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What do you do to create a sucessfull plan?
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That's the million dollar question. The only planning technique I know is that of Silman, but I find it difficult to actually put into practice, especially because I tend to think that individual positions are sharper than they actually are, and I rarely think that I have a "free move" that I don't have to react.
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Find a good tactics book, set up a chess board, and follow along until you have a confident understanding of what the book says.
Planning is multifaceted and requires time and practice to do appropriately. Spending quality time with a quality chess book will teach you a great deal.
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what's the "Silman technique"?
what type of books?
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... get hold of Neil McDonald's "Chess Success: planning after the opening".
My own take on this? Planning can be long range or short range (and, I guess, all the "mediums" in between). They can be general, looking to the general shape of where you want to be, to specific, down to actual moves. Executing a 5-move combination (say) is a short-range plan involving specific moves. Steering an endgame towards a particular arrangement or distribution of material might involve a general idea for which you start looking for moves likely to bring the plan to realisation.
If you play a QGD, say, that results in your having a good, active development, but an isolated pawn on d4, that might indicate your planning an attack on your opponent's K that has castled short. In the short term, you might have to plan how pieces are to be arranged in order to launch an effective attack. Meanwhile, your opponent's plan might be to counter in the centre. Going after that isolated pawn might form the central theme of a central counter-action against your flank attack.
In my view, you can't in general plan a whole game from move 1. Your choice of opening might indicate certain plans you have in mind to adopt, but, until the situation becomes clearer, it's not really feasible to settle on any particular plan (except in a very general sort of way). Further to that, there will be times when you have to abandon one plan - even one that is well advanced - and to take up another. So you always have to be flexible about plans. (More than once I've let opportunities slip by being too fixed on a clear cut plan to adapt when the enemy has made a mistake).
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The Silman technique settles around the idea of imbalances. He lists several imbalances which are basically difference between one player's position and another. He lists bishop vs. knight, material, pawn structure, weak squares, open files, and initiativelead in development, and goes on to say that these imbalances must be nurtured and used so that they are favorable for you, and that whatever plan you have must be based upon turning imbalances into a positive situation.
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he basically says what every other chess writer on the middle game says. You will find a very similar treatment in Fine's book on the middlegame (though it's in a dry, textbook style and doesn't talk as generally as Silman). Silman is a very good writer, and if his books do it for you, then good. Basically, like chessnovice said, find a quality book and spend quality time with it. I personally like Purdy's writings the best, though he doesn't have any great works specifically on the present topic. Currently, I'm reading (or I'm trying to read) "New Ideas in Chess" by Larry Evans which is a bit old, but covers strategic principles and is quite readable and clear. It has been good so far. Another one is Pachman's "Modern Chess Strategy".
One thing you will learn from Purdy's writings though, is that one of the best ways to get better and to understand how to create a successful plan is to play over well annotated games. In fact, many of these books mentioned present a theory or skill and then show it in practice through annotated games. Especially master-level annotated games. It's just like music: if you want to write good music yourself, you have to study good music that other people have written. In order to get good at planning, you need to study the plans of the masters. (though of course, you need a basic strategy book first to learn all the strategical themes. Just like calculus: you need someone to teach you calculus, and THEN you need to practice it which is actually the reason why many calculus professors and programs are so bad; they just go straight to practicing. You need a roadmap to make sense of where you are, what is actually happening)
I would personally recommend the three volume series of "C.J.S. Purdy's Fine Art of Chess Annotations and Other Writings." Though you'll need a basic strategy book first. And for the basic strategy book, you can still go with a book of annotations: Chernev's "The Most Instructive Games of Chess Ever Played"
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The Silman books being referred to
are "How to Reassess Your Chess" and "The How to Reassess Your Chess Workbook". Both are very good and very popular, at least here in the US. However, I agree with ionadowman and dr_knight that reading through books with complete annotated games is a better place to start. McDonald (the most modern of the three), Purdy and Chernev are all excellent. Right now I'm rereading McDonald's "Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking", another excellent collection of his annotations.
Basically, Silman selects key portions of many games and annotates them using the framework of imbalances kansaspatzer described above. It's very effective, but I wouldn't recommend it as your first foray into middlegame planning.
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I honestly don't know any different way of planning. Silman writes as if his plan is the only possible way of planning and I suppose I've never considered that.
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I tend to have 1-2 replies based on whether my opponent is a Classical or Hypermodern player (playin 1.a3 like I do helps this out--to see how how my opponent plays). My Strategy is pretty simple: I will either defeat whoever it is, or make them earn their draw/victory.
As for books, I've found Fred Reinfeld's, Lasker's, Nimzovich's etc... all have something of value. The big question is then, "What do I feel applies?"
