How do you formulate a plan in chess? (Made easy!)

If you are going to play a game of chess there’s one skill that will be applicable to most situations, formulating a plan. Gathering ideas in positions where the concepts are much more subtle is a hallmark of a good player. 

The best chess players in the world can caraft a solid plan from seemingly dry positions. I have analyzed hundreds of games from these masters and compiled what I have discovered. It turns out, there are many considerations before making a plan in chess.

I’m going to discuss the key points that you should look for in the position in order to make this easier. You should be able to easily identify the correct plan if you can analyze for this.

This guide alone should sufficiently help you identify intricacies in the position that will lead to the creation of plans, let’s start then.

Should you look for inactive pieces in order to formulate a plan in chess?

To formulate a plan in chess it’s a good idea to look if there are better outposts for the knights, if there are rooks that can be further developed, or a queen that can be moved to an optimal square.

Tip#1. Look if there are better outposts for the knights

The knights can be the most complicated piece in chess but also pretty useful when having a good outpost. Most knight maneuvers usually take around 2 to 4 moves (it is not instantaneous), so planning is essential for this.

This is the reason why part of your objective is looking for spaces protected by your own pawns, but cannot be kicked out by any of the opponent’s pawns. These are wonderful lands for the knight and should make it influential.

The knights are usually better when they are near the center of the board since that where their mobility is at maximum. So try to formulate a plan that would help the knight get an outpost near the center.

Tip#2. Try to get inactive rooks involved in the game

Another piece that is rarely developed is the rook, which can be subject to the formulation of plans. Once castled you should identify files that are open or about to be open and take hold of them.

It takes a whole lot of art to be able to understand the role of the rook in a particular file. You can make an entire set of plans solely involving the rooks taking hold of an important space.

Occasionally even choices as which rook should I capture with? becomes important in the life of the game. Getting the rook active usually doesn’t take that many moves but integrating it into position is the hard part.

Tip#3.Get the queen to a square where it’ll maximize its potential

The queen is the most powerful individual piece in chess hence the need to maximize its full potential. When you are looking to have a plan it’s good to see how active your queen is and whether it can be better.

Some set of moves only involves positioning the queen in the right squares where it can deliver its role. This tells you much about the importance of its coordinates and the impact it can have on the game.

Most of the time the spot you’re looking for is the center since that is the place where most pieces will be active. However even in the edges, the queen can be useful since on its own it can attack and defend multiple pieces at the same time.

Does the arrangement of pawns provide a clue to making a good plan?

To create a plan it is helpful to look for weak pawns of the opponent that can be attacked, identify weaknesses on your own pawn structures and tend them, and examine if there are pawn pushes that will lead to an attack.

Tip#4. Identify the opponent’s weak pawns and take advantage by attacking them

Weak pawns are either pawns that are isolated, backward, or cannot be protected by any other individual pawns. You should make a plan around these whenever they are present in the position.

You can blockade the pawn and pile up an attack that will eventually lead to the capture of the pawn. Planning for this is a bit more complicated than just developing the pieces since it is a result of consecutive accumulative effort.

But this would still provide a goal that can be used to have a material advantage which is important. If you want to learn how to identify weak pawns my article (will open in a new tab) about pawn structures will help you with that.

Tip#5. Analyze your own pawn structure and patch any weaknesses

If you can take advantage of the weak pawn that is embedded in your opponent’s position, that of course applies to your opponent as well. And this is why identifying weaknesses in your pawn structure is also a step in planning creation. 

You would want to tend a weak pawn or a double pawn as soon as possible before it can get serious. The way to do this is usually easier in lower-tier battles than those that are more competitive.

Tip#6. Examine if there are pawn pushes you can make that will give an advantage

Pawns are great, they usually are the progenitor of attacks and should give you further ideas when pushed. If you are looking to make a plan do not forget to consider whether a pawn push is possible.

It may lead to an attack, block the pawn chains to make the game positional, or just give a passed pawn to protect. This decision can lead to larger concepts that can be implemented (there will be more ideas).

Should you look for potential attacks to get a good plan in chess?

To create a good plan a player should look for opportunities to attack the enemy king, take advantage of any potential pin/skewer, and use the principle of two weaknesses.

Tip#7. See if there’s an opportunity to attack the castled king

A castled king resides in any one corner of the board where you could actually focus an attack. If you can make a plan that involves an attack on the castled king then it might turn the game into something in your favor.

Especially if the game is in an opposite castling situation (one is queenside, one is kingside), then castled pawn pushes/attacks are more common. This would lead to a variety of combinations that actually matter since it might end the game with a checkmate.

Tip#8. Observe if there are potential pins and take advantage of them.

A pin is a condition where a bishop is preventing another piece (especially the knight) from moving due to what is behind.

The bishop here prevents the knight from moving since it will lose the queen which is an example of a pin. These pins/potential pins provide a good opportunity to formulate plans that could win material.

A pinned piece basically has imaginary power (paralyzed) since it cannot move, so such is a good chance to take advantage of.

Tip#9. Detect opportunities for skewers and take advantage of them

Skewers are basically just like pins only on the opposite side, where the more valuable piece is in the front. 

Here you can see the bishop skewering the queen and the rook, where the queen has to move and allow the rook to be captured. Just like pins you should look for these ideas (skewers) when trying to identify a decent plan for the position.

And in fact, it is a better option than a pin since you don’t have to work for more for it to be converted into a material advantage. 

Tip#10. Apply the principle of two weaknesses

The principle of two weaknesses states that one move should deliver two threats in order for the opponent to be incapable of defending both of them. Putting up a double attack from a queen is already an example of this principle (if the opponent can’t respond to it).

You should use this principle in order to look for concrete plans that would force a concession from your opponent. This one though takes a little bit of sophistication since there’s no singular example telling that this is how to do it.

Does looking for weak tiles lead to the creation of a plan in chess?

The identification of weak tiles and opponent’s inactive pieces in order to control them will lead to the creation of a good plan in a chess game.

Tip#11. Look for the opponent’s inactive pieces and keep them from being active

An inactive piece from your opponent is gold for your position since those don’t too much for their cause. A plan around keeping pieces of your opponent as inactive as possible is a good strategy to implement.

This can be done by limiting the movement options by closing the structure or just making pawn pushes that eliminate the escape tiles. A cramped position is hard to play, which means you want to play against it if it’s not your position.

Tip#12. Identify important tiles and control them using the pieces/pawns

This is much more of a general rule where there are those important tiles that are just needed to be controlled. Whether it is a square that would secure the file for the rooks, an outpost for the knights, etc.,  such are the sample of important tiles.

A player should learn how to recognize these important tiles and look for them in order to make a good plan. Controlling them with pieces is much simpler but the pawns can work too if possible.

Do you now know what to look for in order to formulate a plan in chess?

Creating a plan in chess is a complicated process that cannot be summarized in an individual article. The tips and peculiarities to look for in a position mentioned here help in pointing you in that direction.

The process will be much more simplified and easier as you upgrade your repertoire in every stage of the game. The things in here are just the ones I want to share since I also look for them (when creating plans).

Sometimes the process becomes intuitive believe it or not (minimal calculation) and I want you to reach that place faster. Hope you learned something, sleep well and play chess.