Chess Lessons: Brief Introduction to Middlegame Planning

When playing the opening it’s always important to not simply develop, but to develop with a purpose or a plan. The same is true in the middlegame. If you simply shuffle your pieces around without any deeper thought or any calculation at all you are doomed. Simple as that.

So that begs the question… how do you find these plans? How do you decide the best course of action? Well, that’s what we’re going to be talking about during these Wednesday Middlegame/Strategy blogs for the coming weeks.

Let’s start by defining the word “plan” as it relates to chess.

A plan is a set of interconnected actions performed on the board, and an essential component of each chess game. – WGM  Natalia Pogonina from Russia

Simple enough, right?

Understand that your plans will change as the game develops. You’ll always have to come up with new ideas as moves are made because either your initial plan will have been completed, you’ll have not seen a particular response by your opponent, or a better idea will come along the way due to how your opponent has handled the position.

Let’s evaluate the position below, taking note of material, piece placement, threats, and all that’s going on.

Now that you’ve had time to evaluate the position, try to come up with a plan to continue for white.

As you look at each potential plan that you come up with, try asking yourself these questions:

  • What does my plan actually accomplish?
  • What makes this plan advantageous for me (does it create a weakness for my opponent)?
  • What weaknesses or threats would be created in my own camp by acting on this plan (did I leave any threats or undefended material for my opponent)?
  • Is this plan in agreement with my evaluation of the position and the imbalances that I’ve noticed?
  • What is the follow up?

Note that you can have more than one idea, more than one plan, and more than one candidate move or considerable options and none of them may be wrong.

That’s where chess gets tricky. You can play moves that aren’t deemed the best by computers but are completely playable. The point is to have an overall goal that you’re trying to achieve no matter if the plan lasts a few moves or a longer term strategic plan (eg. attacking a weak color complex).


Let’s evaluate the position and jot down some observations.

Spoiler Inside: Evaluation & Observations SelectShow

Did you make the same observations during your evaluation of the position?

Let’s consider plans of action.

Spoiler Inside: Plans of Action SelectShow

So with all of this information, which of these plans listed seems most appetizing? It’s all based on preference. Personally, it’s a toss up between the first two plans. Which one to act on depends on your mood.

Next week we’ll talk about tactics, pattern recognition, and experience as a means of generating a sound plan in the middlegame.

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