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schnarre, that is what I think every chess player in his right mind plans to do: win or put up a good fight. I think the discussion here is more directed towards the planning on the board that helps to accomplish this goal. For example, should I develop my knight to c3 or to d2 (though that is probably a little more on the opening theory side), or should I trade this pawn in order to get an isolated d-pawn position, or do I advance the pawn in order to gain some space and close the position up. Or should I build my heavy pieces up behind this flank pawn and try to sac a knight to break through the enemy pawn structure with the heavy pieces, or should I overprotect and force the opponent to give up concessions. And then how do I carry this out and what move order gets me there (these may not be great examples, but I think they serve the purpose of showing what I think is being discussed)
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Sounds about right to me doctor_knight. Knowing an opponent's playing style can shape how you go about it, however--whether that's the good news or the bad would remain to be seen. Considering each player has their own way of playing each style, it strikes me as a case-by-case basis--begging the question of "Is there one general plan that will suffice?" A number of those here have alluded to Silman's work: great as they are, do they apply to the player in question?
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Yeah. I agree. No one plan is always right in every situation. For example, while advancing to gain space and lock the position may not be the strongest continuation in certain positions, if the opponent is very uncomfortable in constricted positions, it may actually be the best continuation.
I don't think Silman gives a certain plan to always follow; rather he presents a method to help one find a plan. He proposes a thought process to use to come to a plan. Of course this is really a mere guide to get you used to the right way to think about a position. Basically, he gives a method that helps you consider the imbalances of the position.
Many chess authors do this as well, just maybe not so clearly as Silman. However, like you said, Silman's way of thinking or teaching to think may not be for everyone. Purdy also talks a lot about thought process during and between moves and stuff.
Probably the most beneficial thing to do though is play over annotated games and practice yourself. When you are playing casually, you could ask a friend if he/she would like to practice an opening that leads to a particular positional theme like isolated d-pawn or whatever and practice coming up with plans in those positions. Also when playing noncompetitively, be adventurous and double up the opponent's pawns or trade knight for bishop or something and see how the game plays out (and don't forget to record your games for analysis). Start to learn to use these positional themes. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think proper planning is eventually just something that comes by experience.
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Experience is usually the best teacher, mate! A good set of casual games allows one to try a few things in a more comfortable atmosphere before the seriousness of tournament play.
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List the openings that you prefer. Find Grandmaster games that illustrated variations you prefer. Let the Grandmasters give you a variety of plans, and then use them in your games. It might also help to see masters play much weaker opposition, so you get a better sense of what else is possible when the best move is not played by your opponent. Databases are extremely helpful in this endeavor.
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There is also a book called "Chess Master vs. Chess Amateur" by Max Euwe which has annotated games of masters playing amateurs. I haven't read it though, so I'm not sure how good it is. I might get it though.
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I've seen that:
"Chess Master vs. Chess Amateur" by Max Euwe
Neil McDonald's "Chess Success: planning after the opening".
Has anyone read any other good books about plans?
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Out of all the books by Silman on plans, Amateurs Mind is the best. Hands down. How come nobody mentioned this? *ponders* :-)
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In an earlier posting...
... kansaspatzer mentioned that "the Silman technique settles around the idea of imbalances". Now, though not having seen (let alone read) any of these books, the notion makes a lot of sense to me. Tactics are often indicated by some kind of dynamic imbalance in the position; strategic progress is the more feasible if some static imbalance exists in your favour.
The idea, then, is to find these "imbalances" and exploit them. Planning is the process by which you intend to exploit this, that or these imbalances.
But what if there is no detectable imbalance? Presumably the game is objectively even, probably heading for a draw. Is it reasonable then to try and plan to create some kind of imbalance?
In my view (though many will disagree) it is. In a GK game late last year we had reached an endgame in which the imbalances were almost neglible: White had an isolated d-pawn; but also had the more mobile rooks. Black (me) could see these were insufficient to build a decisive plan around (though worth retaining in mind), and looked for a way of creating some further imbalance.
The game was jstevens1 vs ionadowman. At move 20 the position is =. At this point I formed the plan of holding on the Q-side and, by pawn advances on the other wing try and induce some weakening there that would give me a target in addition to that on d4.
There were risks. White could do much the same sort of thing on the Q-side. Black therefore had to have a bale-out clause in his plan: if things started to go pear-shaped, he needed to have a way of restoring sufficient balance to the game to make White's winning chances problematical.
In setting out on this plan, Black had no advantage. None: just quite a lot of motivation. Nor was there much in the way of concrete analysis - just a general sense of where things should go in order to give the best chances of achieving this objective.
I've said nothing about White's plans in this game, but (if you play through the game) you will she had plans of her own.
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can you send a link to the game?
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... I can't find the board number. However, you might try jstevens1 then link through to her annotated games, thence through to "comments".
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Silman does in fact state that if there aren't any imbalances you need to create them in order to have any winning chances. And, of course, sometimes in doing so, you give the opponent some counter-balancing chances as well.
