"familiarize with about 15-25 common plans from the chess classic examples"
Perusing any chess book on Chess Strategy will give you a good list of Strategic Elements (elements of a plan) one needs to be concerned with so you can develop a reasonable, effective plan. Planless play lacks consistency from move to move and tends to be like solving a series of one-move chess problems - it lacks coherency.
Below is the listing of Common Strategic and Dynamic Elements from Pachman's Modern Chess Strategy:
Common Strategic Elements
- Minority Attack
- Bishops and open diagonals
- Good vs. Bad Bishop
- Knights and bases of Operation
- Superior Bishop vs Knight
- Superior Knight vs Bishop
- Creation of Open Files
- Open Files in an Attack against the King
- Open Files in the Center and on the Queen's Wing
- Active Rooks in front of the Pawn Chain
- The Passed Pawn
- The Blockade
- The Isolated Pawn
- The Backward Pawn
- The Isolated Pawn-pair
- Doubled Pawns
- The Classical Centre
- The Little Centre
- Tension in the Centre
- Piece Centralization
- Control of Central Squares
- The Partly-Blocked Centre
- Pawn Majority on the Wing
- Piece Concentration on the Wing
- Space superiority on the Wing
- The Blocked Pawn Chain
- The Flank Attack and the Centre
- Forward Pieces
- Advanced Pawns
- Weak Squares in the Pawn Chain
- Lead in Development
- Gain in Time at the Cost of Material
- Co-operation of Pieces and Pawns
- The Positional Sacrifice
This list enumerates 30 strategic elements one NEEDS TO BE FAMILIAR WITH to build a plan around.
As an exercise, in a perfect world with no work to go to(!), it would benefit everybody to take their last 20 games and review the plans listed above involved in those games and try and enumerate them.
What is a plan?
Several definitions exist across the web for a chess plan. Here is one that fits for us:
Plan - A method or line of play designed to improve a position. A chess player should always have a plan. Your plan often lasts only as long as it takes for your opponent to make a move.
Jeremy Silman thoughts on finding a viable plan:
- Take note of the differences in the position (imbalances)
- Determine which side of the board you wish to play on. You can only play on the side of the board where a favorable imbalance exists or the possibility of creating a favorable imbalance exists.
- Find Candidate Moves. A Candidate move should always be directed at your positive imbalances unless you're being forced to play a purely defensive move.
- Calculate Candidate Moves.
Pachman articulates it in this manner:
- Material Relationship
- Power of individual pieces
- Quality of individual pawns
- Pawn Structure
- King Position
- Piece and pawn cooperation
So, the key to finding good plans in chess MUST exist in knowing what strategic elements exist in chess. Easy, eh?...
Let's take a simple example, the Isolated Queen Pawn Strategic Element.
If you, as white, own the IQP, there are several things you need to be aware of:
- Avoid simplification
- Arrange your pieces favorably to advance the pawn or to tie down the opponent's pieces in preventing the advance.
- Occupy e5 with a Knight and launch a Kingside Attack or occupy c5 and launch an attack along the c-file.
This is basic, classical IQP stuff you can look up in any decent classical strategy book, and can qualify as a 'plan' framework. The difference between the classical and modern view of the IQP is that the modern view does not stress so much about the simplification rule if other factors in the position exist that make it tenable. That is 'Rule Independence' for you...
When encountered with an IQP, these simple rules should immediately become aware to you perfectly.
Here I have fleshed out (barely) the strategic elements that a player needs to be aware of and can identify perfectly in order to come up with the proper plan in a chess position. Note I said 'position'. Chess is a very complex game and your plans can switch several times over several moves, and usually do in some positions. The ability to recognize when the pursuit of one plan over another (or the pursuit of an integrated plan) is a skill that we, as students, need to work on with vigor.
You'll note that Day1 and Day3 have SG1's assigned to them. This gives us a good, solid 2 segments of study per training cycle (of the 16 total) to study strategic elements.
What to study first?
With over 30 basic strategic elements, how do we know which ones to study first? As usual, we will let our own games determine this. If you have decided to play a few correspondence games, then you can use those games as catalysts to figure out which strategic elements to study first off. Most of these 'studies' are fairly simple in nature and can be completed superficially in an hour. Of course, deep understanding comes with experience. But it will be valuable to us to perhaps scan over each strategic element and define it with a simple example. If time permits me, I will attempt to articulate such a thing in the near future. Now, I'll give you one example from the Pachman Book:
White: Material Disadvantage; Active Q, N and B; Rooks ready to go to open files.
Black: Material Advantage; Behind in development; passivly placed pieces.
This enumeration of the strategic elements gives each side great clues in what their respective plans will be:
White: Use his better placed pieces and create tactical threats and launch an attack against the black king
Black: Parry any immediate threats, complete development, convert material advantage by simplification.
This may seem simple to alot of players and it really is in most positions. Often when one watches games at tournaments we see players completely disregard the strategic aspects of a position. We want to eliminate that type of play from our games and concentrate on creating good strategic-based plans we can execute.
I hope this helps everyone get a better grasp on what strategic thinking is and do use your "SG" time to address these flaws in your game.
As usual, please post and comments here at the blog!