Have you ever looked at a position and thought: “I have no idea what to do”?
After reading this newsletter, you should be able to find an appropriate plan for every position.
On the 3rd of November, I published an article called How To Think During A Chess Game. In it, I focused on two key questions to spot tactical ideas for you and your opponent:
- What is your opponent’s move doing?
- What is my opponent doing if I play (my move)?
Rightfully so, some of you asked what they should do if there are no obvious tactical ideas for either side. The answer is: ask more Questions!
Asking high-quality questions throughout the game will help you look for the right thing. As chess positions can be so different, I don’t have a clear step 1, 2, or 3 method yet. Below, I will explain some of the questions that helped me find good plans. And then share a resource you can use to get even better at finding plans.
Question #1: Who is Winning If We Trade Queens?
I learned this Question from my Coach, who was also the former second of Kasparov, Iossif Dorfman. It is a simple question to understand which side should play for the initiative and which for simplification.
Here are some common examples when you benefit from trading Queens:
- You are up to material
- Your King is weaker than the opponent’s King
- You have a long-term positional advantage
- Your opponent sucks at endgames
Quick story on the last point. In the club where I grew up, we had a player who absolutely hated playing endgames. Because he didn’t want to look at them, play them, or learn from them, he was pretty bad at them.
My mantra was: “Give me an endgame a pawn down, and I will win easily.” Against him, I looked for a Queen trade in nearly every position.
The opposite applies as well. If you are lost in case of a Queen trade, look ahead and try to avoid it. If your position is desperate, even at the cost of some material or doubled pawns.
Question #2: Which Piece Is Not At The Party Yet?
If you don’t play with your whole army of pieces you leave a lot of potential unused. I learned the method of talking to my pieces from my first Coach and have used it ever since.
You can go one-by-one and ask them, “Are you feeling happy right now?” Then, improve the piece that feels most unhappy until it is not the unhappiest piece in your army anymore.
In other words, whenever you don’t know what to do, improve your worst-placed piece. If you want to learn more about this method, check out my talk to your pieces article.
Question #3: What Plan is My Opponent Looking Forward To?
We are humans, and some plans excite us more than others. It doesn’t need to be that they are good; they are just very persuasive. Some patterns that elicit such emotions are:
- Going for Checkmate
- Double Checks
- Huge Sacrifices
- Moves that make you look like a genius
If you look out for these enticing plans your opponent might have in mind, you can prevent them from happening. Do this a few times during a game, and your opponent will get frustrated.
It is even more powerful if you recognize such a plan and find a hidden hole in it. Offer your opponent the chance of a cute-looking sacrifice that doesn’t work and you’ll bag the point most of the time.
Be generous and help your opponent look like a genius. When they realize what you’ve planned it will be too late to change their fate.
How To Improve Your Plan-Finding Skills
Chess is an extremely complex game with many different types of positions & time controls. So I haven’t yet found a universal strategical thought process that gets you to a good result in every kind of position.
If you liked the questions above and would like to explore a similar approach more deeply, I can highly recommend ChessMood’s 7Q Method course. The course goes through seven questions you can ask yourself to find a fitting plan for any position.
It is obviously much more in-depth than I could ever do in a single Edition of this Newsletter.
PS: This Article went out as a Newsletter to over 15,000 Chess fans. If you want to get the next one in your inbox, subscribe here for free.
Whenever you’re ready, there are two ways I can help you:
- My Course, Next Level Training: Join 450+ motivated Chess improvers inside Next Level Training. This course will teach you everything you need to know about studying chess on your own. From solving chess tactics the right way to building an opening repertoire and analyzing your own games, everything is in here.
- Get my Chess Training Planner. This is the perfect help to schedule your chess training and review each session. The Planner will help you to study chess more effectively and get more out of every session.