Goals in a Chess Game

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There are two things you need to do to succeed in chess: create goals for general chess improvement and create goals in the game itself. In this blog, I will be focusing on the latter. 

Chess is a strategy game, so you need to have logical thinking, plans, and goals to give yourself the best chance of winning. One cannot simply go about the game playing mindless moves and possibly think they can win.

How do you not play mindlessly? You form plans.

How do you create plans? You create goals first. 

And that is the purpose of this article: to find great goals in a chess game. Ways to find goals are listed below:

  • Know the standings in a tournament, competition, etc.

Of course, being aware of your standings in a tournament will determine how you play the following game, thus affecting your goals. 

For example, if you are down by a point or two in a tournament, you will not only be forced to shape the style of the game, but to shape your mindset as well. Creating a goal to win would be a necessity. This is similar to a quote by Confucius, “those who think they can and can’t are both usually right.” Make it a priority to win! Other goals in that scenario could be to play for an attack, play for a solid advantage and grind, or play risky!  

Here is an example of Magnus Carlsen playing in a risky fashion to win the Clutch Chess International:

Just make sure not to play recklessly... unless you desperately need a victory!

  • Know your style of play

Knowing your style of play will allow you to set achievable goals. A solid player who never plays tactically should seldom opt for something sharp like the Sicilian Najdorf, even if they desperately need a win. Chances are, they will probably lose in the opening or early middlegame with some tactical error. 

So, be smart and do not alter your style to achieve some specific result. It will only lower your chances of achieving it!

  • Analyze pawn structure

In the game itself, the pawn structure will play a pivotal role in the game. This goes hand in hand with understanding openings, which is discussed below. It is possible to find reasonable goals based on the pawn structure itself. Reading the pawn structure may not always lead to a clear plan or follow-up, but general goals can be created. 

Jeremy Silman said that whichever way the pawn structure is pointing is the side of the board you should play on. Take a look at the typical KID opening below. White's pawn structure points to the queenside, and Black's pawn structure points to the kingside. Not coincidentally, that is where the White and Black will focus their attention. 

Pawn structure can also show certain weaknesses in your or your opponent's position. Once you identify weaknesses, it becomes very easy to set a goal; the goal could be to attack or defend a certain weakness. 

  • Choose and perfect an opening

This idea comes up over and over in my blog posts because it is important! Understanding your opening well will set you up for success later in the middlegame. The opening shapes the pawn structure, thus the ensuing middlegame and differing goals and plans.

It is worth knowing at least the common themes and ideas of your opening, if not specific lines as well to aid you through. Learning openings through books, annotated games, or lectures are best, but simply looking at grandmaster games with a database and engine will suffice as well. For information on this, I have another post called "Easy Steps to Perfect Opening Play."

It will help to not only know the pawn structure of your specific opening, but also ALL of them. Yes, it is guaranteed that your chess will improve if you closely analyze every common pawn structure. It will broaden your knowledge of the game and you may be able to favorably alter the pawn structure of the game. The best book for this is Pawn Structure Chess by Andy Soltis. Every significant pawn structure is listed in the book as well as key ideas and examples.

A couple of common pawn structures:

Learn the pawn structures, and your goal making and chess playing will improve.

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