Recovering from Defeat and Improving Calculation

  • GM arunabi
  • | Sep 12, 2011

Dear GM Prasad and GM Panchanathan :

I am grateful to see the revival of this weekly column after IM Silman. Thank you! Hope you can answer a few of my questions below:

a) I understand that in order to become better one has to accept losing many games. I, for one, cannot recover losses as quick as some of my friends. I am wondering how does grandmaster recover their loss and sometime manage to win the tournament after a bad start.

b) I can calculate lines very deeply, but not accurately. May you please suggest how can I improve in calculating accurately? Some of my friends tell me to play blindfold; others tell me to play more slow games. 

c) Some of the masters in my club go over many non-annotated games and suggest that this is one of the way to improve. This does not seem to work...What sort of things does master do when going over non-annotated games?

d) I know the importance of endgame studies; however I do not know how to study this part of the game. May you suggest a method?

e) I cannot afford a I am trying to improve from website (i.e. chessbase, etc), library chess books. Do you think it is possible to get to master category by oneself? Can you suggest what one can do by themselve to improve in the game of chess?

f) I am wondering is there "Explore Opening Ideas" on the French Defence and Nimzo Indian Defence.

Thank you, GMs..Sorry for my bad English grammer.

Kaiyue Wang


Dear Kaiyue Wang

a)      I personally feel that any game should be played only with the aim of playing a good game. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, at the end of every game you must feel that you have given your 100%. If you think about the result when you are playing the game, it is obvious that you cannot give 100% of yourself, and the desired result cannot be achieved. This problem occurs more when players get a better position or winning position-- immediately they start thinking about the prize or the effects of winning the game, while the game is still going on. Meanwhile your opponent who is on the verge of losing will concentrate even harder and try to create some counter play for himself to escape his awkward situation.

So don’t think about the result, just try to play a good game; if you win, it is good, but if you don’t, you still have something to learn from your defeat. Take defeat as a process of learning which will eventually lead you to victory! If you lose one game, take it easy and move on to the next game. Try to learn something from the game and make sure you don’t make the same mistake next time. Anand once said in an interview that he usually goes for a long walk when he loses a game. You can do that or listen to some music. Basically you have to do something that will make you happy and recover fast and move on to the next game.

b)        Calculating long lines is not important in chess. In most cases you will find complex positions where length of the lines are not important but the width of the lines are important. Let us take the case of Human vs Computer matches. Why do computers manage to beat humans? Why are computers better? The answer is simple, computers don’t miss any moves. When computers play with the depth of 18 or 19 (when you run an engine like Fritz or Rybka you can see the depth), they are calculating 9-10 moves. A computer calculates 9-10 moves ahead with all the important branches without missing any candidate moves within seconds. Humans cannot play with such accuracy due to time limits.

In the book “How to think like a Grandmaster Kotov” suggests calculating the candidate moves in any given position. Candidate moves can be any 3 or 4 choices in a position that you feel to be the most important choices that have to be analyzed. Check all these choices one by one and then you can come to a conclusion. This is the proper method to calculate in a position. It is necessary to check all the candidate moves when you go through long lines. If you can calculate 4-5 moves with all the candidate moves calculated it is not easy even for a Grandmaster to beat you. Try to discipline your calculation which is more important than lengthening it.

c)      Going through non-annotated games means analyzing those games yourself by calculating all the possible lines and variations. It is one of the methods to improve your understanding. When you go through the games, calculate the possible moves and variations just the way you play in tournaments. But here you have lot of time to calculate, so try to calculate long variations and the candidate moves accurately. Check with the computers for possible errors after the analyses are over. One of my friend who is a 2700 Grandmaster once told me he analyses a game for a minimum of 3-4 days, and still there remains so much to analyze. Analyzing your own games with this method is also essential.

d)       Endgames are an essential part of the game. Once Capablance said “ In order to improve your game, you must study the endgame before everything else, for whereas the endgame can be mastered by itself, the middle game and the opening must be studied in relation to the endgame. I recommend you to study “Dvoretsky’s Endgame Manual”. Concentrate more on Rook endgames as they are the most frequently encountered endgames. Spend more time on endgames, and you will find yourself scoring several points using the endgame techniques. I have found Practical Rook Endings by Victor Korchnoi to be very useful in understanding Rook endgames especially. Basically any ending book is good, but the only thing is you need to work on it: all these books require a very active reader to benefit from them.

e)       Well it is definitely possible to improve by working yourself. A coach can only show you the direction to work, but it is you who has to do the work. If your are ready to work I am sure has lots of material to offer to make you work on and we are here to guide you if you have some doubts. To start with I would recommend you begin with endgames as I mentioned earlier. Solve tactical problems to keep yourself sharp. Analyze your games without fail. This will help you improve considerably.

f)       The following are some of the articles written on the French Defence and the Nimzo Indian Defence. I am sure there are articles on every opening in the opening section:


  • 19 months ago


    Dear GM Prasad, 

    Good Day!!!

