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How to form a plan in chess?

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I like chess but my big problem with the game is that once most figures enter the battlefield and the opening ends I simply don't know what to do. Unless my opponent is clearly a bad player, typically there are no obvious weaknesses that I can exploit, which puts me in a confused state where I just make small insignificant moves and wait for something to happen. I think because of this I tend to prefer defense, as when I'm being attacked I at least have some understanding of what I need to focus on. I also usually want to exchange as much as possible as quick as possible so that we can enter endgame where it's easier to see what my goal should be.


Anyone else here struggled with this? What can you recommend?

ShotgunDemolition and Doomkid like this

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When I play chess, I am a bad to average player.

Usually I do what you said about small random moves and exchanges are a must for me, because they don't always need you to think a lot, about how you can do them.

However, one friend of mine, for whom chess is a hobby, told me that you should do exchanges only if you don't know what else to do.

In the meanwhile, he has read books and learnt chess openings from many sources (like videos) and he prefers setting the board in a way that he can remove pieces of the opponent, with no exchanges.

Once you have an advantage from the opening or you are in equal ground with the opponent, because he countered the opening, you could probably use some tested moves, if the scenario is the correct one.

And protect your pieces, but I don't know if protecting multiple pieces, with just one, is a good idea. Probably it isn't worth it, because if you accidentally move that one protecting piece or if it is taken out, bye bye protection.

Essentially, look online for tips and maybe find a book or two, to see those essential moves that you must know (and maybe look at some beginner mistakes, to get an idea of what you should and shouldn't do - I may be doing lots of them when I play).

Battle_Korbi likes this

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Chess is a lot of fun and I think it's great that you want to learn more about it memfis. A few pointers that i can give:


Don't waste moves. Those small, piddly mobbes you're talking about; if they gain you a new position they are good, if you wind up back in the same position, well, you might as well have moved something else. 


This goes hand-in-hand with the last point of not wasting moves. Spend the beginning of the game developing pieces, not moving around 1 or 2. It is very common to see somebody move a queen around, only to allow their opponent to develop their pieces while constantly pressuring the queen.


As you develop pieces, remember that knights and bishops favor closed boards while rooks favor things being open. This means that you should ge t your bishops and knights out asap in the early game and treat them as more expendable late game.


Trading pieces is a mixed bag and it's very easy to miss opening a weak spot in your own setup when you feel bloodlust for captures.


Defensive play is overrated; in chess, just as you don't want to waste moves, you don't want the opponent to be one move ahead of you, as that's all it may take for them to win. Proactive>reactive.


If you have trouble developing a clear strategy to win, try playing for positions. Or in other words find squares your pieces have the most potential to be deadly and deploy accordingly. Closing the board on your opponent will not only make their game harder, it will also make it easier to make things happen for you, just don't close yourself in. Again think of knights and bishops as you decide on how much to close the board.


Lotta other tips, but thatll do it from me for now. Gl and hf; chess is a great game :)

Catpho, Job and Searcher like this

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1. Play against a computer and see what it does to kick your butt.  It is quite a learning experience. 

2. Read chess books like Grazza's

3. Control the center of the board.

4. Even if you have to defend, make sure that move is also an attack.  Never waste a move.

Zahid and Fonze like this

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I'm no Chess expert but the advice I remember hearing is that a huge part of the learning curve is just learning not to make mistakes. A single blunder or bad move can lose you a game. Assuming you're still a novice, it might be better to focus on the basics like counting material value and basic pawn structure rather than worrying too much about higher level planning.


Grazza can answer better but my understanding is his books are for more experienced players. I found Chess for Dummies was a useful intro that introduced all the basics.

Fonze likes this

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I didn't know grazza wrote books on chess, but I'd love to read them if anybody can point out where to find/purchase them.

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Hi guys, just happened to notice this thread, I am a keen chess player --- whether I am good depends on who you compare me with!

Chess is such a deep game, there's always more to learn. 


Recently I have enjoyed this web site by Ward Farnsworth, which is accessible to many skill levels, including beginners:




After I knew the rules, there are some general pointers I try to follow:

1) When playing White, don't be arrogant. Black's opening may look slow but I must prioritise developing all my pieces unless there is a very obvious weakness to attack.

2) In the opening, be aware of squares your opponent wants to put pieces on and get those squares covered, usually by pawns or minor pieces.

3) Don't rely on a powerful/important piece, especially a queen or king, to defend a less valuable one in case the more powerful/important piece is chased away from its defensive duties by an opposition attack.

4) Be aware of checking moves at all times. Don't give check just for the sake of it, in case your piece is chased away with no profit for you. However, checking moves can give you a 'free' move because the opposition must spend a move saving their king.

5) Sometimes disabling opposition pieces is just as good as capturing them, such as hemming in a bishop with pawns.

