How to plan ahead in chess? A definitive guide

Boy playing chess

Planning in chess can appear daunting to some individuals, many are amazed at how well chess players seem to see many moves in the future with surgical like precision. This certainly didn’t take a couple of weeks or even months to fully develop this ability, it takes years of experience to get to this level.

This article is not the silver bullet that would allow you to gain this ability, rather it is a guideline on how you can develop your planning intuition faster than you normally would.

Fundamentally even if you follow these tips you might not become this absolute planner that can thrive any position instantly, however, I believe that this will be useful to help you be this person faster. Keep on reading if you are interested

To make a plan ahead in chess look at a potential checkmate or captures

This is one of the best (and easiest) ways to make a plan in chess, look for any potential captures that would win a material in some form. For beginners this is usually one of the first steps since they are the people who don’t understand strategic nuances yet and would want something simple.

In chess, you must search for three distinct styles of play. One play is that you’re going to obtain checkmate (always keep an eye out for it), the second is that your opponent is putting up a trap to acquire material, and the third is a positional move in which your opponent gains material by positioning his pieces well.

There are chess players that think ten, fifteen moves ahead while they are playing. If you choose a strategic move that is too quiet it will require a deeper calculation since the continuation might not be so obvious.

However, keep in mind that you only need to be one step ahead at the proper moment to win. Therefore, while planning ahead, always attempt to assess the action that is being made.

Many beginners suffer from the disease of being too aggressive, they cannot wait for the right moment and just advance bravely only to get toasted by decent players. My advice is to use captures/attacks as a way to plan ahead in chess but should not use it as a first option.

Play strategically and develop your pieces, make sure that everything is set in order before launching an attack. If you cannot find a combination then it is best to not go for it at all and wait for the right opportunity, be patient but launch the initiative once you figured out a way to do it.

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To make a plan in chess it is important to understand the opponent’s schemes

A lot of people get so caught up in making their own plans that they completely disregard their opponent’s own schemes, this is not a position that you want to be in. You need to remember that you are not the only one who’s playing, chess is a game where you want to take advantage of the opponent yet not give too much on your own.

Consider the following: “What are my adversary’s objectives? What do they want to accomplish? “‘.Similarly, ask yourself the same questions and attempt to build a scheme to thwart your opponent’s objectives or bolster your own, with the ultimate aim of checkmate.

Often, you can guess your opponent’s response and mentally recreate the game by playing out a theoretical scenario. Attempt to accomplish your objectives by describing what you should do in the subsequent movements, as well as what you should block or prevent your opponent from executing.

Look at their perspective, what are the moves that you would be worried about the most if you’re playing their position? Often we can spot the weaknesses of our own position more than how we would take advantage of our opponent’s, this can be a good way to take advantage of that condition.

By looking at which moves would completely expose their own position as if you are playing on their side of the board, there will be more opportunities to plan things that you wouldn’t have thought about in the first place. If it can be a good mental exercise for you.

To make a plan in chess a player should look at the forcing moves

This is something that I have heard about on forums about this topic, the forcing moves are usually the one that delivers the final blow which is why you should incorporate it when it comes to planning. The best plans after all are those where the opponent cannot do anything about it.

First, look for forcing moves, and then look for them again. And once more. Now, please, once more. Allow me to clarify; watch for the opponent’s forcing moves and what they are threatening to do, i.e., (basically what forcing moves are they capable of doing).

Finally, seek for coercive maneuvers on the part of your opponent. The last and most critical step is to continue this procedure until you have discovered all feasible forcing moves and their most forcing versions.

Forcing moves can be crudely defined as a move that will lead to a sequence that cannot be avoided (or can only be avoided by completely throwing the game). A good example of this is a mating net, basically a sequence of moves that will always lead to a checkmate with proper play.

When planning ahead you should look out for the forcing moves as much as possible, they are sequences that can single-handedly win you games so it is important to not overlook them. It doesn’t mean that you should force an aggressive style, more like not missing an opportunity once it presents itself.

