Chess Planning

Edward Winter


The Joys of Chess by Fred Reinfeld (New York, 1961), page 116

‘Probably more nonsense has been written about planning in chess than any other aspect of the game. ... In fact, as many games are lost through pursuing bad plans as are won by pursuing good ones.’

Source: Better Chess by William Hartston (London, 2003), page 28.


C.N. 5884 quoted a couple of sentences about planning from page 28 of Better Chess by W. Hartston (London, 2003). The full section is worth recalling:




Modern Analysis of the Chess Openings by F.J. Marshall (Amsterdam, 1912/13) has been mentioned a number of times (see, for instance, pages 273-274 of Kings, Commoners and Knaves and page 256 of Chess Facts and Fables). Below, and not for the squeamish, is a complete section of Marshall’s work, from pages 15-17:




C.N. 2019 (see page 383 of Kings, Commoners and Knaves) extracted Marshall’s final remark, ‘a bad plan is better than none at all’. That advice can be traced back to the nineteenth century, e.g. on page 30 of the anonymous work The Chess Player’s Hand-Book (Philadephia and New York, 1849):

‘Be careful, then, in all commencements of this super-excellent game, to have a prescribed plan – better have a bad plan than no plan at all.’

On page 210 of the April 1978 Chess Life & Review Julio Kaplan wrote:

‘... all good players agree on one thing: even a bad plan is better than no plan at all.’

How much truth lay in that remark in 1978 is impossible to say, but we wonder whether many chess authorities today would write in such terms.


From page 65 of Bréviaire des échecs by S. Tartakower (Paris, 1934):

‘Formez, au plus tôt, un plan du combat: mieux vaut un plan douteux que pas de plan du tout.’

Page 49 of the English edition, A Breviary of Chess (London, 1937), had:

‘As soon as possible evolve a plan of campaign; better a doubtful plan than no plan at all.’


Leonard McLaren (Onehunga, New Zealand) points out a remark by John Nunn on page 53 of Understanding Chess Middlegames (London, 2011), in the section on planning:

‘Perhaps the most important advice is that if you can’t think of a good plan, at least don’t play a bad one.’


Below is a remark by Reuben Fine on page 34 of Chess Marches On! (New York, 1945), in his annotations to the game between J. Moskowitz (‘Moscowitz’) and A. Yanofsky, Ventnor City, 1942:


Another passage written by Reuben Fine comes from page 11 of the January 1956 issue of Chess Review:


The full article was reproduced on pages 18-23 of Fine’s book Lessons from My Games (New York, 1958).


Latest update: 28 March 2017.

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