Chess strategy is somewhat of a nebulous topic, especially for someone at a relatively low level of chess playing ability. There are bound to be better definitions, but for me chess strategy is about having a general plan for the game once you get through the opening phase. You should of course always be on the look-out for tactical opportunities, but the bigger consideration after the opening should be to gain and grow an advantage in the absence of those tactical chances. For this reason I could also have called the strategy aspect “general chess improvement”, or “planning”, or maybe even “middle-game study”.
However you decide to define this aspect of the game, my approach to it is strongly linked to my opening study. I mentioned in the opening study post that GM Davies’ approach in his Building an Opening Repertoire course includes aiming for familiar pawn structures and positions for which you know the general game plans. These game plans may include where to put your pieces to be most effective and coordinated later in the game, which pawn levers to aim for, or to prevent your opponent from playing their preferred levers.
Given that link between opening study and strategy, along with the fact that this early in my development strategy is not a major priority, I limit my study of it to two areas.
The first is to separate the moves I learn for my opening repertoire from the plans to which they lead. I make a point of documenting the plans and ideas for each of the major lines, and consider these as strategy lessons. If you know broadly what you want to do once you get through the first ten or fifteen moves on more or less an equal footing, then you have a plan. That plan might be as vague as ‘I need to develop a queenside attack’, or ‘I need to keep my dark square bishop to ensure I control the a1-h8 diagonal’, or ‘I need to stop the opponent getting the c5 pawn lever in’, but it helps to guide your play when you get stuck for candidate moves. Of course the plans may have to change as the game develops, but at least you have a starting point.
The second area is to play through games which follow the openings I play. In this regard the £5 a month I spend on Tiger Chess is well worth it, because GM Davies has a 160 week strategy course. In this, he considers various aspects of the game through a weekly lesson with videos. Since he caters mainly for the audience which follows his opening repertoire recommendations, the games he uses to illustrate the lessons tend to contain those openings. Therefore you get exposed to how the ideas and plans develop once you get into the meat of the game.
Another source of games to play through is the monthly Members’ Clinic videos on Tiger Chess. Members of the site submit their games and GM Davies analyses about 5 or 6 in separate 10 minute videos. He tends to create a theme each month across the games. The good thing here is that the games are from amateur players, so have great relevance to the likes of me.
I have a number of books and game collections, but won’t start on these until I am at around the 1650-1700 Elo range. I don’t want to repeat my earlier mistake of trying to do too much at a time. For now the focus on strategy during opening study, along with the weekly strategy course and monthly clinic videos will suffice.