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To make a plan in chess a player should look at the central squares

The central squares are being fought on in the opening for a reason, pieces and pawns that reside near the center of the board will control more active squares than if they are on the edge of the board. In other words, pieces and pawns that are near the center can unlock their full potential.

Often, a piece that controls a single critical centre square is more essential than a piece that controls multiple squares on each side of the board. Furthermore, a piece that is performed as part of a larger group effort is significantly more valuable than a piece that is “beautifully placed” in a separate setting.

The more active a piece is, the more likely that there is going to be a combination where the participation of that piece is crucial. This is because active pieces that control more squares get more opportunity to be involved.

Chess planning is based on two fundamental principles: centralization and mobility, in order to do anything you should first concoct a plan to mobilize the pieces by getting them to the central squares (or just out from their initial square). These are usually the strategic moves that are calm and quiet.

Before doing anything you should take this step first since any combination would get thwarted without the right amount of active pieces, after doing this then go for the next step. Just as mentioned above, look for the forcing moves that will lead to an advantage, it doesn’t even need to be fabulous as long as it gets the job done.

This is why it is important to look for the central squares, your pieces are going to be the most active in those squares more than any place on the board. If you have many pieces placed near the center it will make planning so much easier since there are resources to work with.

Planning in chess is relative, every game require its own approach

 There is one thing that a lot of people miss when trying to make a plan, many think that there is one for all solution that everyone can just follow and apply to their games. This is not true, as all things in chess different strategies with apply on different situations.

Everything that I am giving in this article are meant to be used as a guide and not an instruction, not every tip here will be applicable to every circumstances. Sometimes you need to play it safe and avoid taking chances, others you have to be brutally aggressive in order to force a decisive result.

In order to win in chess, you must devise plans that are flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances on the chessboard. Obviously, if you truly want to see your game through to a logical finish, nothing is more important than having a well-thought-out plan in place.

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However if you decide to become one dimensional and only apply a specific approach to every game, you might not live up to your full potential. Many things need to be considered when choosing a planning approach in chess.

The rating of the opponent, the placement in the tournament, opening choices, your opponent’s background, your confidence level, etc. it can be too complicated if you think too much about it. But the point is you need to adapt to the situation, the tips above should be treated as an advise and not an instruction.

To be a better plan-maker in chess it is important to review your own games

Now this is a practice that I strongly advise, instead of trying to improve your ability to plan during the game you should do some training outside of any play. It is hard to practice planning during the game where you have too much on your head to self reflect.

You are going to be too worried about many things and not the tool that you are using to come out with ideas, a lot of people fail to improve due to this reason. They are only improving the product and not the tool that is used to make the product.

They want to keep playing the best moves and not really understanding that their ability to find the best moves should be the one thats given the attention, the tool should be sharpened. The best way to do this is to examine your own games after any play where there is no pressure to convert.

It is easier to understand your own way of thinking and improve it (on the planning aspect) when you are not thinking about your opponent anymore. Plus after the game there are engines that can help you formulate lines and gain a deeper understanding of your planning mechanism.

Examine the games that you have participated in thus far. It is important that you review your notes, including any notations on your opponent’s movements, whenever possible while you are alone, relive the game either in your brain or on the chess board.

Analyze your mindset, do you have a passed pawn? If so, did your opponent successfully block your passed pawn? In attempting to avoid counter-play, did your game strategy become too obvious?

What were your chances of seeing your opponent’s next move before it was too late? What about the bits that are really doing something? If a file was open, did you have a strategy in mind?

All of these questions are necessary in order for you to adjust the next game, and the best time you can think about these things is after your own game. Sometimes you need to play it safe and others you have to push for something more, your judgement will be better as you get stronger as a player.

Planning ahead in chess can be complicated if you think too much about it, it is important to be aware of the concepts but do not stress too much about not being able to plan well. I believe that as you get better you will naturally movie a better plan maker, to some people it comes easy.

Use the tips that have been given in this article in order to shorten the learning curve, just trust yourself and play the game. That is all for this article, thank you for reading.

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