In order to come up with a plan for a particular chess position, ChessPlans.com ask you to evaluate several imbalances in the position. Descriptions of these imbalances are based on Jeremy Silman's presentations in the following books:
- The Amateur's Mind - Turning Chess Misconceptions into Chess Mastery
- How to Reasses Your Chess (4th ed.)
I highly recommend both these books. Here are some of the imbalances that Silman discusses:
1. Material: Perhaps the 1st imabalance to be considered. As a first-cut approximation, use the traditional Q=9, R=5, B=3, N=3, P=1 evaluation. Be aware, however, that material is generally a static feature - and a material advantage may be out-weighed by inferior, but more-active pieces.
2. Minor Pieces: Examine the position for the influence of the minor pieces (Bishops and Knights). Are Bishops placed on long diagonals that are not blocked (particularly by enemy pawns)? Are Knights posted on key central squares or deep in enemy territory where they cannot be easily dislodged by enemy pawns?
3. Pawn Structure: Look for weak (backward) pawns that can't be defended by neighboring pawns, as well as strong passed pawns - particularly those that have progressed passed the 5th rank and are well-defended.
4. Space: This includes both having more territory and freedom of movement for your pieces, as well as control of the important center squares.
5. Development: Have your pieces been deployed to strong squares, or are they still stuck on the back rank, or on ineffective positions on the periphery?
6. Files and Diagonals: Who controls the key files (Rooks and Queens) and major diagonals (Bishops and Queens)?
7. Key Squares: Who controls the key squares? These are generally the central squares on the chess board, but also include control of key outposts for the placement of Knights.
8. Initiative: Who has the initiative? Who is forcing play according to his plan, and who is just reacting to the opponent's moves?