6) When it is my move, I spend a long time looking for threats against me. Then I search for attacking possibilities and consider the threats against me which may result from them. My game thinking is 90 per cent defensive, bizarrely this results in better attacking play in the end.


Above all, have fun playing against people at a similar level to you or a little higher --- over the board experience is a brilliant way to learn the game and have a good time too! 

Fonze and Doomkid like this

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I'm not a particualrly good chess player by any means, but my general strategy (which is more or less the same one used by most chess programs) is to increase the mobility/threat-projection of my own pieces, while restricting the enemy pieces.

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You'd think being a fan of card games, RTS games, and TBS games I'd love chess but honestly I kind of loathe it sometimes. Probably doesn't help that anytime I tried to play it with family or friends they'd be actually decent at it and show me absolutely no mercy whatsoever.


Whatever though, Battle Chess was awesome and probably the only reason I ever took the small interest I had in it in the first place.

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I play chess online against other ppl on chess.com. I use the 'free' service they offer. After the game ended, you're presented with a simple (not 'deep') analysis of your moves. On every 'blunder' or flat out 'mistake', you're given a '8-10 moves' alternative, showing you a better way to resolve a tight situation you made a mistake with. You could possibly identify that situation at future games and have in mind that alternative the computer showed you. Sometimes the computer can't 'understand' where you're going to, or what you're planning, and will declare a 'mistake' where maybe you were luring your opponent in or something, but pretty much it makes sense when showing you an alternative to your moves. I found this method to be very good for learning how to identify 'game stages' and things that happen routinely in a game and have a 'map in my head' of possible things to do to have an advantage over my opponent.

that's my 2 cents.



Fonze likes this

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Posted (edited)

A bit late to this, as you posted when I had just set off for a trip into the Patagonian wilderness.


It sounds like the problem is that you are viewing the opening and middlegame as two separate units. That is, in the opening you are following the standard opening goals of getting your pieces out and controlling the centre. That's fair enough as a way to avoid an opening disaster, but may leave your pieces without any natural plans going forward. Further opening goals (which become more important as you become stronger as a player) are to develop purposefully with a view to possible middlegame plans. Carve out possible strong squares. Inflict weaknesses. Maybe building up a strong and flexible pawn-centre. Maybe keep the king flexible if it isn't yet clear where you will want to attack. If your opening play has been purposeful in this way, then your possible plans should become clearer. Do you have some strong squares? Then use them. Have you inflicted weaknesses? Put pressure on them. Can you advance your centre pawns and stifle the enemy pieces? Then, er, do so. You get the picture. And if you have a clear plan to attack the enemy king, and have still kept your king flexible, then determine how best to make use of that situation: maybe castle on the opposite side (assuming the centre isn't safe) and throw everything into an attack. But remember that it might be best to castle on the same side and attack mostly with pieces.


Don't confuse "defence" with "being passive". Defence is rather a dynamic thing, as you are trying to counter the opponent's ideas by minimal means while seeking ways to counterattack, possibly using sacrifices of your own. Simply sitting there waiting to be attacked and hoping the opponent screws it up is not defence.


Always when playing chess, spare a thought for what the opponent is intending. This will sometimes suggest your best move straight away, but don't always assume you must respond. You might be able to reply with threats of your own that render your opponent's ideas irrelevant. Or neatly parry the opponent's plan while doing something useful for your own position.


Bear in mind that abstract considerations have limited value. You'll only really learn how to play better by playing, but you'll progress faster if you have a good idea of what you should be doing in general terms. Like going to Patagonia: you can read a guide book all you like, but it is no substitute for visiting. And once you have visited, a lot of that stuff in the guidebook will make a lot more sense.



"I also usually want to exchange as much as possible as quick as possible so that we can enter endgame where it's easier to see what my goal should be."

This is a really common error in pretty much all levels of play below master. Reducing tension (generally by initiating exchanges of pieces or pawns) is in general a concession. Only do so if you really gain something specific (or truly have no better option). Otherwise let the opponent initiate exchanges if he wishes (as long as he isn't gaining something specific, of course). Why? Well, by keeping your options open, you increase your range of possibilities, and this means that your opponent will have to be ready to meet all of them. There may be an ideal reply to each of them in isolation, but a reply that serves best in all cases may be more of a compromise choice, and allow you then to choose which option (e.g. exchange, advance or retain the tension) is most favourable to you. This is a real point, and not just a psychological one. A situation where you can resolve tension without conceding much (but the opponent cannot) is called favourable tension, and something that strong players seek to create. Yes, this is an advanced topic that will make more sense with experience, so feel free just to take my word for it right now.


Edited by Grazza
bzzrak, Job, Doomkid and 6 others like this

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