Statistics and Chess Improvement
Today I would like to share with you an exercise I did at the end of 2011 to try to prepare for the events I would play in the next year. I logged 70 FIDE rated games in 2011. This is a decent but not huge sample size, and I decided to do a thorough statistical analysis of my results to try to find spots where I was performing well and spots where I could be playing better. I’ll show some of the results and notable statistics here:
Results by Rating
My Score vs. Opposition rated under 2400 FIDE: 23 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses: 97.9%, Performance Rating 2960
My Score vs. Opposition rated 2400-2499 FIDE: 3 wins, 8 draws, 0 losses: 72.2%, Performance Rating 2540
My Score vs. Opposition rated 2500-2599 FIDE: 5 wins, 13 draws, 3 losses: 54.5%, Performance Rating 2595
My Score vs. Opposition Rated 2600-2699 FIDE: 1 win, 7 draws, 4 losses: 37.5%, Performance Rating 2546
My Score vs. Opposition Rated 2700+ FIDE: 1 win, 2 draws, 1 loss: 50%, Performance Rating 2728
From this data I could tell that the players I was having the most issue with were the players in the 2400-2700 range, and when I look back at the year, it makes sense. I was not beating 2400-2600 players as much as I should have, and I lost a couple tough games to 2600s while only striking back once. I was holding my own against the really big boys, especially considering one of my draws against 2700+ could be considered a win because I only agreed the draw to win my match in an elimination style format. However, this was only a sample of 4 games. I was quite happy that I was able to manage such an effective score against players lower than 2400.
Another thing I noticed was that while my score against 2400-2600 players left a lot to be desired, I was losing very rarely and the 3 that did occur were against 2590, 2590, and 2592- players who might be in the next category had I played them a month before or later. I decided to move those losses into the 2600-2700 category, and then I found that my score against 2500-2599 was 2656 while against 2600-2700 was only 2512. This ultimately led me to conclude that the players I needed to score better against were the 2400-2500 players and the 2600-2700 players. I decided to fix this by trying to play a bit less theoretically against the lower players to try to get them on their own earlier, and to try to be more aggressive against the stronger players because my solid play got me a bunch of draws but I got knicked for a couple of losses and did not manage to counter it with an equal number of wins. It appears this analysis and my new approach paid off so far: I present you my results against these rating ranges from my first tournament of 2012.
My Score vs. Opposition rated 2400-2499 FIDE: 3 wins, 2 draws, 0 losses: 80%, Performance Rating 2698
My Score vs. Opposition rated 2600-2699 FIDE: 1 win, 1 draw, 0 losses: 75%, Performance Rating 2830
Results by Opening
Another key part of the statistical analysis is to look at openings- this will give you a sense of what you need to study more, both in terms of opening theory and the ensuing middle games. This section was very detailed in my work, but I’ll present a more general version here:
Score with White in d4 d5 systems: 68%, 2557 Performance Rating
Score with White in Nimzo/Quid systems: 70%, 2648 Performance Rating
Score with White in KID/Grunfeld: 67%, 2591 Performance Rating
Score with White in other Systems: 88%, 2755 Performance Rating
Score with Black vs. 1. e4: 58%. 2549 Performance Rating
Score with Black vs. 1. d4: 65%, 2639 Performance Rating
Score with Black vs. Other first moves: 56%, 2542 Performance Rating
With this information I deduced that I mostly need to work on my black repertoire against non-d4 moves and my white repertoire in the Slav and QGD. There is a lot more to the statistical analysis I did, including the use of the serious but unrated games (US Chess League, tiebreak games, rapid games, training games), filtering by how many moves the games lasted (which measures fatigue and level of endgame play), breaking the year in half (In January-May I performed at a 2580 level, while June through December I was over 2630, suggesting I probably improved and the more recent games are more relevant), and much more.
I would suggest to any reader, even those few who are not professional players, that statistical analysis can be an excellent way to examine your own play, and I would suggest breaking the analysis down by rating range and opening. Then, once you have determined a weakness, look at all of your games against this rating range or opening, including the wins, to determine what you might be doing wrong and how to improve it. And always keep in mind- a small sample of games will not have the same accuracy as a large sample. Lastly, I should point out this analysis would have been extremely difficult to do without the help of Chessbase, and I highly recommend that everyone buy this software, for statistics as well as opening preparation, and engine analysis. I know that I was much happier with my training regimen after doing a thorough statistical analysis of my own results, and so far it has paid off in my only 2012 event. I look forward to seeing if it can continue to pay dividends and I hope you find it useful as well.