an indication that there could be more than one "right" plan. 

So let's say you're the type of player who naturally likes open games and attacks, ala Paul Morphy. I betcha you naturally considered playing the immediate d5--which is fine, d5 does indeed look like the most natural continuation at first. However, after coming up with your own plan, it is also important to stop first and understand the game from your opponent's point-of-view. 

I read about a psychology experiment where subjects were asked how they would rate themselves in their driving skills compared to the general driving population. Everyone in the test group said they were in the 95th percentile of their group, which doesn't make sense because NOT everyone can be in the 95th percentile, right? (I used to think I was in the 95th percentile, but after many  parking dents I now know I'm not anywhere close.)

I think this speaks volumes about human nature, and perhaps explains most chessplayer's (including mine) analysis of their position: everyone thinks too optimistically about their position! This is why I try to remove all subjectivity and really try to understand the opponent's position from his point-of-view by imagining that I was playing his game.

So let's put on our opponent's glasses and see what a move like d5 could do to the position. If I were playing white, I would think that black's pawn on e5 would become subject to attack. Perhaps here I can play 9. ed5 Nd5 10. Re1. Black could defend it by playing 10...Bf6 but I could continue with 11. Ne4 and exchange his bishop for a knight, which is beneficial for an open game. Is there anything better? What about 9. Ng5? His bishop cannot leave e6 because the pawn on d5 will be left for free. He could try to take my bishop too with 9...Nd4 but after 10. Ne6 fe6 11. Re1 the pawns on the e-file look pretty weak and subject to attack.

So to summarize:

1. Come up with a plan based on the positional considerations of the position (there's a weakness on g6, there's an isolated pawn that I can attack, etc)

2. In many positions, there could be more than one "right" plan. It all depends on your style! Know thyself!

3. After coming up with your own plan, STOP and seriously think what your opponent is thinking himself. I do this by imagining that I was in his spot and stop myself from thinking my position is better.


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