It is often said in chess that a bad plan is better than no plan at all. It’s not enough to aimlessly move your pieces around the board and wait for your opponent to slip up. You need to play with purpose, and you need to have clear goals in mind. Every move you make should serve a purpose, bringing you one step closer to achieving that plan.
But coming up with a plan can be difficult, especially for beginners. How do we analyze the position on the board in order to know what to next?
In this video, IM Valeri Lilov takes a close look at a classic game between legends Anatoly Karpov and Boris Spassky. This particular game was played in 1974 in Leningrad.
Valeri explains why this game in particular is a masterclass for any aspiring chess player to learn from. Anatoly Karpov’s play is highly instructive and is a fine example of how Karpov would find the smallest of advantages and then manage to meticulously convert them into winning positions.
While there is much we can learn from this game, Valeri Lilov focusses on the three stages of planning – the point of each stages of the game, your objectives, and how to come up with plans in your own games.
It’s also important not to get so lost in your own plans that you forget to watch out for the plans of your opponent! It’s a balancing act between pushing your own plans forward and taking steps to prevent your opponent from accomplishing their goals.
The opening is the stage of play where you get your pieces into the game, developing them to good squares that have influence over the center of the board. But once the development is complete, it’s time for the next phase – getting those pieces to even better squares! it can be difficult to achieve, but it is a must if you want your inevitable attacks to be strong, successful and not to run out of steam.
Anatoly Karpov vs Boris Spassky, 1974
Let’s take a look at the game between Anatoly Karpov and Boris Spassky that IM Valeri Lilov examines in the video.
It begins with the opening, of course! A critical stage in any game, this is the first stage of planning. It isn’t only about moving your pieces and getting developed. You’re also looking to create a structure that you are familiar with, a set-up that suits you and helps you get the most out of the game. It’s important not to just play opening moves on auto-pilot, but make sure those moves are going to get you the structure you want, against whatever your oponent is playing.
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 e6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 d6 6. Be2 Be7 7. 0-0 0-0 8. f4 Nc6, and we reach the position on the left.
Both sides have been developing pieces, and now White is looking to the center. Anatoly Karpov was not doing anything special here, just developing pieces and trying to build a strong structure.
The game continued 9. Be3 Bd7 10. Nb3 a5 11. a4 Nb4. See the position on the right.
10…a5 is quite a rare move in this position. Usually, it isn’t played as it creates weaknesses.
12. Bf3 Bc6 13. Nd4. Centralisation is something you should look to build throughout the game. Earlier, Karpov moved the knight away from the d4 square as it may have come under threat, but now it comes straight back into the center, where it is most valuable. After the opening, look to improve the positions of all your pieces before launching an attack.
13…g6 14. Rf2 e5 15. Nxc6 bxc6 16. fxe5 and White has decided to open up the position. What happens next? You’ll have to watch the video to find out!
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