An early forerunner of the Silman technique can be found in Horowitz' "Point Count Chess". I read the book years ago and have always intended to revisit it. Here's a short discussion I found after on the web:
"The basic premise of the book is to build on the old saying that "three tempi are worth a Pawn" and extend the idea to say that "two tempi and a doubled Pawn for the opponent" or "three of any of the minor positional advantages on this long list" are worth a Pawn; so, you could simply count up the *points* and evaluate a position.
As a useful Chess Genius(tm), I was full of scorn for this ridiculous oversimplification, but as a Mature Master(tm), I see it as a brilliant generalization that is too imprecise to be of any use in actual play at the Master level, but that is nonetheless a useful tool for thinking about the game, and probably a very useful tool for learning Chess.
Perhaps the only two books you need to turn a talented beginner into a class A player in three months' time are _Point Count Chess_ and Reinfeld's _1000 Sacrifices and Combinations_.
However, in the current context, the importance of the _Point Count Chess_ idea is as a tool for thinking about the game.
The basic premise is that every positional advantage is worth one-third of a Pawn. For example, if you get the Bishop-pair but get a doubled Pawn, it is an even trade; but if you get a doubled isolated Pawn on an open file, you have lost two points.
On reading that last example, any strong player will immediately think of some position in the Sicilian Defense with 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cd4 4. N:d4 Nf6 5. Nc3 Bb4, after which ...B:c3+ is horrible for Black. This shows some of the practical weakness of the Point Count system, but perhaps it also shows failure to count all of the "points" of the position."
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A plan is a speculative strategy. One does not seek to create a sucessfull plan as the terms plan & success are contradictary. A 'good' plan however I would say is a sequence of strategic moves that are within ones own ability and beyond the opponents.
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... raises an interesting point. I'm not sure that "plan" and "success" are neceassarily contradictory - just different aspects of some course of action. You can plan a course of action in order to reach some objective. Attaining this objective constitutes success. (I have a feeling the point might be moot, but let's go with this for now).
In chess one is conducting a campaign, which means that by its close you might well have considered several plans, adopted some, discarded others, maybe at some point more than one plan operating, "in parallel" as it were. And in that time you might well have seen plans reach full fruition, let us suppose, with forcing or inducing the opponent to accept a weak backward pawn on a half-open file; the capture of the weak pawn after a lengthy siege, the aimed for transition to a favourable endgame, the hunting down of a fugitive king. The game overall is a success; but you enjoyed several "little" successes throughout the game. Maybe there were "little" failures as well, that caused you to drop a plan halfway through when you realised it offered few prospects of success.
In the jsteven1 vs ionadowman game mentioned above, I had early adopted the policy of maintaining my Q-side pawn structure (...c6) instead of counterplay by ...Be6; Bxb7 Rb8 etc. Already I had an eye to the endgame, but subsequently realised I had probably adopted the wrong plan. The endgame against White's isolated d-pawn looked promising, but having arrived at this ending, became aware too late that it didn't offer Black many prospects at all. At move 20 I had worked out a likely course of action, but had to wait out White's probing. Hence the passive looking 20...Ra8. Keeping my Q-side pawns as far back as possible for as long as possible was part of the plan towards K-side activity.
Of course, I was "playing to win" (I think this thing about "satisfying the needs of the position" to be so much tripe, frankly). But "playing to win" is not in itself a plan, which I think is spurtus's real point. The method by which you propose to win the game, that is a plan.
Once the objective has been obtained, the method is no longer a plan. A plan looks to the future; success celebrates the past, however recent.
Here endeth the lesson, lecture, disquisition, pontification and harangue.
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I think Spurtus meant the two terms are not the same thing but didn't quite express it correctly. The two terms do have a relation to one another, but they are not contradictory.
We hope our plans will be successful but success is not necessary to come up with them. Frankly, the success of a plan is not always dependent upon how good the plan actually is--that depends upon how our opponent ultimately plays. Any plan is better than no plan at all; and I've seen many bad plans work because the opponent 'had no clue'. However, a good plan has a much better chance at success. A good plan can be formed in a losing position. If the game is actually lost, then formulation of the plan was too late and/or our opponent must have had a better one that was timely too. I've played losing positions and have been able to manage a draw through a carefully laid out plan of action. A clear understanding of the position you want to achieve is a must before a good plan can be formulated.
Most people play to win, but I've been known to play for a draw. This directly affects how you formulate a plan (a course of action with clearly defined objectives). There are tactical plans; and then there are strategic plans. A tactical plan typically has one objective. A strategic plan will have multiple objectives. Sometimes these multiple goals will be concurrent and other-times they will be consecutive in nature. When we talk about a plan in chess, we normally refer to strategy--with multiple objectives which we hope will ultimately lead to victory. There are no guarantees.
Well, I hope that was at least as clear as mud! Good luck with your next plan.