    I would like to ask for your help in improving my chess. Im an average chess player around 1800 and im stuck here for quite sometime, i felt i coudnt go beyond the barriers of self improvement.. hope you could help me and other players who want to improve...

    1. What are the proper organized methods or ways or procedure to study chess from opening to endgame? 

    2. I coudnt afford a coach but i have all the resources, books(pdf,djvu,pgn,etc..), programs, database, video tutorials, chess apps, magazines,online chess,and all sorts of chess materials..but still i coudnt find the right way to organize my chess study.

    I hope you could give me a summary of methods on how to start my studies like ..

    day 1..... what  to do and how?

    day 2..... what to do and how?

    so on and so forth.... or in any other way that can help me improve...


  • 5 years ago


    I have found a useful study method which incorporates both endgame study and calculation. Fritz has a feature where you can set up a position and basically play blindfold chess from that position. It will leave the start position on the board, and you move for each side until you hit your max vision or the logical conclusion of the line. Then you can have Fritz check both the accuracy of your moves, and analyse if you played the best move. What I like to do is pop in an endgame position from one of the study books. I will put into words my goals for the position, how it is possible for me to obtain a winning advantage (for example, queening a pawn, controlling squares so my pawn can queen, etc). Next I will set up a chess board (not computer, real board), and start working variations in my head, writing down my possible candidate moves and variations until I feel I have reached as far as I can. After this is done, I will enter the moves into Fritz to see how I have done. It is a lot WORK, yes, but you will be richly rewarded.

  • 5 years ago


    "Candidate moves can be any 3 or 4 choices in a position that you feel to be the most important choices that have to be analyzed. Check all these choices one by one and then you can come to a conclusion. This is the proper method to calculate in a position. It is necessary to check all the candidate moves when you go through long lines. If you can calculate 4-5 moves with all the candidate moves calculated it is not easy even for a Grandmaster to beat you."

    Can someone tell me more how to do this? It just seems impossible the way I understood it.

    1. I'm supposed to pick 4 candidate moves.
    2. I'm supposed to come up with 4 candidates that my opponent will respond with for each of the candidates I pick.
    3. For each of their responses I pick 4 new candidate moves that counter.
    4. For each of my counters I pick 4 new responses that my opponent will make.
    5. I've just completed 4 plies, having calculated a total of 256 moves,  and the article wants me to do this for 8 to 10 plies for a total calculation of around 65,000 to 100,000 moves.

    What is it that he didn't explain? I can't figure it out because on another thread people are saying that they see 3 to 5 moves deep, which is thousands of calculated moves, and I don't really think that's happening at all.

  • 5 years ago


    Victory through endgame Technique is easy to remember and satisfying one also. Thanks for the article.

  • 5 years ago


    Yes, thanks for the article.  Very insightful, particularly on what to do after a loss, and getting by without a coach.  That gives me hope, as I am in a location where a coach is not practical, but I have to utilize.  Also, comments on the endgame were also very useful, and thanks to "amar19" for suggesting Silman's Complete Endgame Course.  Coincidentally I just picked up a copy, so now I am happy I did!

  • 5 years ago


    thank you GM Prasad and GM Panchanathan for your valuable sight.

  • 5 years ago


    Thanks. Your comments under a and b are particularly valuable. It is a new perspective for me.

  • 5 years ago


    Nice article!!!

    Very enjoyable....

  • 5 years ago


  • 5 years ago


    I feel, when reading this information, that this all sounds great and that I should really double down on my endgame studies to really understand the mechanics of good play and  this simplified positional play of manuevering the game, but I know I won't get around to it for some lenghty amount of time has passed if at all.  But one thing in does do, for patzers like me, is remind me of how sophisticated the game of chess is.

  • 5 years ago


     dear i thank you for this valuable information,i am  able find my mistakes,i am confident that my opponents would be happy to play with me ,meanwhile i thank all those good players who encourage me to play with them thanks for every body.i have realised winning bloats ego,so i accept loosing makes me learn more and more

  • 5 years ago


    so good, i like this one.

    i am wondering if i can ask my problem like kwaiyue wang to you...

  • 5 years ago


    Useful article.  Thanks.

  • 5 years ago


    Good stuff;

    for the endgame part; maybe i would suggest: Silman's Complete Endgame Course

  • 5 years ago


    Very good article, thank you for posting.

    So don’t think about the result, just try to play a good game; if you win, it is good, but if you don’t, you still have something to learn from your defeat. Laughing

  • 5 years ago



  • 5 years ago


    Thank you for your informative articles. I find your articles interesting and informative at the same time.

    Always looking forward to your articles.

  • 5 years ago


    thanks for the imput,you gave us lots of valuable info,but we need to find it and apply it to our game,i know i will find usefull info you refferred to,you even gave titles so how much harder can it be for us?G L O ,ANOYHER CHESS HEAD TRYING TO GET BETTER

  • 5 years ago


    thanks for the tips,i enjoyed your article

  • 5 years ago


    Thanks for the instructive article! I found it quite helpful, especially the section on calculation.

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